If you have suffered from hayfever you know that the over the counter remedies only work sometimes and when they wear off everything comes back as bad as before if not worse.
Allergies are caused by an over reaction of your own immune system. White blood cells called Mast Cells release large amounts of Histamine which causes the watery, itchy eyes, sneezing as well as asthmatic reactions and swelling of the nasal and bronchial passages. This can be a reaction to any pollen but also happens with animal dander and other environmental triggers. People that suffer from allergies tend to have what we call a high "allergenic load". They might have many types of allergic reactions that they don't notice day to day such as food sensitivities, perfume irritation, household cleaner sensitivities. These may cause low levels of histamine release or other immune responses but overall tell the body to always be on guard with the histamine! With this in mind, it sometimes helps to clear the air, so to speak, of as many triggers as possible to reduce that load so that the body is not always in fight mode.
Here are 5 green tips for getting at the roots of the problem:
1. Wipe down window sills with diluted vinegar water to get rid of mold and pollen build up. In the Spring, pollens accumulate wherever they land and circulate in the air and dust around the home. In wet areas, especially, there will also be mold build up or mold spores that can also trigger our immune responses. Diluted vinegar is an environmentally safe way to kill mold spores and wipe up those pollens hanging around. You can also add drops of pure essential oils of Rosemary, Lavender, or Orange to further the cleaning power and improve the smell of the vinegar dilution.
2. Eat Nettles. The Nettles plant (Urtica dioica), though a bit tricky to collect due to its formic acid stingers, is packed with natural anti-histamine effects. If you know the plant, you can collect it with gloves on and put it directly into hot or cold water to make a tea. Don't worry, the stinging effect will disappear and not be an unwelcome effect of the tea. Cold water tea, also known as a "cold infusion", involves simply putting room temperature or filtered tap water over the herbs usually in a quart jar and allowing it to sit for at least 8 hours. This method extracts more minerals and other beneficial parts of the plant but less of the tannins that can make some teas bitter. The method doesn't work with all plants but it is a good one for a mineral rich plant like Nettles, especially if you are using it fresh. Dried Nettles can work, but I've found it is a little less effective and harder to judge good quality if you aren't familiar with it. Freeze-dried nettle capsules seem to work fairly well and how many you have to take is different from person to person but start with 2 and see how it goes.
3. Seek out Bioflavonoids. Bioflavonoids are available in many, many foods and you don't really need to get them as a supplement or capsule. They are readily available in the fruits and vegetables we love - blueberries, cherries (isn't it funny how they are available right around the peak of the allergy season?), apples, blackberries, acai, purple grapes, currants, eggplant, strawberries, broccoli, red peppers (and orange, yellow and green, of course), and spinach. Green Tea and Chocolate are also high in flavonoids but they should be used in smaller amounts. Citrus is high in bioflavonoids too, however, citrus can often increase congestion so the effect isn't always what we are going for. Bioflavonoids help to stabilize those Mast Cells and improve our immune responses. It is similar to asking the body to reprioritize - lets fight the viruses that come around rather than acting like every pollen grain is a nuclear bomb! Bioflavonoids are higher in organic and local fruits and vegetables so it serves us well to eat these food grown by our local organic farmers.
4. Vitamin C is next on the list. This is fairly easy because it often comes in the same packages as the Bioflavonoids. Please note that Vitamin C is greatly reduced in non-organic fruits and vegetables as well as any produce that has had to travel long distances to get to your mouth. Vitamin C is well known for boosting the parts of the immune system we want and reducing the release of histamine from those Mast Cells. Vitamin C also works on clearing up free radicals that circulate around. Its antioxidant activity is sort of like a hot potato though. If the free radical is a hot potato the Vitamin C picks it up and then realizes it is hot and tries to pass it off. Other antioxidants, found easily in all of those fresh fruits and vegetables, will pick it up and take it for awhile and then they pass it off as well until that free radical, or hot potato, is finally out of our system and can't harm us anymore. This is why it is important to not take just Vitamin C by itself - it won't have as many helpers to carry those hot potatoes! This is also why it is far better to get your Vitamin C and antioxidants and bioflavonoids in one convenient package - like a blueberry or and apple! Rose hips are also fabulous small packages - loaded with Vitamin C and bioflavonoids and they can be collected in the early winter after the first frost and cut up and dried to snack on for protection in the next allergy season.
5. Open the Door. I know it seems counterintuitive but opening the windows and doors helps to circulate the air and prevent the pollens and mold spores from settling around your home. They call it Spring Cleaning for a reason. This is the time to clear out the dust and clutter, get some fresh air in the home. The cleaning part should be done with environmentally safe cleaners using all natural essential oils and cleaning agents such as the ones made by Seventh Generation, Planet and Meyer's Clean Day. But the most important part is to clear the dust accumulations from the winter. In my practice, I noticed that those with fresh outdoor air circulation through their heating and cooling systems had less allergy symptoms than the ones with closed indoor air circulating systems. I think that this is part of the reason why.
Now, we could also reduce the allergenic load by investigating food sensitivities and talking about getting more Omega-3 Fatty Acids in our diets but these are the 5 greenest tips of them all and it could really be that simple. I used to battle my allergies every spring and, living in a moist climate, the mold make it even worse. We started just wiping down the window sills and my symptoms would go away over night. Sometimes that is all I need but the more I do of the rest of the 5 tips the better the season goes. So Happy St. Patrick's Day and Stay Green and allergy free!