Natural Herbal Remedies for Allergies

Fight allergies and respiratory symptoms with herbs that act as natural antihistamines, decongestants, expectorants and adaptogens.

| May/June 1997

When spring blooms, your body gives the signs: tearing eyes, draining throat, nose persistently on the brink of a sneeze. Pharmaceutical manufacturers respond, too, with a glut of television and print advertisements for pills designed to ease you through the season without the irritation and disruption of allergy symptoms.

Herbal remedies can be a gentle, effective, and often inexpensive alternative to conventional allergy treatments. Some of them may simply be added to your daily diet. If you suffer from allergies year round, herbs can complement other treatments.

Your allergy profile

Before embarking on any treatment program, it is important to identify what kind of allergy you have. This is best done with the guidance of a health-care professional, who will take a medical history and investigate whether dietary and lifestyle changes may also be in order. In my work as a nutrition consultant, I classify allergy-prone clients in three groups:

Victims of the season

Many people suffer from allergies only for several weeks during the spring and late summer when the airborne pollen of blooming plants is most abundant. They also catch several colds each year and perhaps experience bronchitis, sinus infections, or flu. They may feel fatigued, but few complain of chronic respiratory or gastrointestinal disorders. Seasonal allergies afflict men and women equally. It is believed that a predisposition to allergies runs in families but that members may react to different substances or may react differently to the same ones. A well-balanced diet that includes herbs can help people with seasonal allergies; many of the components in common fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants are just what they need to quit sniffling and start sailing.

Year-round allergy sufferers

Those who sneeze, wheeze, and sniffle year round, not just during pollen season, may be allergic to certain foods, animal dander, mold spores, and/or chemicals. Typically, these people have suffered from allergic reactions almost all of their lives. For some, eating even small amounts of certain foods can trigger severe reactions ranging from hives, rashes, or eczema to asthma, shock, or respiratory ­arrest. They may complain of chronic digestive or gastrointestinal discomfort. The pattern almost always runs in the family; it is somewhat more common in people with fair complexions, medical researchers have observed, although it is unknown why. People who have these symptoms should be tested for food allergies and avoid any foods that are found to cause trouble. Herbs can help people in this group—but only after ruling out the possibility that they might have an allergic reaction to the herbs themselves. A dietary regime that includes a combination of herbal treatments, vitamins, and pharmaceuticals may be required.

People with chronic infections

Individuals who have many ill-defined allergies and chemical sensitivities with symptoms that run the gamut from a weak immune system and gastrointestinal ailments to irritability and fatigue may have a condition too severe to be helped by herbs alone; most often, these people are female, according to medical observation. The most common of these conditions is candidiasis (a chronic yeast infection), which requires professional care. In many cases, allergies are not a problem after the yeast infection has been cured.

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