Herbs for Allergies

| April/May 2003

  • Vitamin C-rich rose hips may help lower histamine levels.
    Rick Wetherbee
  • During the Middle Ages, rue leaves were thought to drive away insects, scorpions and serpents.
    Dawna Edwards
  • Vitamin C-rich rose hips may help lower histamine levels.

As winter passes and our noses alert us to the realities of spring growth, those of us with allergic tendencies may be all too aware of the disadvantages of the growing season. But don’t give up hope and turn to another drug in your medicine cabinet—consider some natural allergy fighters. While they may not provide the quick and easy solution that pharmaceutical antihistamines do, herbs can help treat the problem without the jitters and malaise.

Quick Relief

Often some of the most frustrating aspects of allergies are the sore throat, nose and sinus cavity. Somewhere along the way you may likely be in search of fast relief rather than a long-term remedy. Try the soothing qualities of chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and clear your nasal passages with eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), peppermint (Mentha ¥piperita), pine (Pinus spp.) or thyme (Thymus vulgaris).

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is another good head-clearing herb. Its sharp aroma is sure to aid in clearing your sinus congestion. And while its zingy flavor is not likely to tempt your taste buds as a tea, grate the fresh root into a boiling soup broth.

In addition, cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) and gingerroot (Zingiber officinale) may also provide relief for a dry, scratchy throat. Make a tea of fresh, sliced gingerroot or add honey and a few drops of cinnamon tincture to a cup of hot water. You may also want to turn to herbal throat lozenges that contain lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), sage (Salvia officinalis), peppermint or thyme.

The runny nose and buildup of mucus in the nasal and sinus cavity can be frustrating as well. Mullein (Verbascum spp.) tea (1 teaspoon of dried flower heads per cup of boiling water) serves as an expectorant to thin and loosen mucus. Elder (Sambucus canadensis, S. nigra) also has expectorant qualities. You’ll find that elder is a common ingredient in the herbal cough syrups available at your local health-food store. Sage and Chinese sage (S. miltiorrhiza) may help slow the sniffles. Try them in tea or tincture form.

Seasonal Supplements

Also, try vitamin C and spirulina for your seasonal allergies. Both block the release of histamine, and research indicates that people with higher intake and blood levels of vitamin C have lower levels of histamine. Good sources of this antioxidant and immune-enhancing vitamin include bright-colored fruits and vegetables like citrus fruits and peppers, dark-green leafy vegetables and rose hips.

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