Should you suffer from seasonal allergies, then your choices can appear pretty terrible when spring rolls around. Either you cower inside, away from the assault of itchy eyes and constantly running nose, or you go through your day in a drowsy, medication-induced fog. But if neither of those choices sounds pleasant to you, there is a third choice: to treat your allergies naturally, using a combination of these eleven herbs.
Though it doesn’t have the most pleasant name, stinging nettle is one of the most popular herbs for treating allergies. Your runny nose and itchy, watery eyes are caused by the release of histamines, a chemical in your body that reacts to allergens. Nettle is a natural antihistamine that helps reduce allergy attacks and prevent those uncomfortable symptoms.
Butterbur is another naturally occurring antihistamine. A study recently released by the British Journal of Medicine found that butterbur was as effective at reducing allergy symptoms as cetirizine, the active ingredient in allergy drugs like Zyrtec. Be careful before you take it, though: the butterbur plant is in the same family as ragweed, so if you have that particular allergy, you might want to give this herb a pass.
Yarrow helps to reduce congestion and mucous secretions, whether you have hay fever or a bad cold. It is also a relaxant that can help to relieve the sore or tense muscles that come with some seasonal allergies. Yarrow is closely related to chrysanthemums, sunflowers, and chamomile, so if you have allergies or reactions to either of these flowers, yarrow might not be the best treatment for you.
Many allergic symptoms are caused by Platelet Activating Factor, or PAF, which regulates inflammation. In allergy sufferers, it is responsible for the severe inflammation that causes swollen sinuses and constricted airways. The anti-inflammatory properties of ginkgo inhibit PAF and reduce these symptoms.
Milk thistle also helps to suppress histamine production and to reduce inflammation in the sinuses and lungs. It is not as strong as stinging nettle or ginkgo, so it can be a good choice for those with milder season allergies. If you have more severe hay fever, use milk thistle in combination with other herbs.
Also known as pot marigold, calendula can help keep the membranes in your sinuses from becoming painfully dried out or swollen. When applied topically as an oil, it can also help to soothe and heal the cracked skin around the mouth and nose that comes from too much blowing and wiping. Like butterbur, calendula is related to ragweed, so leave this one out if you have a ragweed allergy.
Taking red clover gives your immune system a boost. For allergy sufferers, it can help improve your resistance and prevent your immune system from reacting quite so strongly to allergens. An ointment made from red clover can also be used topically to treat any eczema or rashes that accompany your allergies.
Eyebright is both anti-inflammatory and astringent, and it reduces hypersensitive reactions in the sinuses, eyes, throat, and ears. If you suffer from hay fever, this means it will reduce your itchy eyes, post-nasal drip, and running nose. Eyebright can be taken in dried form as a tea or in drops.
Spearmint & Peppermint
Though they won’t stop your allergies from happening, spearmint and peppermint will both help improve your symptoms. The menthol in these herbs will open up your airways, reduce congestion in your sinuses and lungs, and help you breathe better. When brewed in tea form, even the aroma will help to open up your airways.
Yerba santa works as a decongestant as well as reducing inflammation in the throat and nose. It is a natural expectorant that will help reduce the mucous build-up in your lungs and sinuses. It may also have some natural anti-histamine effects. Like eyebright, it can be added dried to tisanes or taken as drops.
As with any choice affecting your health, be sure to consult with your doctor before starting a new herbal treatment regimen, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking other medications.