You may have noticed the first signs of spring as Indian Plums break from their buds, nettles emerge from the damp ground, and daffodils and crocuses brighten the landscape. Although always a welcome sight, this time of year also harkens the beginning of the sneezes, itchy eyes, and stuffed noses of allergy season.
If you are looking for natural support when it comes to mitigating seasonal allergies, the most important thing to remember is to start early. The most common mistake people make during allergy season is waiting for their symptoms to arrive before starting natural treatments. Although they can be very effective, many herbs and nutrients used for allergy support take time to work.
For best results, I recommend starting an allergy protocol at least one month before allergy onset.
Unsure of where to start? Below are some common strategies for alleviating allergies.
Often overlooked, simple hygiene measures can make a big impact when it comes to reducing unwanted allergy symptoms. Pollen very efficiently travels long distances via air streams and animal fur to find new homes in which to flourish. Although we lack the dense fur of our animal counterparts, our clothes and hair offer welcome spots to catch a ride for the innumerable pollen grains that we encounter during a short stroll outside. We end up inadvertently bringing these pollen grains into our homes and onto our sofas, pillows, blankets, and sheets. Luckily, there are some simple steps to decrease this load:
- Change out of your clothes and shower as soon as you get home. Make sure to put your clothes away in a hamper or closet to prevent pollen recirculation. Showering helps to remove pollen embedded in your hair or on the surface of your skin.
- Change your sheets and pillowcases often. Since we spend a lot of time with our heads against a pillow, we want to make sure that pillow is as free as possible of pollen. Switch out pillowcases twice weekly and wash sheets weekly if you are able.
- Vacuum, dust, and mop often. If you have rugs or carpeting, vacuuming at least weekly or multiple times a week is critical. If time is limited, focus on the rooms you spend most of your time in, such as the bedroom and living room. Use a damp cloth to wipe down hard surfaces, such as tables and shelves.
- Use HEPA air filters to filter pollen out of circulation. Start with the room you spend the most time in, such as the bedroom or a home office.
In addition to cleaning around the house and improving the quality of the air you breath, you can also take steps to clear your sinuses.
- Neti pots and nasal lavages help to clean the nasal passages of pollen as well as to lubricate the nose and throat. If used regularly, they have the added benefit of preventing mucus in the sinuses from building up and causing sinus infections.
- Inhaling steam produced by a hot shower or a pot of water on a rolling boil can help to break up mucus and clear out the sinuses. Take care to position yourself far enough from the source to prevent getting burned by the steam. Consider adding fresh herbs, such as thyme and rosemary, to the water for their soothing volatile oils.
Nutrients & Foods
Eating foods that are natural sources of antihistamines and antioxidants will help you combat seasonal allergy symptoms.
- Luteolin is a common constituent of many fruits and vegetables, which has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antihistamine properties. Common sources of luteolin include carrots, olive oil, peppermint, thyme, oregano, and celery.
- Quercetin, like luteolin, is a powerful antioxidant that has antihistamine properties. It can be found in common foods such as onions, citrus fruits, buckwheat, green leafy vegetables, and apples.
- Apples not only contain quercetin, they are also a rich source of allergy fighting polyphenols and antioxidant proanthocyanins.
Support a nutrient-rich diet with herbal supplements.
- Nettles have natural antihistamine properties, with the highest concentrations in freeze dried preparations. Since nettles are abundant this time of year, enjoying them as food or tea can also be helpful.
- Butterbur is shown to be effective against allergic rhinitis due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Boswellia, also known as Indian frankincense, is a potent anti-inflammatory agent that acts to inhibit inflammatory leukotrienes and histamine-releasing mast cells.
Start now for a more enjoyable allergy season. And, as always, remember to consult your health care provider before starting any herbal or supplement protocol.
By Kelley Garrison, ND
Dr. Garrison is a licensed naturopath at Northwest Life Medicine Clinic who specializes in stress and stress-related conditions such as anxiety, panic disorder, and irritable bowel syndrome. She enjoys working with patients to find the root cause of their symptoms and helps them cultivate the resources needed to feel healthy and resilient. You can find her at nwlifemedicine.com.