Virginia Ahearn, B.S. CPM PCDCertified Professional Midwife • Practitioner of Herbal Medicine • Certified Postpartum Doula
Herbs & Allergies
Hello everyone, please excuse my few month hiatus from the newsletter. I was refueling my energy reserves. Since it is spring, I am going to talk about allergies. Whether it is sinus headaches or itchy watery eyes and dripping nose, there is an herb for you!!
As with any health issue, it is always good to address what you are eating. Most Coop members probably know the link between dairy and allergies. I used to eat tons of dairy and always had bad allergies. When my coop friends told me that dairy was the culprit, I replied by saying “But I LOVE cheese, I will never give it up”! Finally out of desperation, I weaned myself off of dairy and the results were clear. I went from always having to bring tissues with me wherever I went, and always being sniffly, to not having to buy tissues at all! Years later I started eating dairy in small quantities, and I am still OK. Wheat and gluten are other common allergies, they prompt a slow insidious histamine reaction, which can remain constant and low grade.
Here are several herbs you can take for immediate relief of allergy symptoms: Eyebright, osha, bayberry. They are all drying, and will dry up mucous and watery eyes. You can take these as teas or as extracts. Bayberry will probably only be found in combination with other herbs in extracts (Those little brown bottles behind the counter). None of these help correct the cause of allergies, they only will provide temporary relief (which is all the pharmaceudical products offer as well.) You can steep up a pint of water, add a total of 4 teaspoons of any combination of the herbs, steep 30 minutes or so, and drink hot or cold. I would not recommend drinking more than a 12-16 oz a day, and I don’t recommend them for more than two weeks. Since they are ‘dryer-uppers’, they can cause you to become too dried out, and the little capillaries in your nose will break, causing very minor nose bleeds. I had this experience once while using osha tincture one September when I was living in a moldy house. Osha helped dry up my sinuses, but I found tinges of blood when I blew my nose.
To treat the underlying cause of allergies, you can use herbs that help modulate, or tone, the immune system. Allergies are the result of too much histamine, which is one of your body’s natural responses to allergens such as dust, flowers blooming, grass, hay, animal dander, chemicals and fragrances in shampoos, household cleaners, deodorants and perfumes, etc. Several Chinese mushrooms are great for toning down the overactive immune response of dripping nose, sneezing, itching eyes, but they are long term tonics, you need to use them regularly for several months or longer. Reishi mushroom is one, also known commercially by its latin name, ganaderma. Chaga, shiitake and maitake are several others often found in herbal combination teas and extracts. There are two types of reishi, by the way, red reishi is Ganderma sinensis and it tastes OK but is not as strong as black reishi, whose latin name is Ganoderma lucidum, and tastes horrible. Reishi is especially helpful for mold allergies. I have taken a lot of black reishi and somehow feel compelled to drink the tea.
Sometimes allergies are worsened by a slow lymphatic system. These are folks who sometimes look kind of like the Pillsbury Dough Boy with lots of edema. Symptoms can be not so dramatic, such as puffiness under the eyes, lots of swollen glands. Spring is a great time to nourish and tone your lymphatic system, and red clover and violets are two great herbs for this. Red clover is a mild blood thinner, contraindicated for those already taking blood thinners. Otherwise, you can drink them freely as a tea, or take the extracts.
And also, drink lots of water. Water thins out mucous.
On May 19th I will be giving a free talk at Franklin Township Public Library at 7pm. It is on Demott Lane, ¼ mile off of Hamilton Street in Franklin.
If you like what you read and want to support Virginia’s work, you can make a donation here