Spring is probably the mother of all allergy sesaons, what with the profuse pervasion in the air, but that’s not to say that allergies – whether they’re seasonal or not – don’t affect a multitude of people on a year-round basis, pollen or no. For these unfortunate few (or many, considering that more than 50 million Americans suffer from all types of allergies), often the only recourse is drug medication. They bear with unpleasant side-effects, including headaches, nasal irritation and drowsiness, like champs, because anything is better than the maddening curse of allergies. I don’t blame them. Sniffling, itching, and sneezing every two seconds is neither dignified nor attractive, but is most certainly painful.
However, is recourse to drugs really worth it? Are there really no other options? There is: herbal remedies. Skeptics might doubt the effectiveness of going natural, but at least ingesting plants doesn’t bring its own baggage of side-effects. Here are some herbal remedies that can soothe your allergy-ridden soul as well as any over-the-store drug:
1. Quercetin: This natural biofavonoid can often be found in fruits, vegetables, leaves and grains. Quentin helps stabilize mast cells lining the nasal passage and precents them from secreting histamine, which in turn helps to bypass histamine-induced sneezing, watery eyes, and itching. This natural anti-oxidant exists in high amounts in onion, citrus fruits, capers, cranberry, apples, wine and lovage, but in order to build up a high enough amount for it to be effective, supplements have to be taken. A dosage of 1000 mg a day, taken in between meals, should do the trick. It’s never too early to be careful, so start taking supplements at least 6 weeks before allergy season.
Precautions: If you’re suffering from liver disease, then quercetin is definitely not for you. Pregnant or nursing women should stay away from quercetin (or any other supplements, really) until the gestation or bursing period is over.
2. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica): Here’s the thing: this perrenial flowering plant is probably a herbal medicine practioner’s dream. Haemorrhage, flu, rheumatism, arthritis, gout, you say? Stinging nettles is your all-in-one solution. This wonder herb alleviates just about any sort of pain, even if only temporarily. So it comes as no surprise that stinging nettle is a wonderful anti-histamine (which induces the allergy symptoms) – as effective as any drug, but without the vexing side-effects. Nettle inhibits the body’s ability to produce histamine. Freeze-dried extracts of the leaves are sold in capsules that are easily avaliable in local stores, and taking 300 mg per day will provide relief, if only temporarily. However, you can also make stinging nettle tincture or tea easily at home. There is no “right” way to make stinging nettle tea, but there are “numerous” ways. Here’s a simple one:
- Select your leaves. Both dry and fresh leaves work, but either way, younger leaves are recommended as they give better taste. If you’d like your tea to be less bitter, then only use the tops of the nettles, which are generally a bit lighter in shade.
- Chope finely four heaped teaspoons of fresh nettle.
- You’ll need one cup of water per heap of nettle (but really, you don’t need accurate mesasurements to have good tea). Set four cups of water to boil. Add the nettle to the water when the surface bubbles.
- Let steep for 20 minutes.
- Drink hot or cold with taste enhancers such as lemon or honey.
Precautions: The hairs on stinging nettle can cause inflammation, so wear gloves while handling stinging nettle.
3. Butterbur (Petasites hybridus): In the long ago days before the magic of refrigeration, there existed a green plant whose broad leaves were used to wrap butter during the unforgiving summer days. Hence, the name “butterbur”. Found in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere, butterbur has traditionally been used to mitigate headaches and inflammation. It is also as useful as cetirizine, the active drug in Zyrtec, in controlling allergy, but unlike cetirizine, it doesn’t cause drowsiness. The recommended dose is 32 milligrams a day, divided into four doses.
Precautions: Butterbur is from the same family as ragweed, the pollen of which is a notorious allergen, so in some cases, it might actually exacerbate the symptoms of allergy.
The next time you feel the symptoms of allergy coming on, try out these three aforementioned easy-to-make and easy-to-obtain herbal remedies, and watch them cure your woeful ailment better than drugs.
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