Springtime, with all its promise of resurrection, can also mean a renewed misery of congestion: a constant reaching for the tissues, itchy eyes, and general sinus discomforts of every description.
What exactly causes the allergic reactions in the body, and what can you do about it?
The American Chemical Society has just put out a new video to break down the science. Essentially: if you suffer from allergies, your immune system is mistakenly viewing pollens as enemies, and therefore creating antibodies against them.
When this enemy-alert situation happens in your body, a mast cell (a type of immune system cell) releases chemicals that cause the irritating allergic reactions.
One of these chemicals is the oft-mentioned histamine. Histamine then ventures out within your body and finds itself a cell receptor, perhaps in your blood vessels (giving you a runny nose) or in your nerves (giving you an itchy nose).
Here are just a few simple and traditional ways of seeking relief. Remember that if you are using herbs, you should always consult with a health practitioner and do your own research.
Avoid times of high pollen count. Stay indoors or keep windows closed in early morning or on windy days (when pollen can easily be spread about by breezes). Some allergy sufferers eat local raw honey or bee pollen to vaccinate against pollen (read more about that here), although research about its efficacy is not conclusive.
Herbs and Anti-histamines. Stinging Nettle, an herb traditionally used as a springtime tonic, is—in its fresh form—taken as an anti-histamine in lieu of something over-the-counter. While some medical institutions believe that further study is necessary to prove the anti-histamine claims for Nettle, results of scientific inquiries such as that published in Phytotherapy Research in 2009 suggest that the extract of the herb inhibited several important inflammatory events that cause those uncomfortable symptoms of seasonal allergies.
In the last decade, many other plants have been increasingly studied for their traditional abilities to bring possible relief to allergy sufferers: Butterbur, Eyebright, Eucalyptus, Goldenseal and Spirulina among them.
Sinus oil blends and herbal steams. Specific essential oils are used in aromatherapy to combat allergies and sinus issues. These are often inhaled or dispersed with a nebulizer, but you can also used dried herbs and a bit of boiling water to create a steam.
Nasal irrigation. A combination of distilled warm water and salt is used to clear your sinuses and mucus. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be surprised that it isn’t as uncomfortable as it looks. Neti pots are popular options.
Look at your diet or explore Ayurvedic remedies. Get exercising to slough off the winter and eat a lighter diet as you transition: lots of vegetables, less dairy, and warming and drying herbs and spices. In the practice of Ayurveda (a traditional Indian healing system), Ginger root may be used to clear sinuses or Turmeric to dry up a running nose.