8 effective anti-allergy herbs
Some lucky people seem Teflon coated. They can roll in the hay, eat anything, inhale fumes and load on lotions with no adverse affects. Others eat a speck of peanut and have to be rushed to hospital. Allergic responses are atopic when from birth or acquired through life.
The list of allergens is endless, as are the reactions triggered by a hypersensitive immune system. Common irritants are plants, animal hair, foods, insects, medicine, mould and more. If you have a predisposition to allergy, your body identifies these innocuous invaders as dangerous and deploys immunoglobulins, mast cells and basophils for protection. Defence forces try to flush, constrict and swell the substance from your system, waging an irksome inner war. The casualties are your skin and membranes causing swelling, redness, itchiness, asthma, mucus, diarrhoea and vomiting.
You can re-program your immune response to be less reactive with therapeutic herbs and healing practices.
The first attack can be a scary surprise as the allergen isn’t always apparent. Diagnostic tests may include blood, skin prick, patch and an elimination/challenge program. Avoiding allergen exposure is ideal but not always possible. However, studies show you can re-program your immune response to be less reactive with therapeutic herbs and healing practices.
Effective anti-allergy herbs
Albizzia lebbek is Ayurveda’s top anti-allergy herb. Ayurvedic doctor Rama Prasad finds it reaps remarkable results with eczema and rashes. According to Prasad, “Albizzia soothes skin like a calming inner balm.” This tangy bark proved positive results in test cases for asthma, allergic conjunctivitis, eczema, hives, hayfever and sinusitis. One study showed albizzia was more effective than a corticosteroid for allergic conjunctivitis. Research reveals albizzia works by reducing allergy-induced antibodies. Like a peacemaker, it stops the body from attacking itself. It essentially does what pharmaceutical medicines do, but with long-term results and no side-effects. Albizzia increases anti-inflammatory cortisol, reduces mast cells, lowers histamines and tames t-lymphocytes. In plain language, albizzia is like a chill pill to an angry allergy.
Garlic is the gold-medal remedy for cold, congestive allergic conditions. This pungent panacea packs an antihistamine punch while warding off viruses and bacteria with its antibiotic allicin content. Science has shown garlic stops the cascade of allergic enzymes and substantially decreases inflammation and infection. Super antioxidant garlic blocks free-radical havoc wreaked by allergens. To clear coughs, sinuses and sore throats, try taking raw garlic with equal honey, or aged garlic. It has additional benefits of balancing blood pressure, cholesterol and candida. When taken excessively, garlic’s side-effects can include gas, heartburn, nausea, sweating and smelliness! Those taking blood thinners such as warfarin should consult with their health professional before taking high doses of garlic.
Goldenseal is a native American herb that’s pacified a plethora of allergies over centuries. Crowned “king of the mucous membranes”, goldenseal’s root extract resembles the sticky mucus it cures. It protects the coverings of the respiratory and digestive tracts with its antimicrobial, antibiotic, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it applicable to all allergies, including hayfever, sinusitis and digestive disturbances such as diarrhoea due to food allergies. Goldenseal studies show it stimulates the secretion of anti-allergy chemical interleukin 12, which calms allergies. It also contains berberine, which inhibits inflammatory cyclooxygenase 2, reducing swelling, itching and inflammation. This golden elixir heals both membranes and skin with its astringent and antibiotic powers. It dries up mucus and prevents infections with incredible efficacy. It works well for sinusitis, periodontal disease, gut inflammation and oozing eczema. However, never take goldenseal while pregnant as it stimulates uterine contractions.
Horseradish clears sinuses like a steam train through a tunnel. Japanese wasabi is much hotter than the fresh root, which can be obtained from Asian stores. This effective expectorant will clear catarrh and fortify membranes due to its pungent allyl isothiocyanate content. Horseradish is considered the best nasal decongestant as it initially stimulates mucus secretion then dries it out. The seven glucosinolates in horseradish are natural antibiotics. This effect is enhanced as horseradish increases circulation and urination to expel any infections that may aggravate allergies. Horseradish may be taken in a tablet or capsule form as well as the fresh root. Consuming one-quarter of a teaspoon of grated root in one cup of guacamole or salad is a medicinal meal. It’s more effectively absorbed when mixing one-quarter of a teaspoon of grated horseradish with one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Be aware that horseradish is too heating for those with gastric ulcers or impaired kidney function.
Licorice is a sweet stick that soothes itchy skin, tickly coughs and inflamed intestines. It’s a tasty way to keep allergies at bay, though unfortunately licorice lollies rarely contain real licorice. To reap its anti-allergy benefits, try the root tea, extract or external gel. It’s excellent for eczema, psoriasis, asthma, bronchitis and inflammatory digestive diseases. It’s championed by Chinese herbalists as the supreme anti-allergy tonic, and science supports this claim, concluding licorice contains over 10 anti-inflammatory flavonoids, chalcones, saponins and glycyrrhetic acid. It has a natural steroid actions and adrenal effects, which improves immunity and the stress response. The soothing, demulcent action of licorice coats and heals inflamed digestive and respiratory linings. Thus it reduces the sore throats, ulcers, irritated lungs and stomach pains that can accompany allergies. Licorice may increase water retention and hence raise blood pressure, so should be taken under medical supervision if these are issues.
Stinging nettle is a furry-leafed plant that causes extreme skin irritation when touched yet rapidly relieves allergies when eaten — after heating or freeze-drying. This popular herb for hayfever, rhinitis and eczema is now backed by recent studies. Nettle has been scientifically shown to inhibit inflammatory mast cells, histamine and prostaglandins. It also boosts immunity by increasing T-cells. A conclusive trial by Portland’s National College of Naturopathic Medicine in the US found it more effective than placebo for allergic rhinitis. It reduced participants’ itchiness, mucus and sneezing. Empirical evidence shows nettles also ease animal allergies and hives. It’s great to take a few weeks before allergy season and even before meals that may disturb digestion. Our blood, bones, hair, skin and nails also benefit from nettle’s mineral boost as it’s rich in iron, silica, calcium, magnesium, sulphur, vitamin C and purifying chlorophyll. In fact, it’s so high in iron that those with haemochromatosis are advised against taking nettle. It can also adversely affect pregnant women and diabetics, so should be avoided by these people.
Perilla frutescens is a minty Asian herb called shisho in Japanese cooking. For centuries, Eastern herbalists have prized this potent leaf for its anti-allergy affects in asthma, eczema and dermatitis. Perilla is gaining international demand as recent research confirms its powerful anti-inflammatory actions. Several anti-inflammatory components of perilla leaf include the flavonoid luteolin and tormentic acid, both natural antihistamines. External application of triterpene acids isolated from perilla produced a marked reduction in inflamed ears in mice. It also prevented experimental anaphylaxis in mice. Perilla has a similar appearance and nutrients to nettle as it’s rich in calcium, iron, potassium, vitamins A and C, and riboflavin. Perilla holds great promise for asthma sufferers, as one study concluded it gave relief comparable to the effect of prednisolone. Another study showed 90 per cent improvement in the bronchitis symptoms of cough, asthma, sputum and wheezing. While generally regarded a safe herb, it shouldn’t be taken during pregnancy.
Turmeric is terrific for allergies, arthritic aches and gut inflammation. Adding an inch of turmeric root to fresh juice improves the skin, membranes and pain. Research shows it’s a superhero in assisting eczema, uveitis (inflammation of the eye), hayfever, asthma and bronchitis. This is all due to its curcuminoids: effective anti-inflammatories and antihistamines on par with pharmaceutical drugs such as hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone. It also contains immune-boosting lipopolysaccharide and antioxidant activity strong enough to scavenge the dangerous hydroxyl radical. While some anti-inflammatory drugs damage the digestive system, turmeric heals it. A UK study over eight weeks concluded turmeric gave a 60 per cent improvement in IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms. Taking turmeric regularly protects the gut, as a study revealed mice given an inflammatory agent that normally induces colitis were protected when curcumin was added to their diet five days beforehand. The mice given curcumin lost less weight than the control animals and all their colitis signs subsided. The only downside to this yellow mellower is that it can stain clothes. Don’t put detergent on marks; simply place it in the sun for an hour and it clears — just as your symptoms should.
Allergy awareness is growing, along with testing and treatment options. Testing varies according to the allergy and reaction. For example, a simple grass allergy shows as a rash within 10 minutes of exposure. However, a food allergy may take an hour to manifest and can include subtle behavioural symptoms such as irritability. Testing is tricky when multiple agents cause allergies.
While some anti-inflammatory drugs damage the digestive system, turmeric heals it.
A very promising protocol to test and totally eliminate allergens is the provocation neutralisation approach. This is similar to a homœopathic vaccination. It was pioneered in the 1950s by Carleton Lee of the US city of Missouri. The method involves eliciting and eliminating an allergic response by administering a drop of the allergen orally or intravenously and then giving progressively weaker dilutions of the same allergen. Doctors in the US are taught the protocol by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine. The success rate for this approach is up to 90 per cent.
Low-dose immunotherapy is a first-line treatment of allergies at Breakspear Hospital in the United Kingdom. This desensitises the immune system by administering regular, gradually increasing amounts of the allergen by drops or injections. Sublingual immunotherapy improved allergy symptoms by 40 per cent, according to an analysis of 63 randomised controlled trials.
Anaphylaxis is an acute allergic attack that can cause death if untreated. As this often occurs at unexpected times, an emergency anaphylaxis plan is vital for survival. Inform anyone who is likely to be around what you’re allergic to and how you may react if exposed. This includes family, friends, school, work, recreation centres etc. Wear a medical alert bracelet and always carry an epinephrine auto injector such as an EpiPen or AnaPen.
Purifying your internal and external environment protects you from allergic flare-ups. Try the following to avoid allergy exposure:
- Steam-clean bedding, carpets, pillows, upholstery and brushes with eucalyptus oil if you are allergic to dust mites.
- Clear moulds with borax instead of bleach, which tends to aggravate allergies.
- Wear a mask, covering clothes and gloves while cleaning or gardening.
- Use an air filter, which clears microscopic particles.
- Choose natural fibres instead of synthetic fabrics that attract pollens through their static.
- Exercise when pollen counts are lowest, before dawn or evening.
There are also many daily routines you can employ to relieve your allergic symptoms:
- Use a neti pot to cleanse sinuses, followed by a smear of sesame oil inside the nostrils to prevent allergen penetration.
- Rinse eyes in triphala water or fennel tea morning and night to flush out irritants.
- Cleanse your mouth with thyme or tulsi tea to flush the lymphatic-rich area.
- Clear your colon with a weekly cleanse of nothing but low-starch vegetable broth for a day.
- Minimise mucousy foods that are like glue to allergens. These include dairy, rice, wheat, sugar and bananas.
- Vitamin C and flavonoid-rich foods fortify tissues and allay histamines. Include apples, berries, broccoli, buckwheat, capers, capsicum, coriander, kale, kiwifruit, mango, papaya, parsley and watercress.
- Garlic, onion and horseradish taken regularly dry secretions and increase immunity.
- An apertif of apple cider vinegar is alkalising and aids elimination.
- Beta-carotene-rich foods such as apricots, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and mango avert allergic reactions.
- Take probiotics and l-glutamine to ensure healthy immunity and prevent the leaky gut often associated with allergies.
- The essential fatty acids in fish or flaxseed oil reduce allergic inflammation.
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