Herbs and Hayfever – The Natural Option

Many of us are eager to see the sunshine appearing through the dark clouds of winter. It’s a welcome break when the bulbs start to sprout and once again, the ground is covered in wonderful vibrant flowers, and the blossom starts to appear on the trees. However, for those who suffer from Hayfever, Spring and Summer are accompanied by the dread of sneezing, itchy and watery eyes and that awful feeling of congestion.

Hayfever is caused by the body’s immune system reacting abnormally to the pollen in grass, certain types of plants and trees. Some weather conditions make it worse as the pollen is held or carried through the air. The body produces antibodies to pollen which triggers histamine release causing the uncomfortable symptoms.

A Medical Herbalist’s approach to Hayfever is to treat the ‘whole’ person with extra focus on the immune system. So, rather than attacking the histamine release alone, the issue of why the body is reacting abnormally is the primary concern. There may be considerations such as diet, family history and other medical conditions – past and present, to take into account. The most successful Hayfever treatment is started early, so the body is prepared in advance of the ‘Hayfever Season.’

Some herbs can be useful in many cases of Hayfever. Both Urtica dioica (Stinging Nettle) and Chamomilla recutita (German Chamomile) have anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory properties – supporting the immune system and relieving inflammation in the eyes and nose. Euphrasia officinalis (Eyebright) relieves eye inflammation and attacks the liquid mucus often accompanying Hayfever. Sambucus nigra (Elder) flowers have anti-allergic, anti-catarrhal and anti-inflammatory properties. Plantago lanceolata (Ribwort Plantain) is a wonderful herb for hayfever, it gently supports and restores health to the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract.

Other allergies may contribute to the development and symptoms of hayfever. It’s possible there are unidentified intolerances making the hayfever worse. It’s often useful to have an allergy test to identify other sensitivities. If those are addressed on many occasions the hayfever symptoms improve.

For further information regarding Hayfever, or any other aspect of your health and how herbs may help then please contact me.

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist

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Pregnancy and Herbal Medicine

Time and again I am asked if Herbal Medicine can help in pregnancy. However, all too often I am asked far too late. The usual enquiry is for Rubus idaeus (raspberry leaf) tea – but if I’m honest (and I usually am!!) to start drinking this a couple of days before your due date will have little or no effect on the birth. (More about this later though!)

Herbs have been used to help women with pregnancy and childbirth since the beginning of time. It is widely recognised that women as far back as the Anglo-Saxon period (and before) made use of the properties of the herbs around them. I would not, however, advocate that nowadays pregnant women begin searching their local hedgerows for herbs they have heard about!!

By far the most effective way to ensure a smooth pregnancy and birth is plenty of forward planning. Most people are familiar with the pre, and during pregnancy advice of taking folic acid, giving up smoking and alcohol, replacing refined foods with natural wholefoods, eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (preferably organic) and making sure your body is hydrated with lots of water. It is also important to include adequate protein (again organic is best if your budget permits) – poultry and fish; dairy and soya products; nuts and seeds; beans, pulses and grains are all good sources. Not to forget the EFAs (essential fatty acids) we all hear so much about these days. The seeds of Linum usitatissimum, commonly known as linseed or flaxseed, are a good natural source of EFAs and have the added advantage of being a gentle bulk laxative – very useful if you are suffering from constipation too. Some other simple and safe remedies can be taken to help alleviate minor but niggling problems:

  • Chamomilla recutita (german chamomile) tea is a digestive herb with anti-emetic properties, and thus may help with both morning sickness and heartburn. Its relaxant action may be helpful for those stressful moments too!!
  • The distilled water of Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) is anti-inflammatory, cooling and astringent. This can be used topically to alleviate the pain and itching associated with haemorrhoids.

Now back to forward planning as this is particularly important when taking herbal remedies too. Rubus idaeus (raspberry leaves) are a commonly recommended uterine tonic. Not just Medical Herbalists, but many midwives and doctors suggest this tea to their patients. Its astringent tonic effect helps to tone the uterine muscle in preparation for the birth. It will have the maximum benefit if taken during the last two to three months of pregnancy.

There are many other herbs that can help during pregnancy and childbirth. Both common and not so common symptoms may be alleviated by the correct use of herbs – I have mentioned such things as digestive problems, haemorrhoids and constipation but more complicated complaints such as kidney infection, fluid retention, and symptoms associated with stress and anxiety can all be helped after consultation with a fully qualified Medical Herbalist. Frequently I get asked for specific herbs like Mitchella repens (squaw vine) or Cimicifuga racemosa (black cohosh). Both these, and many others, are effective herbs but it is absolutely vital they are used correctly – the dosage and timing of introduction for these herbs is paramount to their safety, so, always get professional advice.

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist

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Allergy Epidemic?


 

Herbal Medicine Can Often Help

Allergies, intolerances or hypersensitivities are big news lately. It is reported that never before have so many people been sensitive to environmental and food allergens. If you, or someone you know, suffers from hayfever, rhinitis (hayfever-like symptoms all year round), persistent cough, itchy throat, skin problems (including persistent nappy rash), digestive or appetite disturbances, asthma, itchy eyes, thrush or recurrent infections you may have become ‘hypersensitive’.

The advice from many health professionals is to completely avoid the allergenic substance. In some cases, such as severe peanut allergy involving anaphylactic shock, this may be the only way. But, is there an alternative? As a Medical Herbalist and Allergy Therapist, I prefer to take a two-pronged approach to allergies. Allergy testing, which I carry out using some simple and painless equipment which gives immediate results, can be a helpful way of identifying the substances to which a person has developed intolerance.

But what of the sensitivity within the person as a whole – why has this allergy manifested, and why now? There may be a number of factors contributing to the hypersensitivity. Firstly a person`s constitution, which can often have a hereditary aspect to it: people from families with a tendency to asthma, bronchitis, hayfever and eczema often have a higher than usual incidence of allergies. People can be devastated to find that they are allergic to a much loved family pet, or to invisible environmental moulds in their beautiful home. Avoidance in these cases may be a difficult option.

An alternative solution to avoidance is to take an in-depth look at the patient and establish what changes can be made to decrease their hypersensitivity. The body has the capacity to tolerate a certain amount of substances to which it is sensitive, but then it may reach a point where the load becomes too great and the symptoms appear: this is simply the body`s way of bringing something to our notice that needs attention! You will often hear people say that they `used to have` hayfever or a food intolerance, but now they no longer do: if you think about it, this means that their own bodily functions have improved, because the substances they used to have reactions to have not changed! A well-functioning digestive and immune system will effectively clear these substances from the body without causing any uncomfortable symptoms. A qualified Medical Herbalist may prescribe medicines depending on a personal assessment of the individual, to address hypersensitivity by improving those functions in the body which are involved in allergies and intolerances. Examples of commonly used herbs include Urtica dioica (stinging nettle), Chamomilla recutita (german chamomile), Sambucus nigra flos (elderflowers), Taraxacum officinalis radix (dandelion root) and Stellaria media (chickweed).

Any number of factors affecting the functioning of the body may impact on the body’s ability to cope with allergens rendering it hypersensitive. Examples may include a recent change in diet or lifestyle, a sudden or sustained stress, a change in the demands on the body such as puberty, childbirth or menopause: all these and more put extra demands on the body. This may help explain why allergies seemingly ‘appear from nowhere’. For further details please contact me.

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist

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