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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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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Chamomile – one of Natures (and Herbalists) Little Helpers

Many people these days know the reputation of Chamomilla recutita (chamomile) tea to help relax the body and mind. Chamomile tea bags are commonplace now on all supermarket shelves. Whilst chamomile does indeed have calming, relaxing and gentle sedative properties it is a herb with many more uses too.

At this time of year chamomile is particularly helpful. It has immune stimulating properties and is anti-inflammatory so can often be useful in combination with other herbs for both strengthening the immune system against hayfever and helping with the symptoms.

Chamomile is a slightly bitter herb which helps stimulate normal digestion, it is also carminative due to the essential oil it contains. Both these properties make chamomile an ideal choice if you have had a tummy bug or indigestion after a heavy meal.

Medical Herbalists may use chamomile in combination with other herbs in eczema. Eczema is often associated with the body getting too hot and chamomile helps cool and calm thus addressing the root cause. Chamomile can also be applied topically to hot, itchy skin conditions – creams and bathing herbs are an ideal way to reduce inflammation and relieve itchiness. Chamomile has topically moisturising and healing properties too!

Because chamomile also helps reduce feelings of nausea it can be useful for pregnant women suffering from morning sickness. Experiment drinking it hot, lukewarm or cold to see which you prefer. Make sure, however, that you brew the tea with a lid on the pot or a saucer on top of the cup to help preserve the essential oil.

As a Medical Herbalist I often get asked about ideas to help young babies sleep – we have to be so careful what we give our young ones! Chamomile is a lovely gentle herb for children. Try making a strong infusion of organic chamomile then adding to the baby’s bath to relax them before bedtime. If a mother is breastfeeding then drinking plenty of chamomile tea will ensure it will come through the breast milk and help relax baby too. The added carminative properties may also help with any digestive upsets in baby too. Once children are old enough to drink things other than milk try introducing weak chamomile tea. If started early then most babies will take to the taste of herbs – a bit different to trying to get a fussy five year old to suddenly try herbal tea!! Speaking of digestive upsets in babies, and fussy five year olds do please consult a qualified Medical Herbalist if you need help, its always worth speaking to an expert if you’re not sure.

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist

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