It may seem early to start thinking about allergy season, since spring time weather is likely more than a month away. However, in Chinese Medicine, we like to promote prevention and thinking ahead as a way to mitigate the struggle that comes with trees, grass and flowers blooming. Below are some tips to help you plan and prepare for spring and hopefully avoid the sneezing, itchy eyes and headaches that are so common for some of us with seasonal allergies.
Traditional Chinese Medicine: This may go without saying, but acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas are a great way to boost the immune system to fight seasonal allergies. These methods are particularly helpful when you begin about 6 weeks prior to the start of spring weather.
Nettle Tea: Nettle tea (urtica dioica) has been used for hundreds of years to strengthen the immune system. Modern science has found that nettles are particularly high in vitamins and minerals such as quercetin and vitamins C and Bs, that help our immune system manage histamine responses to allergens (i.e. itchiness, runny nose etc). Drinking 1-2 cups of nettle tea at the first sign of allergies can help keep them at bay. If symptoms have already begun and are in full swing, nettle tea may help but will be less effective. Tea bags can be found at any local health food store.
Quercetin: This is a flavanoid, full of antioxidents and found in many fruits and vegetables and has been found to help reduce the response the immune system has to allergens. This results in less production of histamines and therefore, runny nose, itchy eyes, etc. It also has been found to protect the mucous membranes, especially in the sinuses, preventing them from becoming inflamed. A mid level dose of quercetin is about 200 mg but always check with your health provider to find a dose that is good for you.
Local Honey and Bee Pollen: If you are fortunate enough to be able to find local honey (raw, unfiltered) or bee pollen, you can highly benefit from taking these once a day to hold off allergy symptoms. The honey and bee pollen hold small amounts of the local pollen from trees and flowers. These small amounts can be used to train your immune system to learn that these pollens are not harmful so that when the trees and flowers do bloom, your immune system is less likely to react (the concept is similar to our modern day vaccines). This is also good to start ~ 6 weeks prior to allergy season. 1 Tablespoon of honey or 1/4 teaspoon of bee pollen once a day is a good dose to start with.
Sinus Rinse: Netti pots and other types of sinus rinses can help keep inflamed nasal passages and sinuses hydrated and less irritated. These can be used before and during allergy season to manage symptoms.