So, I may be biting off more than I can chew for my first article, but with the season being Spring, and many people I know needlessly suffering from dreaded hayfever, I thought it a good topic to begin with.
Hayfever, or allergic rhinitis is an allergic reaction triggered by pollen, dust and other similar inhaled allergens. Whilst most of us look forward to Spring and the bountiful coloured flowers emerging from under the ground... many run screaming, in frantic search of their hayfever medication. While taking an antihistamine can provide you with some relief, we can instead use hayfever signs and symptoms as an acknowledgement that your body isn't in a state of balance, and rectify the situation so that you know longer have to fear the dreaded daffodil.
How do we do this I hear you ask? By focusing on modulating your immune and adrenal systems, your body is better able to cope with the rush of pollen coming into spring. As many of us know the body is an integrated system, when one system is out of whack, all can be affected. It should be no surprise then, that the immune system plays a pivotal role in maintaining homoeostasis (balance) within the body. When we are stressed, tired or run down, our immune system is compromised. What we are often unaware of, is that when such things occur in our body, on a chemical level sends messages to other parts of the body to react in certain ways, to either stimulate or suppress changes from occurring.
While there is always a small amount of histamine circulating through your body at any given time, when you inhale an allergen such as pollen, proteins within the body are stimulated to create a response to increase histamine within the body and to destroy the foreign object (Duqedu, 2015). When pollen appears in the nose, blood vessels swell up, the nose gets blocked and fluid leaks out. These then become the signs and symptoms of hayfever. This is the body's way of of attempting to expel the pollen, and is part of the body’s natural immune and inflammatory response.
This response however, can become a tiring and bothersome problem, when someone is sensitive to a particular allergen such as pollen, and continuously feels under attack. Rather than focusing on the fact that our body is releasing a large number of histamine, something that plays a vital role in allergic reactions, stimulating digestion and regulating sleep, we should be focusing on why some bodies overreact to allergens (Dedequ, 2015).
One of the reasons the body can over react to allergens, is due to an under active adrenal cortex. When the body is under stress, be it physical, mental or emotional, the adrenal cortex secretes a hormone called cortisol (Heuther. S & McCance. K, 2012). Cortisol has an anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine effect, it reduces inflammation and histamine reactions within the body (Michael, 2015). If your adrenal function is sluggish it may not be able to manufacture enough cortisol to meet demands of the body and adapt successfully to stresses, including hayfever.
So, how can we break this cycle? While using over the counter antihistamines such as dimenhydrate (Dramamine) and diphehydramine (Benadryl) reduce the histamine response, you are still not dealing with the underlying factor that is your weakened adrenal system. Focus must be placed on reducing stress within the body to reduce your cortisol production. Many people consider stress to be only that of 'having a lot on your plate.' Stress can result from environmental, emotional or biological stressors, and may be occurring without you even realising it. So take note of this when addressing conditions of low immunity, for stress plays a key role in lowering your immune system.
There is a list of nourishing herbs which can be used to help enhance your adrenal system. These herbs are known as adaptogens and nervines. Adaptogens are herbs that increase the body's resistance or adaptation to physical, environmental, emotional or biological stressors (Bone, 2007). Herbs with this action include Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), and Siberian Ginseng (Eleureroccus senticosus) to name a few.
Nervine herbs are herbs that nourish, soothe, and restore the nervous system and alleviates nervous irritability (Weed, 1989). Herbs with this action include Lemon Balm (Meslissa officinalis), Passionflower (Passiflora incarta), Oats (Aveena sativa) and Skullcap (Skutellaria lateriflora) (Bone, 2007).
So what is the best way to access the goodness of these herbs and treat your hayfever? Believe it or not, through the feet! I recently attended a seminar lead by Dr Sandi Rogers, who taught us that the feet contain over 250,000 sweat glands (Living truth yoga, 2015), and because of this, it is a great way to uptake nutrients into the body.
To keep the cost of this treatment low, I have chosen two herbs from the list above, Licorice and Skullcap. Licorice root has the actions of anti-inflammatory, adrenal tonic, and mucoprotective, making it a great addition to the treatment of hayfever (Bone, 2007). Skullcap, my second herb of choice is not only a nervine but also an antihistamine, relaxant of the nervous system, and helps to calm the mind (Micheal, 2015).
Below is a foot bath recipe I have created for you to try:
Bone, K. (2007). The Ultimate Herbal Compendium . Missouri: Phytotherapy Press .
Duqedu. (2015). Duqedu. Retrieved 11 November, 2015, from http://sepa.duq.edu/regmed/immune/histamine.html
Hechtman, L.E.A.H. (2012). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Chatswood, Australia : Elsevier.
Heuther, S & Mccance, K. (2012). Understanding Pathophysiology . Missouri: Elsevier Mosby.
Living truth yoga, C. (2012). Living truth yoga. Retrieved 12 November, 2015, from http://www.livingtruthyoga.com/news/march-01-2012-our-feet-our-foundation-ohhhh-so-important
Michael, P. (2015). Health Masters London. Retrieved 12 November, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzROu-ew2OY
Wood, M. (2008). The Earthwise Herbal. California : North Atlantic Books.
Brodie Hearnden is the Founder of Eclectic Herbals a site dedicated to the safe, effective use of herbs and other natural products. She believes in natural medicine to help the body heal itself and restore health.