Although it doesn’t seem like it here in the Northeast, spring is right around the corner. How am I so sure? Despite my love of all things growing, and flowering, my nose hasn’t stopped dripping in almost a week which means that the pollen is starting to move. The good news is that this means warmer weather is coming. The bad news is that allergy season is quickly approaching. By now it is likely that you’ve heard about the benefits of local honey on your allergies (If you haven’t, check out my article on it here!), but there are other things you can incorporate into your diet to help combat your seasonal allergies.
Immunomodulants are a special category of herbs that either enhance your body’s natural defense or tone down the over-activeness that causes allergies or other hypersensitivities. Before I get into the juicy details of what these magical herbs are, let me explain how they work in your body.
There are two main types of allergic reaction. First there is allergic sinusitis which is a hypersensitive reaction that a person has to an otherwise harmless foreign substance in their environment. For example, if you are sensitive to cat dander and your friend has a cat, your nasal passages are likely to swell and your nose is likely to run while you are around this cat. That inflammation in the sinuses is a common reaction to minor irritants, and is easily remedied by removing yourself from the irritant or gentle herbal support. The second type of allergic reaction is allergic rhinitis. This type is a little more extensive in that the body responds to an antigen (foreign invader, like pollen) by creating antibodies that attach themselves to immune cells in nose and airways. These immune cells detect foreign bodies and initiate local inflammatory responses against them by releasing histamines to induce inflammation and initiate the secretion of mucous. This type of reaction is common for people with reoccurring seasonal allergies or serious environmental allergies (ones to dogs and cats are common examples).
So what can you do to help your body fight other than taking an allergy pill everyday?
Herbal Support for Allergies
The following are immunomodulants that can help support your body in preparation for, during and after an allergy attack or allergy season. Many, if not all, of them will help tonify or strengthen your immune system to better recognize and fight off antigens so that your symptoms are lessened over time. All of these herbs can be found on bulk herb sites such as Mountain Rose Herbs. Feel free to learn and explore the uses of these loose herbs (I will list some recommended dosages below). I will also link easily purchased products that I enjoy for each herb. As always, check with your doctor before introducing any sort of herbal remedy into your life.
- Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
Traditionally used by the Chinese as an herbal stimulant, Ginseng is an adaptogen (helps your body cope with stress), a bitter tonic (supports digestive system), and antioxidant. It is known to increase vitality and resistance to stress. In terms of allergies, it will help restore and strengthen immune response.Loose Herb Dosage: 1/2 teaspoon of powdered root decocted for 15 minutes in 1 cup of water is recommended to be consumed 3 times a day.
The easiest way that I find to include ginseng in my diet is through tea. The herb itself is a bit pricey, so I enjoy it in either Arizona Green Tea or Yogi Green Tea. Both are delicious and contain ginseng in it’s pure form.
- Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Licorice is anti-inflammatory which will cut down on the pressure in the sinuses associated with allergies, an expectorant, meaning that it will help your body push mucus and fluid out of the lungs, and a demulcent, meaning that it will help your body rid itself of mucus. This herb is a little tricky with dosage so do your research and check with your doctor. For a mild dose that is generally safe for everyone I like Yogi’s Egyptian Licorice Blend.
- Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
This amazing mushroom contains beta-glucans which increase T-cells in the bloodstream. T-cells are lymphocytes (type of white blood cell) that help direct immune response and kill pathogen infected cells. It also produces interferon, a protein that activates the immune system. My favorite company for any type of mushroom supplement is Four Sigmatic. They have a great blend of mushrooms that contains all the goodness of shiitake backed by other incredibly powerful others.
- Reishi (Ganoderma tsugae)
Another amazing mushroom! Reishi is specific to the lungs and is great at reducing inflammation. Just like Shiitake, Reishi increases the helper T-cell activity in the body to help direct immune response. Four Sigmatic has two Reishi products that I like a lot, a hot chocolate mix and a mushroom elixir.
By incorporating these herbs into your routine before, during and after allergy season your immune system will be better equipped to fight the foreign invaders that it encounters this year. These herbs will also help your body remember the pathogens that it fights to reduce your reaction to them next time around.
Do you have any favorite allergy season supports? Let me know in the comments!