By Dr Mahalia Freed, ND Hay fever, also known as seasonal allergies or allergic rhinitis, is estimated to affect 10 - 20 % of the population in developed countries. Considering that there are over 300 million people in the USA alone, this percentage implies a significant impact on wellness and quality of life for many of us. Hay fever occurs when your immune system overreacts to airborne particles, most commonly the pollens of trees, grass, and ragweed. A wide variety of factors are associated with developing allergies, from air pollution, to infant exposures. The list of symptoms includes runny & itchy nose, itchy, red, watery eyes, sneezing and congestion. People who suffer from seasonal allergies are more likely to develop asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, ear infections, and other complications. Interestingly, there is also new research suggesting a link between seasonal allergies and depression. However there is no need to make your handkerchief a constant companion and/or stay indoors until the pollens freeze. Naturopathic medicine offers a variety of treatments that can effectively bring resolution and manage symptoms, with individual plans drawing on nutrition, herbal medicine, constitutional homeopathy and acupuncture. One of my personal favorite herbs, nettles, is a star in treating seasonal allergies, and it is profiled below. Spotlight on Nettles (Urtica dioica) Fresh spring tops of stinging nettles can be cooked and enjoyed in dishes similar to those where you find spinach, such as quiche, sautéed, in soup… NB: If harvesting your own, wear gloves! Dried nettle leaf is commonly prepared as a strong infusion, or tea, either on its own or in combination with other herbs. For an individualized, targeted prescription, consult with your naturopathic doctor or herbalist.
Nettles Quick Facts
- Act as a natural “antihistamine”
- Better than placebo in treating allergic rhinitis in clinical trial;
- Anti-inflammatory (as measured by blood markers such as cytokines and acute phase proteins);
- Rich in calcium, a nutrient important for mucus membrane health;
- Good source of iron, especially when steeped overnight;
- Contain abundant chlorophyll, nature’s detoxifier;
- A traditional “blood cleanser”, found in many skin formulas, and as part of a spring cleanse;
- Diuretic, and tonifying for the kidneys.