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 Herbal Medicine: Hayfever & Allergy 
Hayfever is an allergic disorder characterized by nasal discharge, sneezing, itching and difficulty breathing through the nose. The primary part of the body affected by the allergic reaction is the membrane lining of the nasal passages, which becomes swollen and uncomfortable. The hayfever sufferer reacts to airborne foreign materials, mainly pollens and molds. Hayfever is most often due to the pollens of grasses and trees in spring, and to ragweed and molds in the late summer and fall.

Typically, hayfever is treated with antihistamines and by avoiding direct contact with the offensive allergens. Some people try visiting an allergist to reduce their sensitivity to the offending allergens. Injections of gradually increasing amounts of the allergic substances are administered until the symptoms are relieved. However, this process is complicated, costly, and not always reliable or effective.

There are many herbal medicines that are beneficial in the treatment of seasonal allergies. Perhaps the most well-known is Ma huang (Chinese Ephedra). This herb contains both ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine, which constrict the blood vessels of the sinuses, forcing the fluids causing congestion back into the blood stream. This helps to clear the acute symptoms of nasal and sinus stuffiness. There are numerous herbal decongestants available that feature Ephedra as the active ingredient. One should not, however, use such a product for more than one week at a time due to ephedrine's central nervous system-stimulating effects.

An Echinacea and Goldenseal combination may also be effective in keeping the condition stable. Echinacea is anti-viral; Goldenseal is anti-bacterial and soothes the mucous membranes of the throat and sinuses. Both herbs help to support immune response, which often becomes compromised due to prolonged allergic reaction. When used with other blood cleansers such as Red Clover, Sage, and Burdock, this combination cleanses the lymph and blood. It also clears toxic metabolites that result from the allergic response out of the system. An Echinacea and Goldenseal combination is also effective for treating, as well as preventing, sinusitis or actual sinus infection that often accompanies hayfever symptoms.

Licorice root is traditionally used to treat allergy and asthma. It also has a strengthening effect on the adrenal gland, which is weakened during the hayfever reaction. Licorice root extract may be taken during the hayfever season to treat, as well as lessen, the symptoms of allergy. If you have high blood pressure or tend to retain water, this herb is not a good idea for you.

The last important herb is Astragalus, the renowned Chinese botanical that strengthens the body's defensive or protective energy. It supports the body's ability to resist infections and other disease, and is used for its deep toning properties. Although Astragalus does not directly treat hayfever and allergy symptoms, it may be taken one to two weeks per month during the hayfever and allergy seasons.

Nutritionally, Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B-5) is often effective in the treatment of hayfever. Like Licorice, it helps to strengthen adrenal function, which is intimately involved with immune response. In acute conditions, you may take 250 mg, three times daily between meals for a few days. Then reduce this dose to 100 mg, three times daily for up to a month. Hayfever may also respond to Vitamin C (a mineral ascorbate is effective) with bioflavonoids in a dose of 500 mg, three times daily between meals. The bioflavonoids are particularly effective because they have an anti-inflammatory effect on the sinus cavity.

The following is a rotational program for the hayfever season. It relieves the symptoms of hayfever and allergy as well as providing herbal and nutritional support.

Herbal Program for the Hayfever Season

For the relief of symptoms, take as needed:

  • An herbal decongestant (with Ephedra)

In addition, follow this rotational program for herbal and nutritional support

  • Week 1

    Echinacea & Goldenseal combination
    Dosage: 15-20 drops (or 2 tablets), 3 times daily

    Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)
    Dosage: 100-250 mg, 2 to 3 times daily

  • Week 2

    Astragalus, alone or as part of a formula
    Dosage: One dose, three times daily

  • Week 3

    Echinacea & Goldenseal combination
    Dosage: 15-20 drops (or 2 tablets), 3 times daily

    Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)
    Dosage: 100-250 mg, 2 to 3 times daily

  • Week 4

    Astragalus, alone or as part of a formula
    Dosage: One dose, three times daily

NOTE: Licorice may be used during Week 2 and Week 4 for additional support. Caution should be exercised by those with high blood pressure or who have a tendency toward water retention.

It is important to consider your diet when faced with hayfever symptoms. If you have environmental allergies there is a good chance you will be allergic or sensitive to at least a few foods. It is important to try to avoid "offensive" foods during the hayfever season. These include wheat products, milk and dairy, nuts and nut butters.

Colon cleansing is also advised in some cases of hayfever. By detoxifying the intestines, you can often reduce and even eliminate allergic reactions. You may take an herbal laxative, which features either Cascara Sagrada or Senna Leaf as the active ingredient. I recommend one tablet, at bedtime, for one to two weeks only. Also, herbal fiber products that contain Psyllium seed and husk as colonic bulking agents are helpful in cleansing the intestinal walls. Psyllium supplements are mixed in water or juice, and taken two times daily, morning and evening, for one to two weeks.

This spring and summer, try treating hayfever with herbal and nutritional remedies. It is satisfying when the symptoms are reduced or eliminated, without the side-effects of prescription or other over-the-counter medicines. Good luck, and don't forget the diet portion of this hayfever and allergy program!

Janet Zand, OMD, L. Ac., is a respected naturopathic physician who lives and practices in the Los Angeles area. She has developed a unique and effective method of combining herbal medicine with nutrition, homeopathy and acupuncture. Her credentials include a Doctor of Naturopathy, Doctor of Oriental Medicine, and Certified Acupuncturist. Dr. Zand has over fifteen years of clinical experience treating with natural medicine, as well as having formulated her own line of herbal supplements.

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 About The Author
Janet Zand LAc, OMDJANET ZAND, O.M.D., L.Ac. is a nationally respected author, lecturer, practitioner and herbal products formulator whose work has helped thousands of people achieve better health....more
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