Skies are blue and the birds are singing. Then it starts. You begin sneezing, your eyes water and your head pounds. Hay fever season has arrived. Most people with hay fever and other airborne allergies wait out their misery with patience and antihistamines. But there is another way. The herbal kingdom and its many subjects, like nutrition, offer several options for relieving allergy symptoms.
Allergy is a general term describing the body's aggressive attack on benign or even beneficial compounds. Allergies can be induced by eating certain foods, touching particular chemicals and other substances, or breathing irritants like pollen, spores and animal dander. Airborne allergies, which mainly affect the respiratory system, are especially difficult to control.
Hay fever is the most common and familiar form of airborne allergies. The coughing, sneezing, itching throat and eyes, and sinus headaches associated with it are usually seasonal. This doesn't mean that hay fever is restricted to one season though. If you suffer from spring hay fever, then tree pollens are most likely responsible. Summer sneezing begins when grasses and weeds release their pollen. Ragweed contributes to autumn nose blowing.
Regardless of the time of year, the symptoms are the same. The nose runs with a clear, watery discharge. This is different from a cold or other infection where nasal mucus is usually yellow or green and thicker. All types of allergies are also exhausting. It's no wonder that most sufferers are irritable or even depressed. For many, food is unappealing and sleep is hard to come by even though they're tired. While red, scratchy eyes often accompany hay fever, sometimes only the eyes are affected.
Airborne allergies don't have to be seasonal. If your nose is always runny, you may have perennial allergic rhinitis: sneezing all year round. Unlike hay fever, symptoms may wax and wane. Many times eyes are unaffected but hearing, especially in children, may be decreased due to blocked eustachian tubes. For this condition look for irritants that are constant like pets (animal dander is a common allergen), mold or mildew (fungal spores can cause allergies) or even a dusty house. Cigarette smoke is also a culprit.
Bronchial asthma can be triggered by a variety of stresses like exercise, infection, gas fumes, cold air or even a change in temperature. The shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, tightness and chest pressure, anxiety and fatigue of asthma can also be sparked by the same airborne allergens that cause hay fever in others. Allergic asthma is more prevalent in babies and children than adult asthmatics.
Finally, there's the complications of airborne allergies. Because this condition is so draining, bodily resistance is not up to par. Less immunity means the door is open to infection and illness in general. Bacterial sinusitis with its fever and chills, headache and nasal congestion can easily take up residence in sinuses that are weak, clogged and swollen, as in ongoing allergies. Chronic sinusitis may even be mistaken for allergies; conversely allergies are commonly found among those with chronic sinusitis.
Although Ma Huang, or Ephedra sinica, is a primitive plant, it's a well established anti-allergy herb. This rigid, tufted shrub has been used as an asthma remedy for at least 5000 years. The ephedrine in ephedra soothes the bronchial spasms that characterize an asthmatic attack and open airways for five hours. Ma Huang is equally useful for the runny nose and other symptoms of hay fever.