Herbal Hay Fever Relief

Hannah Charman

Hannah Charman

Hannah Charman is founder of Panacea Holistic Health and we are delighted to welcome her to the3rdi.co.uk.

Hannah says, “Panacea Holistic Health is a new way of looking at your health. The name ‘Panacea’ was chosen because Panacea was the greek goddess of healing, well versed in the practice of Herbal Medicine, and because nowadays ‘Panacea’ is used to describe a ‘cure all’.

Whilst Herbalists can’t claim to ‘cure’, many of our patients make a far better recovery than they ever expected when they try herbal treatment.

The holistic approach I use enables patients to make informed decisions about their health based on a combination ancient knowledge and the latest research.”

With around 20% of people in the UK having Hayfever, the chances are you’ve either got it yourself, or know someone who suffers with it. Our seasonal visitor needs little in the way of introduction, as most of us are familiar with the itchy eyes & throat, sneezing and runny nose it brings. However, in children especially, myself included, with the continual sneezing come other complications like severe nosebleeds, one of which put me in hospital on my 9th birthday. Asthma and eczema are also commonly seen in people with Hayfever, so it’s worth looking at all the treatment options available.

The approach usually taken by Doctors is to prescribe antihistamines, which although effective, merely control the symptoms. Patients become dependent upon taking them indefinitely, and with that comes the risk of side effects and a lifetime of prescription charges. Desensitisation techniques are being introduced for some other forms of allergy, such as peanuts, where tiny amounts of the allergen are introduced to the patient and the amount gradually increased. This allows the immune system to gradually get used to recognising the allergen and learn to behave in a more normal way when exposed to it.

Patients suffering from any allergy are commonly advised to avoid whatever they’re allergic to as far as possible. In the case of Hayfever, this obviously means sitting indoors with doors and windows closed until your problem pollen has stopped circulating. Not an ideal way to spend your summer!

So what’s the alternative? My own experience with herbal treatment of hayfever was profound, and played a large part in my wanting to train as an Herbalist. Having suffered for the entire Hayfever season (March to September) over 14 years, with the added burden of nosebleeds and asthma, the likelihood of me making a spontaneous recovery was very slim. By the time I was 18 I decided that I wanted to come off my medication, and tried to manage without, but the symptoms were unbearable. In the end I saw an Herbalist, and over the next 18 months, my Hayfever disappeared completely.

My prescription contained, amongst others, Elderflower, which is a powerful decongestant. Elder is a fantastic herb for all catarrhal conditions. We use the flowers in the summer to treat Hayfever, and the berries, packed with Vitamin C in the winter to treat colds. When you taste Elderflower tea, champagne, or cordial, you’ll notice that it slightly dries your mouth, and it does the same to your nasal passages, sinuses, and lower respiratory system (since it’s all made of the same tissue). I knew one lady who managed to cure years of Sinusitis just by drinking Elderflower cordial, available nowadays from any supermarket.

Eyebright is another useful herb, doing exactly as its name suggests and clearing the eyes. It soothes the itching and redness that often comes with Hayfever, literally making the eyes appear clearer and brighter.

Chamomile, Nettle and Garlic are all natural antihistamines, with Chamomile having the added benefit of being anti inflammatory in a way that will soothe the mucous membranes in the nose and throat. Tea bags (used only in clean cups and removed before drinking) can also be put in the fridge and used as eye masks. These three herbs have the added bonus of being easily available, so they can always be used as a first aid measure if you can’t get to anything else.

But as always, Herbalists like to look at why someone has Hayfever in the first place. Fundamentally, the immune system is over reacting, which indicates that it’s not functioning normally. Likewise, never getting a cold, or getting too many, can be a sign of an unhealthy immune system, but catching the odd cold demonstrates a normal, healthy, response to the cold virus. There are lots of possible reasons on all levels why the body suddenly sets up an unhealthy immune response, and we can’t always get right to the bottom of all of them. We can give you a good overall ‘MOT’ though, which will show up where poor nutrition, eating habits, stress, or other factors may have played a part. Once we’ve established where and why the body is not behaving normally, we’ll work with you to make gradual improvements which will support your body as it recovers.

For example, for some patients, with certain presentations of Hayfever, Echinacea may be used to encourage the immune system to go back to a more relaxed state. I say ‘go back to’ because most people are not born suffering from Hayfever, so the herbs simply remind the body how to be healthy again. I should stress that Echinacea would not be used in all cases, and there are some circumstances in which it would be avoided at all costs, so get some free advice from your local Herbalist if you’re thinking of trying it at home.

We’d also look at how other factors such as stress, lack of sleep, and poor diet may be affecting the immune system. If stress is a problem, we can prescribe herbs with sedative properties that calm your response to stressful situations. Adaptogens are another useful group of herbs which help the body to adapt to stress both mentally and physically, and one may be added to your prescription. Herbs to aid digestion and absorption of food might also be used to help you get as much nutrition as possible from your food, and if your diet has been very poor for a long time, you might be referred to a Nutritional Therapist for further help.

In most cases though, Hayfever and other allergies respond well to standard treatment by a Medical Herbalist. Whilst we make no promises, any practicing Herbalist will be able to tell you, without naming names, about patients whose Hayfever has been helped by taking herbs. To find your nearest Herbalist go to www.nimh.org.uk > Find an Herbalist.

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