Allergies – Part One: Prevention


herb school

apothecary rose bud, photo by Madeline Ryan

To listen to a radio broadcast of The Herbal Highway on this topic, follow this link,

Allergy season is just around the corner with the arrival of spring, and for some of you, it is already here. For people living in more temperate places the allergy season can be almost year round. And for many areas, having had such a mild winter, the allergy season is likely to be extended. In this first of a two part series I will cover strategies for preventing or reducing the impact of allergens as well as how to support your system longer term. In part two I’ll cover symptomatic relief and addressing the energetics of allergies with the use of flower essences.

The respiratory system is where most allergy symptoms manifest; sneezing, nasal congestion, mucus in the lungs. Remember that lungs are not fully developed until the teen years, usually by age 18. So, if you are considering a younger person, the respiratory support is that much more important.

Also keep in mind, besides actually being sick or having allergies, other things can irritate the respiratory system. Smoking is an obvious one. Besides paralyzing the cilia, smoking stimulates mucus production and usually leads to thicker mucus accumulating. Accumulation of thicker mucus increases your chance of a lung infection. Especially if the cilia are not working, that thick mucus just sits there not moving, providing a breeding ground for microbes. If you do smoke or live with someone who does, I’d encourage you to take a lung tonic such as mullein. The specific properties of mullein are outlined below.

Living in areas with air pollution, near the freeway or environments that contain a lot of allergens such as dust, dust mites, rodents, cockroaches, pets, molds, etc. can also impair people’s breathing. So, as much as you have control over your environment, keeping it clear of these things can help take some stress off of your lungs during allergy season.

If you have allergies, be mindful of environmental impacts, besides the pollen, that can further irritate your respiratory system; and avoid what you can when you are under the additional stress of allergy season.

As winter is winding down and spring is winding up, it can be difficult sometimes to tell if you are getting sick or your allergies are starting; especially in the first couple days of symptoms. If your symptoms include any of the following chances are you’ve caught a bug, not allergies; fever, fatigue, malaise, chills. If there is a possibility that you have a cold or flu, take one of the following herbs for 2-5 days; 10 drops of tincture 2-4 times/day.  If your symptoms don’t clear up in that time, you are likely having allergy symptoms.

Echinacea, Echinacea agustofolia or purpurea; root and flower

herbal medicine
mountain forest, photo by Madeline Ryan

for acute immune support; anti-microbial (means bacterial and viral), reduces phlegm; most effective in upper respiratory tract; not a long-term tonic, use for situation specific prevention and in early stages of being sick; contraindications: do not use past two weeks without professional advice, if causes gagging, take in a small amount of warm water

Elder, Sambucus canadensis; berry and flower

Flowers make a good steam for head cold congestion; berries: clear lungs of mucous, nausea; both: anti-microbial, reduce fevers, sore muscles and joints (as bath), getting in and clearing up deep lung issues; contraindications: use only Black Elder not Red, use only ripe berries

Using a netti pot or a good old-fashioned steam can also soothe irritated mucous membranes and help clear out excess mucus. If you are doing a steam add 1-2 drops of any of the following essential oils to the water; eucalyptus, thyme, oregano, peppermint. Be sure and close your eyes in the steam, otherwise the essential oils can irritate your eyes.

With allergies, we are talking about an overly reactive immune system. So that means we are working with an immune system that needs strengthening. The other strategy is to make sure the digestion and liver are working well. Many folks with allergies also have some digestive issues.

Deal with your digestion now, before your allergies really start. Clean up your diet. Think about your liver during allergy season. Be kind to it. That means avoiding toxins including excess poor quality fats/oils, alcohol, the usual suspects. A little liver support such as dandelion root or burdock root tea or tincture can go a long way toward alleviating the symptoms of allergies.

To support your deep immunity consider the following:

Astragalus, Astragalus vetch; root – alterative, anti-microbial, immune modulator, stimulates white blood cell production

Medicinal mushrooms are great for deep immune building; both if prone to cold/flu and if you have allergies which are an immune system deficiency. Consider; shitake, maitake, turkey tails, reishi (also anti-histamine).

Tonic tea to drink

Mix these three plants in equal parts, or a little less of the red clover since it is more expensive, and drink 6-8 ounces/day. This is a good tea to reduce your histamine response, support your respiratory system and clean up your blood.

Mullein, Verbascum; leaf – opens lungs and bronchi, increasing air flow; tonic to respiratory system; any type of cough; steam to clear lung and sinus congestion; mucilaginous so toning and soothing to lining of lungs, intestines and stomach

Nettles, Urtica dioica; leaf – good tonic for allergies; astringent, diuretic, alkalizes blood; anti-histamine, very nutritive

Red Clover, Trifolium; flower –  anti-histamine, blood cleanser, high in minerals

While preparing for the allergy season, consider the above herbs and get your body ready for the additional stress of the season. You may just sail through the allergy season. Check back in for Part Two of this series and I’ll cover symptomatic relief and essences to support you emotionally as well.

Be well!