Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is an allergic condition with symptoms such as itchy eyes, sneezing and a runny nose. It is estimated that 1 in 5 people will be affected by hay fever at some point in their lives. Some people are only affected as a child whereas some adults develop the condition later in life.
Hay fever is usually triggered by a type of pollen, and lasts while that pollen is in the local environment. Tree pollen is released in the spring, grass pollen at the end of spring beginning of summer and weed pollen from spring to autumn.
The main treatment for hay fever is antihistamines, which counter act the affects of histamine which is produced by the immune system to protect the body from infection. In the case of hay fever there is too much histamine as the pollen is seen by the immune system as a threat.
Are there natural forms of antihistamine?
There are medicinal plants that have antihistamine effects, nettle for example has been shown to reduce the symptoms of hay fever and is recommended to take as a preventative before the hay fever season. As little as 600mg or 1 teaspoon per day has been found to be effective. This can be taken as a tea, tincture or capsule.
Plantain is a traditional remedy for hay fever and has been used for hundreds of years by Native American Indian’s. It is particularly used for reducing inflammation in the eyes and membranes in the nose. This can be taken as a tea, tincture of capsule.
Eyebright is another traditional remedy for sore eyes that has been used for hundreds of years and is a keen favourite of medical herbalists. Often given in the form of drops but can be taken as a tea, tincture or capsule.
Taking a teaspoon a day of a local honey has been shown to be effective in some studies, as the honey contains a small amount of the pollen allergen it gradually allows the body to build up immunity to the pollen, but it appears that it does not work for every hay fever sufferer.
If you suffer from hay fever and would like to look at your options there is more information available at allergyuk.org and on the NHS website.
If you are taking any medication or have other health problems it is important to seek professional advice from a medical herbalist before taking herbal medicine. To find your nearest medical herbalist visit www.nimh.org.uk.
Culpeper ‘The complete herbal’ 1653 (historical use)
Review of complementary and alternative medicine in treatment of ocular allergies.:Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2003 Oct;3(5):395-9.Bielory L, Heimall J.Department of Medicine, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey 07103, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
Duke, James A. The Green Pharmacy: New Discoveries in Herbal Remedies for Common Diseases and Conditions From the World’s Foremost Authority on Healing Herbs. Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale Press, 1997