“I seem to be hay fever-free… completely… at this point! I even worked in the garden yesterday without problems…”
Valerie Spargo, Falmouth
This is a quote from one of my patients, who tried herbal medicine to see if it would help relieve the very debilitating hay fever symptoms she had been experiencing for many years. She had started taking conventional medication a few years previously, which helped, but with the drawback of a number of side effects. Her symptoms sometimes started as early as March.
I suggested taking a herbal prophylactic approach, starting at the end of January, with a view to avoiding having to take medication, if nothing else! The opening quote is from April 2015. Although she did not remain completely hay fever-free through to the end of July, when her symptoms usually subsided, her symptoms were significantly reduced. This enabled her to enjoy her summer, including spending time in the garden. And she did not need to take her previous medication. She was delighted. Here are some quotes from May and June:
May: “I have sneezing fits every once in a while, and sometimes sore, itchy eyes, but really, not a great deal of a problem.
June: “I have occasional short periods of crazy sneezing and some evenings I need to wash my eyes, but these periods are short and hardly worth mentioning. All is very good.”
The herbal approach
Using a personalised approach and herbs chosen specifically for you, a herbalist can help rebalance, strengthen and, in effect, desensitise your body, reducing and hopefully preventing a reaction to the substances it was previously sensitive to.
A herbalist will take into consideration any other allergies or sensitivities you may have. Allergies tend to have a cumulative effect, so the more substances you are sensitive to, the more you are likely to become sensitive to, or the more severe your symptoms may become, as your body becomes more and more stressed and weakened, and less able to cope.
There is a wide choice of herbs to choose from, including those with antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, anti-pruritic (anti-itching) properties, and it is the skill of the herbalist that determines which herbs are best suited to you.
I believe that using local plants is particularly beneficial, in the same way that many people find eating local honey helps alleviate their symptoms. The theory is that the local bees are feeding off the same pollens to which you are allergic, so their honey has an immunomodulatory effect. In other words, it acts like a natural vaccine.
Herbs for hay fever
I collect many of the herbs I use in the treatment of hay fever locally, and prepare tinctures from them. I live on The Lizard peninsula in Cornwall, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, where much of the land is organic, and the medicinal plants and herbs I harvest here are rich, strong and vibrant, and have an almost tangible energy. Those that commonly feature in remedies for hay fever include nettle, plantain, elderflower and eyebright.
Pre-hay fever season
The sooner someone with hay fever seeks herbal help, the better. Ideally, I like to see patients a couple of months before ‘their’ hay fever season starts. That way, we can strengthen and rebalance all the body systems, including the immune system, so that it recognises, and stops overreacting to, natural substances.
Find out more about herbal medicine
If you’d like to find out more about how herbal medicine works, please take a look at my About Herbal Medicine page. Also check out the Inspiring Health natural health clinic for details of a Hay fever and Allergy workshop we are running on March 12.