by Dee Atkinson, Medical Herbalist, MNIMH

For those of us who have never suffered from hayfever, its worth noting the symptoms, as every year people who have never had so much as a summer cold are coming down with hayfever. The symptoms can range from sneezing, watery eyes, runny noses to some sore throats, swollen glands and headaches. The main culprits are the pollens from grasses, flowers and trees, and daily pollen counts give one some idea how bad the problem is on any given day.

Recently pollution levels, especially in the city are making problems worse. As all hayfever sufferers know there is no actual ‘cure’ for their problems, but there are many steps that can be taken to relieve symptoms and reduce susceptibility. If you know that you get hayfever every year the best way to deal with it is to start the treatment before the hayfever season begins. Some patients start treating themselves as early as March or April.

The most effective treatments include cutting dairy products out of the diet. Any upper respiratory tract problems that involve catarrh and mucus problems are made worse by dairy products. The supplement ‘Quercetin’, available from many health food stores is a flavonoid that seems to help reduce sensitivity to allergens such as pollen, and is helpful when taken in conjunction with herbal remedies.

Your Diet

Dietary changes may benefit, especially cutting down on mucus forming foods such as dairy products. Foods rich in Vitamin C and bioflavonoids can help to reduce sensitivity and recent attention has been focused towards the flavonoid Quercetin which can be taken as a supplement. Particularly beneficial foods include fresh berries such as cranberries, blackberries and raspberries, although most fruits are recommended as are leafy green vegetables and plenty of fresh seasonal salads for general wellbeing. Carrots, high in Beta Carotene, are ideal as this vitamin helps to protect the mucus membranes from pollution and toxins. Finally, some people find that reducing their intake of grains, which are, after all, grasses, can be helpful.

Herbs and Supplements

Herbal remedies can sometimes reduce the allergic response and many people turn to a natural approach in managing their symptoms. Nettle and Chamomile act like natural anti-histamines and used in combination with anti-catarrhal remedies such as Eyebright and Elderflower can bring much relief to sufferers. We produce several natural remedies for the relief of Hayfever symptoms including Nettle Blend and Echinacea and Elderflower Herbal Compound. We also stock a large range of proprietary formulas and homeopathic remedies in our shop, D. Atkinson Herbalist.

Long before we had access to the doctor’s prescription pad, people were treating hayfever with herbs. Chamomile tea, sipped throughout the day soothes the irritated mucus membranes in the nasal passages and helps to cut down the body's allergic response, acting as a natural anti-histamine.

One of the most readily available remedies is a herbal tea blend called Summer Blend Tea. It contains Chamomile, Nettle and Plantain herb that can be taken by children as well as adults. In clinic I use stronger liquid (tincture) formulas, often using traditional herbs such as Nettle leaf, Elderflower, Eyebright and Golden Rod. Bathing sore and irritated eyes with cold Chamomile tea helps to calm them down, and a herbal sinus cream used regularly will help ease congested sinuses.

The real benefit of using Herbal Medicine is that there are few side effects. All too often with hayfever medication the patient finds themselves feeling drowsy and unable to drive or operate machinery. Natural remedies gently support the body's own defence mechanism, and if you start them before the hayfever really gets a grip on the system, they can lead to a totally hayfever free summer.