I suffer with hay-fever and rhinitis. What natural approaches can I use for helping seasonal allergies?

Ideally you begin to start using natural approaches 2 months before the season begins, at least one month would be good. The good news is that there are lots of herbs and foods that help with these allergies.  It’s important to understand the condition first.  Some people react to seasonal environmental triggers like pollen, grass, hay, and others seem to have rhinitis all year round.  

The common theme is that the immune system is over responding to a trigger, and then inflammation ensues, causing the excess mucus, runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing and sometimes other symptoms.  It’s important to support the immune system, balancing the T cells, and also to help alleviate the symptoms. Here are some tips to help boost your immune system and improve your body’s natural defence systems:

• Decrease pro-inflammatory foods such as hydrogenated fats, simple carbohydrates, and oils rich in Omega 6 fatty acids as well as excessive salt and processed meats. It is also important to increase consumption of anti-inflammatory foods which includes most vegetables, highly coloured fruits, Omega 3 fatty acids, culinary spices like Turmeric and nuts and seeds.

• Foods rich in antioxidant/anti-inflammatory nutrients (vitamins A, C, D, E, selenium, zinc, glutathione, alpha lipoic acid) can be consumed.  Onions, garlic and apples are rich in a phytonutrient called Quercetin.  Quercetin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and also helps to modulate the immune system.

• Local unpasteurised honey is useful for sufferers of hay fever as it contains the pollens 
that people react to in the air. By ingesting them, your body is able to build up a tolerance to the airborne pollens. Best to buy this from your country market or good greengrocers.

• There are so many herbs that can help with this complex condition and it usually needs a tailored prescription to get the best approach. I tend to use immune modulating herbs that will nourish and strengthen the immune system, balancing its response. Echinacea, medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Ashwaganda, Baikalskullcap may be included here.  Antioxidants can come from hawthorn and elderberry, and astringents would come from Eyebright, Nettle and goldenrod.  Drinking 3 cups of Nettle tea per day is therapeutic.  Astringents can tighten and tone the mucus membranes and may help alleviate some acute symptoms.

• Reducing stress and exposure to cigarette smoke or polluted air is necessary, as are 7-8 hours of sleep, regular exercise and getting adequate sunlight (vitamin D). Improving your immune system is a multipronged approach that has many other benefits to your overall health at reducing systemic inflammation.  See your Herbalist to get a tailored approach to your health.