Pollen got you down? 8 herbal remedies for hay fever

Columnist and Medical Herbalist Pamela Spence MNIMH reveals which herbs are our allies in the fight against hay fever

Hay fever – it’s the bane of nearly one in three people in the UK. Doctors are reporting a spike in cases this year and it is predicted that double the number will be affected by 2030.

Medical Herbalist Pamela Spence

This annual trial for some can turn the most beautiful summer day to misery and leave many folks running for cover inside and away from nature.

Hay fever is a well-known seasonal allergic condition where the body’s defences over-react to pollen, leaving the sufferer with an itchy, scratchy throat, sore, watery eyes, sneezing fits and runny nose.

If hay fever affects you it is important to know what pollens your body reacts to most because then you can plan the season a bit better.

First up is tree pollen in early spring, followed by grass pollen from mid-May to July and finally weed pollen from end of June to September. It may be that you are only triggered by one of these types.

To  reduce  symptoms,  or  perhaps even get rid  of  them  there  are  some  simple practical  measures  you can  take.

Barrier ointments reduce the number of pollen particles entering our  noses and drying washing inside avoids pollen getting trapped in clothes and bedding. 

Elderflower

In  the  world  of  herbs  we  have  several  allies  –  elderflower  is  the  most  common.  The  elder  really  is  one  of  the  most  useful  trees  we  have  and  its  timing  is  exemplary. 

In  spring  and  summer  the  tiny  creamy  yellow  blossoms  are  our  best  defence  against  hay fever,  and  in  autumn,  when  they  turn  to  berries  they  are  highly  anti-viral  and  help  us  to  ward  off  colds  and even flu. 

Nettles  are  extremely  useful  as  they  can  reduce  histamine  levels  as  can  chamomile  and  echinacea.  Drinking  equal  parts  of  Echinacea,  nettle  and  chamomile  tea  2-3  times  per  day  can  really  help  to  reduce  symptoms  and  if  you  can  add  elderflower  to  that  it  will  impact  your  symptoms  even  more.   

Echinacea

Medical  herbalists  can also prescribe  more  specialised  herbs  like  eyebright  for  people  who  have  itchy,  sore  eyes  or baical  skullcap  and  ephedra  for  very  difficult  cases. 

Ephedra  is  the  original  source  of  the  drug  ephedrine  –  which  is  basically  plant  adrenaline  and  can  calm  even  the  most  outrageous  of allergic  symptoms. 

As  it  is  a  restricted  herb  it  is  only  available  for  qualified  medical  herbalists  to  dispense  and  if  your  symptoms  are  particularly  difficult  to  manage,  it  is  well  worth  it – so go and see your local medical herbalist if the simple approach is not enough!

To find a medical herbalist in your area go to www.nimh.org.uk

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Lynda Hamilton Parker is a Scottish PR expert and independent publisher

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