Help from the hive is better than drugs.
by MICHAEL BRAUNSTEIN
Get ready for the glut of commercials and ads for allergy medicines. It’s that time of year again and right now is when anyone who suffers the sniffling, runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezes of hay fever and allergies should take heed. It seems like spring is still a ways off and there is no green grass or budding trees just yet. All that means is that it’s time to get a jump on tuning up the immune system. And drugs are not the answer. There are natural ways to modulate the immune system response to pollens and allergens and avoid the bad side effects of allergy medicine.
Downside of drugs. Taking a pill or getting a shot may seem like the easy answer. That is until you look at the consequences. All drugs have side effects. Some are worse than others. Some kill. Some produce the very symptoms the drug claims to avoid. None get to the real root of the problem.
Just check out the possible side effects of one of the most popular hay fever medicines: “hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat, skin rash, bruising, severe tingling, numbness, pain, muscle weakness; mood or behavior changes, anxiety, depression, or thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself; tremors or shaking; easy bruising, unusual bleeding (nose, mouth, vagina, or rectum), purple or red pinpoint spots under your skin; severe sinus pain, swelling, or irritation; worsening asthma symptoms; or severe skin reaction — fever, sore throat, swelling in your face or tongue, burning in your eyes, skin pain, followed by a red or purple skin rash that spreads (especially in the face or upper body) and causes blistering and peeling.”
Listen to the disclaimers during the television commercials. They go by pretty fast and are delivered in a singsong patter so you hardly notice. But, really? Bleeding from the vagina or rectum?
Tune up with nature. It’s fully possible to curtail the cause of allergy-induced discomfort without the side effects of drugs. By preparing the immune system and minimizing exposure, many folks find relief. Some of the ways used are included here.
Honey. This is a standard many swear by. The idea is that honeybees carry pollen from local plants back to the hive. So it’s important to note that honey must be locally gathered to immunize against the pollen of local plants. As the bees work with the nectars they bring back to the hive, some of the processed and denatured pollen ends up in the honey. Eating honey or using hive products such as bee pollen can reportedly strengthen the immune system against the pollen that causes the allergic reaction.
Important: Use raw, unfiltered and local. Find information at your neighborhood, locally owned health food store. But know your provider. A popular brand carried in Omaha stores advertises in BIG letters on its label that it is local. But beware: “local” is not a regulated term. The owner told me their bees gather from as far away as North Dakota. Though honey in general should help, what you want is the pollen from your local plant species, not from 500 miles off.
Bear in mind that the most common allergen is ragweed and grass pollens. Bees may carry a small amount of those but grasses are wind-pollinated, not bee pollinated. Still, any plant pollen stimulant found in honey should modulate the immune system and help out. Start the honey inoculation 30 days out from the start of blooming.
Neti pots. I place the use of neti at or near the top of any physical regimen to reduce nasal or sinus allergies. Neti is the ayurvedic practice of clearing the nasal passages with a gentle douche of mild saline solution. It’s been in practice for thousands of years and is quite effective for a multitude of sinus and respiratory duct problems.
Western doctors have fallaciously adapted their idea of nasal irrigation and think it’s the same. It isn’t. There is a big difference between properly using a neti pot and using one of those drugstore irrigation bulbs. I consider those bulbs dangerous because they actually force the irrigating solution into the sinuses. That is unwanted. Neti washes the fluid past the outside of the sinus entrance so does not introduce an irritant or foreign matter into the delicate sinus membrane. A properly qualified yoga teacher should be able to adequately instruct about correct use of a neti pot.
If you miss the preparation period and hay fever has taken hold, there are some after-the-fact solutions to help find relief without the side effects of histamines.
"Just say neigh" with horseradish Horseradish is a spicy root that brings tears to your eyes and clears sinuses. Dr. James Duke in Green Pharmacy suggests one spoonful a day of grated horseradish for about a month before allergy season begins. Maintenance doses after that can help stem the allergic response, too.
Stinging nettle Dr. Duke strongly recommends stinging nettle, a frontline herb in the fight against allergy and respiratory symptoms. Dr. Andrew Weil suggests the freeze-dried leaves. Immune system supporting herbs like astragalus and echinacea are also high on the list of hay fever fighting herbs.
It seems we are seeing an increase of asthma and allergies. I’m convinced that a major factor in that upswing is because we are living too far from nature. We eat processed foods, spend sedentary days checking a weather app instead of getting out and interfacing with nature to see if it “looks like rain.”
Our connection to nature is vital. We must cultivate and improve it before we lose our capacity to be part of it. Even if reconnecting means a sniffle or itchy eyes now and then.