Saturday, May 25, 2013

Natural Remedies For Allergies

I have allergies that seem to be getting worse as I get older, so I've been looking into ways to actually fix them more than just over-dosing on antihistamines all spring and summer long. Here's what I've found:

Apple Cider Vinegar, that health-fiend's favorite liquid, breaks up congestion throughout the whole body, and gets stuck-in mucus to release. Since I started taking it, I can breathe better, I can sleep better, and I can smell the whole world--I didn't even realize how little I was smelling until I started smelling again!

Also, it loosens up lymph nodes and gets them flowing again, so that gets your immune system working better, which means it reacts less violently than it could if it was all out of whack anyway. Also also, it's a natural anti-inflammatory, so that any reactions you do get are less of the swelling-sort like clogged sinuses, puffy eyes, swollen lymph nodes and the like.

A lot of the literature I found on the web says that you should use the natural, unfiltered ACV because it still has live cultures in it like yogurt and is probiotic because of it, but I've just been using the $1 bottle of the standard stuff and it's done miracles. If I can scrape up a little extra when it's time to refill, I'll give the fancy stuff a try and see if it works differently.

Local Honey
I've been using this one for years. The idea is that if you ingest the raw, unfiltered honey from the plants that upset your system, your immune response learns how to handle them without overreacting. Since most of your immune system is in your gut, this seems to make sense to me. And it seems to work.

I take a teaspoon to a tablespoon every morning. I get my honey by the half-pint at the farmer's market or the flea market, where I can talk to the people who handle the bees and I can be sure that it's local, unfiltered and cold-processed so that all the good stuff is still in the honey.

And as a bonus, I've become sort of a honey connoisseur. Did you know that different sorts of honey can taste wildly different, and that there are hundreds more varieties than the three or so that you can get at the grocery store? I didn't, until I started using it this way!*

There are tons of good herbs to use during allergy season. Nettles are an overall good tonic for everything; the tea tastes green and herbal in a nice way, and has a little eensy-weensy bit of zing from the leftover stinging stuff, but shouldn't bother you more than that. Peppermint tea can help ease breathing, and also rebalances the body in general, so that reactions to allergies are lessened.

I haven't tried Angelica, but it's supposed to be a really good way to train your body that allergens aren't going to kill you, and get your system to calm down. Usually found in tincture form, but if you're a gardening type, you can find the seeds in herb-heavy seed shops and catalogs. And Licorice is supposed to act like a steroid, but without the steroid side-effects (though it can mess with potassium and blood pressure, so don't use a whole lot). Ginko is meant to be a natural anti-inflammatory and and antihistamine, and has lots of other health benefits, too.

This link has a list of herbs to avoid if you have allergies to Ragweed, Latex or Aspirin, since there are herbs that can make those allergies worse instead of better!

Echinacea was the old go-to, but it can build up and get poisonous, so don't take it for a really long time, and for me, it didn't really do anything anyway.

From Mother Earth News:
"Quercetin also is a natural antioxidant that helps mop up molecules called free radicals that cause cell damage, which can lead to cancer. Citrus fruits, onions, apples, parsley, tea, tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce and wine are naturally high in quercetin, but allergy sufferers will most likely need to use supplements to build up enough of this compound to prevent attacks. The recommended dosage is about 1,000 milligrams a day, taken between meals."
The article also says that foods high in Omega-3s help fight allergies, and that foods that naturally clear the sinuses like horseradish, hot mustard and chili, can help.

The best way is to probably avoid the allergens to begin with. Drive with your windows up; keep your windows closed in your house until the worst of allergy season is past; install really good filters, like HEPA or some other high-filtration filters, in your house to catch any that get inside; avoid hanging out in places that produce pollen, like fields and forests and such, until the worst of it passes; use neti pots or other nasal irrigation tools to get the gunk out of your airways.

And always make sure you pay attention to how the remedies affect you. If you feel worse, or if you have other reactions, don't use them. If you're on medications, talk to your doctor before you use anything new, and even if you're not, add one thing at a time so you can see how your body reacts.

If you have any other allergy treatments or cures, let's talk about them in the comments!

* My favorite-tasting honey is Gallberry, but the honey I use daily is wildflower because it has the widest range of pollen-sources. I like the darker varieties of honey the best.
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