An allergy is the result of an exaggerated immune response, where the immune system perceives generally harmless substances such as pollen, dust mites, foods, or animal hair as dangerous. During an allergic reaction, the immune system releases substances like histamine, causing various symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, skin rash, itchy eyes, or, in severe cases, difficulty breathing.
About 15-20% of adults and one-third of children struggle with various symptoms of allergies. Grass, trees, and specifically ragweed cause the majority of allergic conditions, the latter introduced centuries ago from the United States along with grains.
In certain cases, allergies can lead to life-threatening conditions. This group of severe allergic reactions is called anaphylaxis in medical terms. Anaphylaxis is characterised by difficulty breathing, swelling of the tongue, fainting, seizures, and requiring immediate emergency medical attention. The swift and effective treatment involves an adrenaline injection, which sufferers should carry, especially if aware of specific allergies (e.g., bee stings, peanuts, hair colourants, etc).
Non-anaphylactic allergy management often involves the use of antihistamine tablets and nasal sprays, with antihistamine injections being less common. Nasal sprays clear the airways, alleviating allergy symptoms. However, it’s noteworthy that they can raise blood pressure and induce insomnia. Antihistamines may cause drowsiness, and unfortunately, both medications may lose efficacy over time.
There are highly effective herbs for managing allergy symptoms. Nettle (Urtica dioica) effectively addresses symptoms of hay fever, respiratory infections, whooping cough, asthma, and tuberculosis, and has traditionally been used to alleviate allergy symptoms. The antioxidant-rich nettle tea can help reduce inflammation.
Traditionally associated with anti-inflammatory and soothing effects, Ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata) can be consumed as a tea or applied externally to alleviate skin irritation common in allergic reactions.
Juniper (Juniperus communis) oil, with its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, may assist in managing allergic reactions.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale), known for various health benefits, could also alleviate allergic reactions, and can be consumed as tea or in supplement form.
Compounds in sage (Salvia officinalis) possess antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, potentially aiding in managing allergy symptoms.
Camomile (Chamomilla recutita) tea has anti-inflammatory and soothing effects, possibly reducing skin irritation caused by allergic reactions. However, it’s important to note that while camomile can be effective for skin allergies, it may exacerbate hay fever symptoms in some individuals, so caution is advised.
Ingesting Dwarf mallow (Malva neglecta) can also be beneficial in natural allergy defence. Its consumption may be effective in reducing the intensity and frequency of migraine attacks and treating nasal allergy symptoms.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), traditionally known for its anti-inflammatory properties, can assist in clearing the airways.
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) has compounds that may promote airway clearance, reducing allergy symptoms. However, individual reactions vary, and it’s advisable to start with smaller amounts to assess potential effects.
In addition to herbs, honey can alleviate allergy symptoms as it promotes the production of the body’s natural antihistamines. Wild flower honey is particularly suitable for this purpose.
If you are looking for vitamin and mineral supplements, vitamins A, C, E, and selenium may contribute to allergy symptom relief.
Nevertheless, it’s crucial to recognise that individual reactions can differ, and allergic symptoms should be taken seriously. If you suspect an allergic reaction, always consult a doctor before using any herbs, and do not discontinue conventional medical treatments without seeking professional advice.
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