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4/12/2010
Achoo!ology
Achoo!ology

Liberate Yourself from Seasonal Allergies

In spring vibrantly colored flowers inspire our days after the passing of cold winter nights. Summer fills our senses with scents of rose, jasmine and honeysuckle. Then in fall, star thistles bloom and crisp air prevails.The period from spring through fall displays a remarkable seasonal procession, but it is also the time when uncomfortable allergy symptoms are likely to appear.

When the weather begins to warm, a series of maturing plants can trigger what is commonly called hay fever; however, such symptoms appear well beyond the summer months when hay is gathered. For example, birch, elm and oak cast out pollens in the spring; grasses such as bermuda, orchard and sweet vernal follow in the summer; and ragweed, tumbleweed and sage make their presences known in the fall.

To Sneeze or Not to Sneeze

Karyn Schwartz, Seattle-based homeopathic consultant, generally moves through the seasons without a sniffle. Then surprisingly one day she’ll find herself beset with the all-too-familiar reactions: sneezing, watery eyes and a runny nose. “I realize how quickly and forcefully the symptoms can suddenly appear,” she says. Whether or not we react to pollen at all can be unpredictable. Sometimes symptoms appear like clockwork during one particular season, while at other times we might be affected only sporadically—or even not at all. Our internal environment provides clues as to why this is so.

When pollens enter the body, typically our systems will quietly respond by sending white blood cells to gobble up the unfamiliar particles, diffusing them without any notable reactions. But a sensitive immune system might have a heightened response and produce substances known as histamines, which initiate seasonal allergy symptoms.

From Symptoms to Solutions

“There are so many things you can do to lessen the severity and frequency of reactions,” Schwartz says. “You really do have a huge say in managing those symptoms.” Dr. Lynn Madsen M.D., a Portland-based homeopathic practitioner, believes conventional medicines have a place. “Judicious use, especially for the short term, can bring relief of symptoms,” she explains.

For example, antihistamines keep histamines from attaching to our cells and therefore help avert potential symptoms, though drowsiness may result. Also popular are decongestants, which help calm nasal irritation, allowing air to pass through more freely. But these can also contribute to nervousness and sleeplessness. Steroidal sprays, another common drug, can control acute symptoms by helping to decrease swelling, although they may cause dryness of the mouth and nose.

For Madsen, there are definite limitations to conventional medicines. “The issue is more about how they suppress symptoms, rather than produce inner healing,” she says. Fortunately, alternatives exist. A variety of therapeutic and holistic natural options help bring our bodies back into balance while providing relief.

Natural Ease

Unlike conventional drugs, natural remedies such as homeopathy and a healthy diet not only provide symptomatic relief but can also work to strengthen the body’s own resistance, allowing us to enjoy lasting health from the inside out.

One way to bolster the immune system and minimize inflammation is to enjoy an abundance of nourishing whole foods including fresh fruits and green vegetables. Many fruits and vegetables contain organic antihistamines such as bioflavonoids, or pigments, which are responsible for the plant’s lively colors and have been shown to reduce the release of histamines.

Beyond a balanced diet, history and science support the use of homeopathy for both long-term health as well as freedom from acute symptoms such as sneezing, wheezing and stuffy head. Based on the premise that in small dilution “like cures like”–a belief that can be traced back as far as Hippocrates (468-377 BC) – homeopathy, founded by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), was designed to support the body’s innate healing process.

Homeopathic ingredients and restorative plants known to help ease flare-ups include European elder, barberry, yellow phosphorus and wood sage. All of these are found in Weleda’s Sinus Allergy Formula.

When Madsen treats patients, “I start with [Weleda] Sinus Allergy Formula. Many people report it is as effective or more effective than an antihistamine for relieving congestion.”

European elder, also known as Sambucus, traditionally has been used to help alleviate congestion by “removing some of the heat in the body,” Schwartz explains. In homeopathic medicine, wood sage is used to soothe respiratory inflammation, and barberry reduces pressure in the head by decreasing swelling in the mucus membranes. Yellow phosphorus, another key ingredient in Weleda Sinus Allergy Formula, is used in homeopathy to open blocked nasal passages and decrease irritation of the respiratory tract.

So when flowers are blooming, grasses are swaying and majestic oaks shower us with pollens, don’t be afraid to breathe deep. Embrace these seasonal changes by incorporating Mother Nature’s healing remedies, including homeopathy, to support your radiant health spring, summer and fall. jd