Got allergies? Look to herbs for relief

When allergens enter our bodies, we produce mucus, which surrounds the “invader” to protect us from it.

by Kathleen Gould —

We do not need to be told that allergies are at an all-time high. Sneezing, coughing, headaches, congestion, skin eruptions and emotional swings are just a few of the many symptoms that can manifest in our overburdened bodies.

Allergens are the substances that cause allergies. Some of the more common allergens are pet dander, dust, pollen, drugs, foods and the environment, but allergies can be triggered by almost anything. When allergens enter our bodies, we produce mucus, which surrounds the “invader” to protect us from it. This mucus causes congestion and pain, and we get symptoms like headaches, watery eyes and noses and puffy eyes — to name some of the more common ones.

It is virtually impossible to escape the constant and increasing exposure to the many thousands of chemicals in our environment — in our food, water and air, along with industrial toxins, car exhaust, gasoline, etc. Add to the equation our stress-filled lifestyles, overuse and abuse of antibiotics and other dangerous drugs as well as repeat immunizations, and it is easy to see why more and more people are complaining of allergies.

Drugs only serve to relieve symptoms but do not work to get to the cause of the allergies. In fact, drugs often create side effects that are worse than the problem itself.

Before we get into some of the amazing herbs that the plant “queendom” (as opposed to kingdom) offers, let us take a moment to look at the all-important diet. From a holistic standpoint, we want to strengthen and support the whole body so it can do what it was designed to do — keep us balanced and healthy. Diet is critical when combating allergies or any other illness.

We know that we should eat whole foods, but what does that really mean? Whole foods, simply put, are foods in their whole, natural form — whole fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, excluding wheat or gluten (read the book Wheat Belly for more on the negative side effects of wheat), beans, organic poultry and fish, and delicious, “sexy” fats like olive, coconut and fish oils.

Portion size is also an important factor in a strong healthy body. Use smaller dinner plates and fill one-fourth of the plate with a high-quality fish or piece of poultry (about 3 to 4 ounces). Fill the remaining three-quarters of the plate with a delicious dark green vegetable sprinkled with a little olive oil, and you are on your way to radiant health. Finish off your meal with a bowl of fresh, plump raspberries, and your cells will be singing a song of praise.

Wild weeds or herbs

When dealing with allergies, look to herbs that have one or more of these properties: anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, decongestant, liver or adrenal support.

  • Echinacea is a great herb to stimulate the immune system, and it is also a great anti-inflammatory.
  • Licorice is a decongestant and well-known adrenal tonic that can clear congestion, while helping the body adapt to the stress it is under as it deals with the allergies.
  • Wild yams act as both an anti-inflammatory and antihistamine.

Other herbs to look for

  • Antihistamine herbs include burdock root, sea vegetables such as kelp, gotu kola and algae such as spirulina or chlorella.
  • Anti-inflammatory herbs include St. John’s wort, turmeric, burdock, calendula and dandelion root.
  • Decongestant herbs include fennel seed, gingerroot and garlic.

Traditional allergy protocol

When allergies flare up:

  • Immediately take an echinacea tincture. The traditional dosage is one full dropper every waking hour for three to four days to stimulate the immune system.
  • Begin drinking a sinus/allergy tea blend — one cup, three to four times a day. Note: This tea is used to help dry up, and not dry out the sinuses.
  • Take vitamin C (up to bowel tolerance). Start with 1,000 or 2,000 mg., three times a day. If you do not get diarrhea, increase the dose until stools become loose, then cut back until diarrhea stops.

For pain, swelling and congestion, try the following:

  • Do a eucalyptus steam for 10 minutes, two to three times a day, especially before bed so you can sleep. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add one drop of eucalyptus essential oil. Drape a large towel over your head and the pot to form a steam tent. Close your eyes and breathe deeply through your nose. Your nose will begin to clear of mucus quickly, so keep tissues handy. Note: position your face about 12 inches above the steaming water, being careful not to burn yourself.
  • If sinuses are painful and swollen, you can put hot/cold compresses on the sinus area.
  • Get lots of rest.

In between flare-ups

When your body is creating all that mucus, your liver can get congested. Also, if you have been taking drugs for the allergies, be aware that they can damage and impact the liver, too. Drink two to four cups per day of a daily detox tea to help clear congestion from the liver. Some herbs to look for in a liver detox blend are dandelion root, burdock root, yellowdock root, pau d’arco, licorice and milk thistle seed.

Natural alternatives that help combat allergies (which include herbs) are definitely part of the solution to the problem. Give them a try — you may be surprised at your results.


Kathleen Gould is a registered herbalist and a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild. Proprietor of SW Herb Co. in Gilbert, Ariz., she conducts private consultations and herbal healing classes., 480-694-9931 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 31, Number 2, April/May 2012.

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