It’s that time of year again, when the insects are tch tch tch-ing in the grass, the birds are hoopin and hollerin in the trees, the flowers are showing their delicate smiles to the sun, and we all know that spring is here. The life force is returning to the land. But it’s also the season for allergies as pollen fills the air with such abundance that some days the sky is hazed and yellow heaps appear in the streets and the nooks of rocks. Good news for all the plants making sweet love under the reborn sun, but bad news for our immune systems as the foreigners find their way into our bodies.
One thing that helps is breathing deeply through your nose (and its natural filters), filling your whole lungs from the bottom, pushing out your diaphragm and tummy, to the middle, pushing out your chest, to the top, raising your collar bone a couple inches. The tippy-top part of the lungs especially needs refreshing air as it is most neglected by shallow, incomplete breathing. This will help to bring oxygen to the blood, boosting circulation and immune defense, and raising vitality in general so you do not succumb to grog and illness. But for those who have certain allergies, a little extra help from our plant family might be needed.
The immune system fights those things that don’t groove with our bodies—we can be allergic to people, places, foods, feelings, and all kinds of stimuli besides traditional allergens. Helping our bodies be strong through proper diet can counteract discomfort, and certain herbs have gifts that specifically enhance our ability to overcome symptoms of allergic reaction. The list is extensive, but I’ve only included plants that grow abundantly over pretty much all of North America, ripe for the wildcrafting, and a couple such as ginko that you can find at your local store.
A Bit on Wildcrafting
When harvesting plants, always explain with your heart why you are taking their lives and give a gift to replace what you are taking; tobacco, crystals, or even water do well. Uphold balance by harvesting from all four quarters and thank the plants and the spirit deeply for their healing gifts. Never take from an area with only a few plants (at least five of that kind should be present), and taking younger plants helps assure the older, more bountifully seeding plants continue to produce in the coming years.
HERBS FOR ALLERGIES
To prepare these treatments, pour boiling water over about two tea spoons (or more, experiement a little) and let steep for five to ten minutes. For nettles, allow to steep for up to thirty.
Mallow Root – Known to relieve irritation of mucous membranes and helps the body expel excess mucous. Excellent for getting the gunk out.
Burdock – Helps clear congestion in the respiratory system. Also used to treat colds and sore throats.
Mullein – A popular remedy for cough, asthma, and other respiratory conditions. Soothes the throat and clears congestion. It’ll expel all the lung intruders that have been making you uncomfortable and clear the way for fresh air and more oxygen to the blood.
Eyebright – Helpful for conditions involving the mucous membranes. Used for congestion, coughs, and hay fever. Some say Eyebright works well in conjunction with Stinging Nettle. Cool, strong tea also makes a soothing eye wash for watery peepers.
Stinging Nettle – Significant relief from hay fever has been reported. A very effective part of any natural allergy treatment program. This might be the most effective tonic for allergies. It cleans the lymph system and seems in general to relieve all the glands where allergy discomfort concentrates.
Rosemary – Used to strengthen the nervous system. Sooths pain and reduces uncomfortable inflammation / tension.
White Pine – Treats chest congestion, colds, and coughs. An excellent expectorant which reduces mucus secretions and helps its elimination. Also a powerful antioxidant. Though white pine is especially strong, any pine has similar properties. Young, supple green needles are best, but you can also use the young nodules just now making an appearance for spring.
Licorice Root – One of the most popular herbal remedies. Encourages the production of certain hormones by the adrenal glands. Reduces inflammation and increases the level of interferon, which fights viruses. Helps your body get rid of junk in general.
Plantain – Has been used for a long time in treating respiratory complaints including cough and inflammation. Cleans mucus membranes of the nose and throat, and reduces muscle spasms.
Chamomile – According to German studies it may slow allergic reactions, such as those that trigger asthma attacks, by increasing the adrenal glands’ production of cortisone, which reduces lung inflammation and makes breathing easier. Chamomile also soothes the nerves and can help you sleep if allergies are keeping you up at night or generally pissing you off (same with rosemary). Use the steam to relieve sneezes.
Peppermint – Opens breathing passages and relieves congestion, very soothing and invigorating for those suffering from asthma or tight chests. Any of the square-stalked mints will have similarly helpful effects (including catnip and lemon balm, although these two have distinctly unique properties).
Parsley – Helps to inhibit the body’s release of histamines, used by healers to treat allergies and sinus congestion.
Eucalyptus – A soothing tea for the chest and respiratory passages. Chewing on a few fresh leaves will have you breathing smoothly in a flash.
Cinnimon – A natural antihistamine, helps to flush out your system and enhance your tolerance to allergens.
Ginko – A natural antihistamine, this Asian remedy is available at most stores. Also helps blood circulation and relief of inflammation.