Following on from my earlier blog, a friend who is suffering from hay fever suggested I cover natural, hedgerow remedies for this condition. What a great idea I thought! Lets take a quick look at what is growing in the hedgerows, which in the first place, may be causing the hay fever, but more importantly what can be used to treat the allergic reaction from seasonal pollen and grasses, therefore feeling good and being able to celebrate the sun and spring with the rest of us.
What is Hay Fever?
Hay fever comes under the umbrella term of “allergic rhinitis” which is a term used for allergic reactions to irritants such as pollens, grasses and dust. Typical symptoms include sneezing, copious nasal mucus, sinus congestion, watery, irritated eyes and in some cases even wheezing.
Hay fever can be further exacerbated by diet and therefore it is important to reduce mucus forming foods – dairy, sugar, white flour, fatty foods and eggs.
Natural Remedies found in the Hedgerow
From the hedgerow there are several plants that you can pick from your own garden or from the fields, some of which we class as “weeds”:
Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) – make an infusion from the flowering tops and drink 2-3 cups daily. It is better to start a couple of months before the season, but if you haven’t you can still make an impact on the symptoms by starting now and then continue drinking throughout the hay fever season. For immediate results you can also just chew the flowers. By doing so this will dry up the mucus and soothe irritated eyes. The actions of elderflower tone the mucous membranes of the nose and throat increasing resistance to infection, thus reducing the severity of the attacks. This is why it is better started before the season starts in full.
Plantago lanceolata (Plantain) – this is the plant that grows commonly in our lawns and we try hard to weed it out! I was in our student group of budding herbal medicine practitioners when we were visiting Kew Gardens this time last year. One of my colleagues was suffering greatly that day from hay fever. Our guide and expert herbalist advised she eat the plantain leaves. Within 10 minutes all the mucus had dried up, she was no longing sneezing and her eyes had stopped watering. The main constituents of this plant that have an affinity for hay fever are the anti-histamine and anti allergy actions. If you don’t want to chew the leaves you can make a tea together with nettle leaves and drink it several times a day.
Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) – as the name suggests this beautiful little plant is useful for treating eye problems, including inflamed cornea and conjunctivitis. For hay fever it has the ability to cool tired and watering eyes, whilst tightening up mucous membranes and drying up mucus both helpful when suffering from hay fever. The plant contains iridoid glycosides that have anti-inflammatory properties, and phenols that inhibit bacterial growth. Use the aerial parts as a compress on the eyes, or make an infusion and drink between 2-3 cups daily.
I hope you enjoy experimenting with these herbs and going natural. Not only is it kind on your body, but also your purse! Please note for severe outbreaks of hay fever consult a professional practitioner.
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