With hay fever season upon us, clinical aromatherapist Mandy Pitcher suggests some natural ways to treat those annoying symptoms.
Some of you may have been suffering from seasonal allergies since the first tree buds opened in February. Now, as the grass starts to grow and the flowers bloom, comes the sneezing, itchy eyes, sore throat, congestion, headaches and sinus pressure….it’s no fun and can be quite debilitating. For some it lasts a short while, for others it can go on for several months.
Hay fever is actually very common. It’s caused by an immune system reaction, which is triggered when someone comes into contact with airborne particles such as dust mites or pollen. The immune system thinks the particles are a danger and harmful to the body; antibodies are then produced, which signal the release of histamine – a natural chemical produced by the body – which attempts to banish the harmful substances. It’s histamine that causes all the symptoms of hay fever.
Food for thought
It’s not just pollen and grasses that trigger hay fever; an imbalance in the immune system, which may have been triggered by medication, can cause symptoms. Drugs can cause inflammation in the gut, interfering with beneficial gut bacteria.
It’s important to look at your diet and ensure you:
- Increase your intake of anti-inflammatory foods: ginger, garlic and turmeric are high up the list, and nuts, chickpeas and foods like oily fish (high in Omega 3) are recommended.
- Avoid foods that can cause damage to the gastrointestinal system like processed food and sugar.
- Check your Vitamin D levels – a lack of it is associated with poor immune function and allergies. Eat fermented foods.
- Try bee pollen. It’s anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and rich in antioxidants and vitamins. You can buy it in health food stores as granules, which you can add to your food.
- Take a daily probiotic. This can help improve your gut bacteria and reduce an overactive immune system, which is linked to allergies.
You could also see a homeopath as their remedies can be highly effective in treating hay fever.
Inhale away your symptoms
And then there is aromatherapy (my world…). Essential oils can play a big part in reducing hay fever symptoms, as well as seasonal asthma.
Inhalation of essential oils is one of the fastest and most effective ways of getting the oils into your system. While electrical diffusers are a wonderful way to inhale them, my favoured product is an aroma inhaler (at this time of year I formulate a lot of them). Imagine a Vicks stick, if you remember those! If you want a natural holistic approach, an aroma inhaler is highly effective. You simply place it at the base of your nostril and inhale. They are concentrated with a bespoke blend of essential oils.
So, why is inhalation the quickest and most effective way of getting the oils into your system? The oil molecules reach thousands of receptors in the olfactory membrane in your nose and follow the chemosensory pathway to reach the limbic system of the brain, often referred to as the ‘emotional brain’. The limbic system connects with the other parts of the brain that control breathing, memory, stress levels, heart rate and hormonal balance. Molecules are also carried to the lungs and respiratory system, often having an immediate effect. Quite incredible and so powerful.
There are many essential oils that can help reduce congestion and inflammation, and some that are cooling to help with breathing as well. My favourite oils for relieving the symptoms of hay fever include lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus, lemon, peppermint and chamomile.
As always please contact a professional Aromatherapist to seek further help and guidance when using essential oils. It cannot be claimed that essential oils are a cure. Please seek advice with pregnancy and the elderly. Never ingest essential oils.
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