The time of year when noses are red, eyes are watery, and pockets are stuffed with handkerchiefs. Each season brings with it a different set of potential environmental allergens. In this post, you'll learn about the different seasonal allergens and how to support your body throughout the year.
Most of us associate Spring with "allergy season."
Flowers are starting to blossom. Trees are pollinating. 'Spring Cleaning' is underway. Your sinuses, and skin, are miserable. The most common Spring allergens come from tree pollen including birch, cedar, maple, oak, willow, and cottonwood. A common myth regarding spring allergies is that because symptoms often start in correlation with blooming flowers, the flower pollens contribute to the problem. Our allergies are due to plants that spread pollen by wind. These pollens can be very fine and powdery, and can be carried by the wind for miles, which is how the pollen enters our eyes, noses, mouths or skin.
Flowering plants are showy for the purpose of catching the attention of pollinators like bees and other insects, who then spread the pollen for the flower. For this reason, most of our pollen exposure is from wind-pollinated plants, such as trees.
Summer is mainly filled with grass pollens, with the beginning of June being the peak. Like trees, grasses rely on the wind to carry their seed across the sky, we just happen to get caught in the cross hairs.
As tempting as it is to lay in the grass on a warm Summer day, be aware of what you're getting into. Some common grasses in the PNW are Brome, Johnson grass, and Kentucky bluegrass. Because of the variety of grasses, it’s often useful to know which species of grass you are allergic to, as this will help you avoid the allergens.
Also known as "Ragweed Season."
Pollen from certain plants, like ragweed, sagebrush, and plantain are the culprits behind a lot of allergic reactions during Autumn. In fact, the term "hay fever" was first coined by farmers who experienced allergy symptoms when harvesting hay in the Autumn. As we have discovered more about pollen, we have realized it was actually ragweed that was causing the farmers sinuses to suffer during this time.
Another allergen that emerges during this time is mold and fungus spores. Whether you are outside or in, it is hard to escape these spores - especially if you live in the Pacific Northwest.
*Golden Rod is often blamed for the allergens from Ragweed. They both bloom around the sam time and tend to grow near each other. Golden Rod has bright yellow blossoms and Ragweed has much smaller blossoms that are often overlooked (remember what we said about showy plants having the help of insect pollinators?). And, Golden Rod is very helpful plant when it comes to seasonal allergies.
Depending on how cold and wet the Winter is, mold and fungus allergens could still be hanging out. For the most part, those of us with seasonal allergies get a bit of a reprieve during this time of year.
Now that we went over the different seasons and what allergens can be expected, what are some ways to build your body's defenses?
Herbal remedies can be great allies when it comes to allergies, but not a fix-all. As with anything that is not as straight forward as a cut or scrape, it's important to take a holistic approach and target the root causes.
Allergies are a reaction from your immune system in response to an external substance. Some things to take into consideration are diet, sleep, hydration, movement, exposure to allergen.
If possible, eat a low mucous diet (cut down on dairy, sugar, starches, and alcohol), make sure you are getting your daily suggested dose of vitamin c, and eat lots of garlic.
If you know the time of year your allergies tend to flare, you can decrease your time outside when the pollen counts are highest. If you don't know what/when you tend to have allergy flare ups, you can get tested to find out what pollens you are allergic to.
As for the herbal part of holistic wellness-
Here is an herbal tea blend that is mineral rich, and targets inflammation. We suggest starting to drink, 2-3x/day, at least a month before you know you'll experience seasonal allergies. This gives the herbs plenty of time to build up and properly defend your system.
•Elder Flower 2 parts
•Golden Rod 1 part
•Stinging Nettle 2 part
•Red Clover 1 part
•Dandelion Root 1 part
A couple other herbal suggestions are our seasonal remedies in the apothecary. For Spring, we have a Lymphatic Massage Oil to help your lymph run smoothly (read more about the lymphatic system, here.). And we have a Sumac-Lemon Balm Drinking Vinegar that is supportive of a healthy digestive tract, rich in minerals and vitamins (including C), and has anti-inflammatory properties.