Allergies can affect different people in different ways but the good news is there are gentle herbs to help ease and control symptoms.
According to Blackwell's Dictionary of Nursing, an allergy is 'a hypersensitive reaction to a particular allergen or foreign substance (which is harmless to the great majority of individuals) following initial sensitising contact..'
Why do allergies happen...?
Some allergic reactions, like a peanut allergy, can be life threatening. Here the allergen must be avoided completely. However, other types of allergic reactions - like hayfever, contact dermatitis and urticaria (prickly heat) - can be uncomfortable and annoying, impacting on the quality of life.
A complex containing sponge cucumber (Luffa operculata) may benefit people who are prone to hayfever or allergic rhinitis at any time of year. The combination of herbs works beautifully to desensitise the body to pollen, dust or pet hair. It is anti-inflammatory and can help to ease the swelling that occurs during an attack. This gentle but effective formula is safe enough to give to children aged two and above.
If the eyes have become itchy and irritated due to pollen and air-borne pollutants then the aptly named Eyebright may be the herb to reach for. Taken internally it can help to reduce the inflammation of the mucous membranes of the eyes as well as drying up the continual flow of tears.
There are other nutrients that may be useful, such as Vitamin C (make sure it's a natural form not a chemical version - it will be easier for your body to recognise and absorb). Quercetin, a bioflavonoid and natural anti-inflammatory can be very effective too.
For allergies or intolerances to certain foods there are some fantastic remedies to look out for.
A complex containing Yarrow will have a soothing effect on symptoms of food intolerance. It contains centaury, gentian and blessed thistle that have a bitter action to encourage the production of digestive juices, which can be helpful for indigestion.
The dandelion is a wonderful liver tonic that helps to enhance bile production; yarrow, lemon balm and angelica work to ease inflammation and spasming of the digestive system.
To ease digestion there is an easy-to-take prebiotic, Molkosan Vitality - a combination of lacto-fermented whey, green tea extract and soluble fibre. It encourages the growth of friendly bacteria, encouraging better digestion and increasing vitality.
Keep a food diary to see which foods cause the problem. They can then be excluded for a while and you can concentrate on strengthening and improving digestion. After a period of 'rest' the body may be able to better tolerate foods as you slowly reintroduce them into your diet.
For skin problems such as contact dermatitis, urticaria and odd rashes that seem to appear from nowhere, a number of remedies that may bring relief. Urtica, the humble stinging nettle, has a most wonderful cleansing and antiallergenic action that helps to ease redness and itching. It is also rich in nutrients including silica and is good for the general health of the skin.
The pretty little flower that gardener's may know as wild pansy (Viola tricolor) can be useful for eczema and non-specific skin rashes. The saponins in the herb have a soap-like quality that can help to reduce irritation of the skin.
Topically, creams that contain herbs such as Neem leaf extract or Calendula may be helpful to calm the itch and irritation.
By using a two-pronged attack (taking a remedy internally as well as using something externally), you have a really good chance of getting the problem under control.
So, although you may start sneezing at the sight of dogs or cats, break out in a rash when the temperature rises above 18°C or have uncomfortable wind when you eat certain foods, nature is kind enough to provide us with some fantastic remedies to put in the medicine cabinet!