Herbal Allergy Remedies: Echinacea, Eyebright, Golden Seal and More

Help relieve the misery of hayfever with herbs that reduce symptoms. Echinacea, stinging nettle, mullein, thyme and more.

| April/May 1993

The wind carries both warm and cool breezes as the spring sun begins to brighten. The ground is sodden in the fields, and wild strawberries and violets grow in resplendent bloom along the roadside. Down in the woods, the pussy willows are out and salamanders slip across paths to lay their eggs. And as we celebrate this gentle explosion of nature, this cause for joyful celebration, we suddenly remember—with itchy throats and runny noses—that pollen is back.

After a childhood of hay fever attacks so severe that my jaw often ached from sneezing, I have learned to use Earth's medicinal plants to heal my allergic symptoms instead of aggravate them. I have found that some herbs help stabilize the immune system, some act as astringents to reduce inflammation of mucous membranes, and some stabilize the cells that produce and release histamines (the chemical culprit that causes redness, swelling, and increased mucous production). Other herbs act on metabolism to make the body less susceptible to allergies, and some support the lymphatic system, helping to rid the body of toxins. Along with lifestyle and dietary changes, it is often possible to reduce allergic symptoms, if not eliminate them altogether. You will also be able to breathe easier and happier as you wave goodbye to all those expensive pharmaceutical antihistamines.

Herbs that Help Relieve Allergy Symptoms

Several of the herbs listed below can be found right outside your front door or can be easily cultivated in a garden or landscape. A few of them are becoming less abundant due to over- harvesting, however, so if you wish to use one of the more at-risk herbs, try to obtain seed and then find out the appropriate cultivation requirements. This will ensure that the Earth can continue to flourish and provide for our health needs on a continuing basis.

Echinacea ( Echinacea Purpurea or Angustifoliaor Pallida, use separately or in combination. ): Known commonly as purple coneflower, the root—and to a lesser degree, the leaves, flowers, and seed heads—of Echinacea species promote health by boosting and balancing the immune system. Echinacea stimulates the lymphatic system, promoting drainage and elimination of toxins, and helps to prevent and fight potential infections. This plant is a hardy perennial with beautiful daisy-like magenta blooms. It can be found in the wild in several midwestern states such as Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, and can be easily grown in home flower beds, where it will bloom summer through fall.

Dosage: Take in tincture form (five to 30 drops, four to six times daily) or buy freeze-dried tablets from a health food store. This plant is not particularly water soluble, and therefore unsuitable for tea.

Eyebright ( Euphrasia officinalis ): The aerial parts (any part of the plant above ground) of this tiny plant are both astringent and anti-inflammatory, and decrease the hypersensitive response of the mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, throat, and ears. In other words, this herb is the perfect remedy for hay fever sufferers. Eyebright is not readily propagated, however, since it grows symbiotically from the roots of grasses. While it grows wild in some eastern and northeastern states, including Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York, you can purchase preparations of eye-bright in most herb or health food stores.

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