Natural Healing

Section: Healing Strategies
holistick wellness solutions pollen busters Conquer hay fever naturally

WHEN THE runny nose, itchy eyes, and sore throat of hay fever season strike, the first urge is to run out and buy a drugstore antihistamine. Sure, it relieves the discomfort instantly, but it also dries you out and can make you drowsy. This year, with a little planning, you can give the heave-ho to hay fever symptoms naturally and skip the unpleasant side effects.

Most alternative practitioners agree that reducing stress and avoiding sugar, fatty foods, and mucus-producing dairy foods can help alleviate allergy symptoms. We talked to practitioners of three alternative modalities and came up with other specific healing techniques.

Ayurveda allergy relief
According to Ayurveda, the holistic healing system of India, you're more susceptible to allergens when your dosha, or constitution, is out of balance. An Ayurvedic practitioner uses a variety of therapies specific to your dosha type — kapha (water and earth), pitta (fire and water), or vata (space and air) — that may include dietary changes, herbs, and yoga to bring your system into balance.

To find an Ayurvedic expert near you, go to, the website for the National Ayurvedic Medical Association. (If you don't find a listing for a practitioner in your area, call an Ayurvedic school listed on the site and ask for a referral.) You can also try the following home remedies.

Neti pot for nasal cleansing
"All doshas can use a neti pot — a small, spouted teapot that you use to pour warm saline water into the nasal passages and rinse them dear of pollen," says Mas Vidal, an Ayurvedic practitioner in Los Angeles and the director of Dancing Shiva, an Ayurvedic healing center (see To use the pot, tilt your head forward over a sink, slowly pour the saline water into one nostril, and let it flow out the other nostril. After cleansing, dab sesame oil or an oilblend called nasya inside the nostrils to soothe tissues and provide a barrier against airborne allergens.

Look for a neti pot (sold at most health food stores); Super Nasya Oil or Banyan Botanicals Nasya Oil.

Daily dose Use both once or twice a day, especially during allergy season.

Websites for Super Nasya Oil and neti pot; for nasya oil; for general info on Ayurveda

Teas for better digestion
"The right tea can help with digestion, which means you absorb more nutrients and strengthen your system so you can fight pollen better," says Vidai. Brew a digestionenhancing tea from fresh ginger root: Peel and thinly slice a two-inch piece of ginger and add to four cups of boiling water. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer 15 to 25 minutes. Strain the tea and sweeten lightly with one teaspoon of honey. Peppermint or licorice tea reduces heat in the body, settling pitta dosha, the fiery energy that can exacerbate allergies.

Look for bulk tea ingredients or packaged teas by Organic India, Yogi tea, or other makers of organic teas.

Daily dose Two to four cups per day during allergy season

Website Trikatu to eliminate toxins
The Ayurvedic formula trikatu, made from ginger, black pepper, and pippali (another type of pepper), is a digestive aid that also eliminates toxins and dries up excess mucus.

Look for Banyan Botanicals Trikatu.

Daily dose Most Ayurveda practitioners suggest taking trikatu in powder form. Mix with warm water, following label directions.

Website Herbs and supplements
Hay fever symptoms start when the body's immune system identifies pollen (tree pollen in early spring and grass pollen in late spring and summer) as a threat, explains Gene Bruno, author of Ailments & Natural Remedies (Fifty-Ninth Street Bridge Publishing Corp., 2001) and dean of academics at Huntington College of Health Sciences, in Knoxville, Tenn. But herbs and supplements "can help your body do a better job at identifying allergens as harmless, instead of as foreign invaders," says Bruno.

Echinacea for pollen relief
Echinacea helps immune-system cells recognize the harmlessness of pollen, thereby diminishing the usual allergy process, says Bruno. In addition, a diet rich in the bioflavonoid quercetin (found in fresh apples, onions, berries, and tea) inhibits the release of histamines, chemicals in the body that initiate allergic reactions.

Look for liquid tincture Echinaforce by U.K. manufacturer A. Vogel; it's sold in the U.S. by Bioforce USA.

Daily dose 200 to 500 mg daily throughout the allergy season

Website Vitamins for energy
Vitamins C and 65 (pantothenic acid) support the adrenal glands' ability to produce corticosteroids (chemicals that can reduce the body's sensitivity to pollen) and, like echinacea, they help mitigate the release of histamines.

Look for Super C Complex Timed and Release Pantothenic Acid.

Daily dose 2,000 mg of vitamin C; 1,000 to 2,000 mg of vitamin 65. These can be part of your ongoing supplement program; at the very least, Bruno says, take them through allergy season.

Website Homeopathy for hay fever
Although he does not specialize in homeopathy, Bruno occasionally dips into its tool box for clients suffering from intense hay fever symptoms. His top pick is Allergy Relief, a liquid formula made from the essence of various grass pollens. "It cleared up my itchy eyes in about 10 seconds," he says.

Look for Allergy Relief, by A. Vogel, sold by Bioforce USA.

Daily dose Follow label instructions to use the tincture properly.

Website Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
According to the principles of TCM, the sniffing and sneezing of hay fever is caused by a deficiency in qi (or life force). A practitioner will identify the deficiency and address it with acupuncture or an herbal treatment.

Acupuncture to rebalance
To diagnose the source of allergies, Rebecca Rice, LAc, a licensed acupuncturist at the Center for Health and Healing in Delmar, N.Y., looks at "constitutional" symptoms such as breathing problems, bloating, gas, or soreness in the lower back and thinning hair. She then places fine needles into points on the body that correspond with the deficiency, as well as in the nasolabial groove extending from the nose to the mouth.

Daily dose Needles remain in place for 30 to 45 minutes; schedule treatments 1 to 2 times per week.

Website To find an acupuncturist, see the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (

Chinese herbs to soothe
In combination with acupuncture, "herbs accentuate treatment and help relieve symptoms," says Rice. She uses Gang Er Zi San, an herb found in several TCM formulas — including the commonly prescribed Pe Min Kan Wan — to eliminate congestion. Pe Min Kan Wan is sold at Chinese health stores and through online sources.

Look for Pe Min Kan Wan capsules by Plum Flower, says Rice, who adds that you should first seek treatment from a practitioner.

Dosage Follow label directions.

• LEARN MORE: For a guide to using homeopathy to treat your allergies, see

PHOTO (COLOR): AYURVEDA TOOL KIT: Remedies include (from top): Tri katu powder, a neti pot for nasal cleansing, soothing nasya oil, and ginger tea.

PHOTO (COLOR): IMMUNE BOOSTERS: Ease allergies and fortify your immune system with, from top, vitamin C (tablets); a homeopathic multi-ingredient formula; echinacea; and vitamin 85 (tablets).

PHOTO (COLOR): Q1 RESTORERS: Replenish your qi with acupuncture and herbal formulas like Pe Min Kan Wan.




By Kathleen Engel

Photography by Levi Brown

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