Do you get those annoying springtime symptoms of runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing and wheezing that we lump into the big bag known as “hay fever”? And as spring turns into summer, those symptoms simply get worse? Well, don’t feel too bad. The World Health Organization estimates that over 2.1 billion people on the planet suffer from the collective group of symptoms known officially as allergic rhinitis. And though we’re just beginning to see the organized signs of spring with warmer temperatures and snow finally melting, now is the perfect time to tune up your body in order to avoid the natural reactions that come with the blooming of the buds in just a few weeks. There are many triggers that can cause the immune system reactions we call hay fever. Typical irritants include pet dander, dust, chemicals, and this time of year we see an increase due to the influence of botanical emanations.

Just Say No Of course, a common approach to treat the symptoms of hay fever is to hit up your doctor for some drugs. That’s usually done after the symptoms have already taken hold. The horse has left the barn at that point. It’s better to get a head start on hay fever and prepare the body for the onslaught of allergens set to come our way in just a few weeks. Here are some natural remedies people report are successful.

Honey. Local honey is the “go to” for people who want a natural defense against hay fever. Give yourself a little run-up time before the pollen starts flying, so now is a good time to start. Here’s the theory behind the honey defense: Bees carry pollen from local flora back to the hive. So it’s important to note that honey must be locally gathered to immunize against the pollen of local plants. As the bees work with the nectars they bring back to the hive, some of the processed and denatured pollen ends up in the honey. Eating honey or using hive products such as bee pollen can reportedly strengthen the immune system against the pollen that causes the allergic reaction. Important: Choose raw, unfiltered and local. Find information at your neighborhood, locally owned health food store. But know your provider. A popular brand carried in Omaha stores advertises in BIG letters on its label that it is local. But beware: “local” is not a regulated term. The owner told me their bees gather from as far away as North Dakota. Check for local providers.

Keep it clean. Most allergens attack the body through the air. Keeping a dust-free house cuts down on potential pollutants. Also, dump the bad chemicals like toxic cleaners, phony “air purifiers” (which have nasty chemicals in them,) air out things like dry cleaning and never treat furniture with stain repellent or fire retardants. Those may also be a source of respiratory discomfort. Anything that compromises or weakens balance of the body’s immune response sets up the potential for hay fever. Some good houseplants help remove toxins and purify the air indoors. Check for a list.

Garlic and onions These two super foods contain quercetin, a substance that stabilizes the cell walls of histamine-producing cells and lowers inflammation.

Vitamin C In The Green Pharmacy, Dr. James Duke, cites research suggesting Vitamin C lowers incidence of asthma, respiratory and allergy problems. Foods are citrus, peppers, cayenne, guava, kiwis and watercress. According to Todd Hurley at No Name Nutrition, pineapple has another anti-allergy substance, bromelaine.

Horseradish Horseradish is a spicy root that brings tears to your eyes and clears sinuses. Duke suggests one spoonful a day of grated horseradish for about a month before allergy season begins; maintenance doses after that.

Stinging nettle Dr. Duke strongly recommends stinging nettle, a frontline herb in the fight against allergy and respiratory symptoms. Dr. Andrew Weil suggests the freeze-dried leaves. Immune system supporting herbs like astragalus and echinacea are also high on the list of hay fever fighting herbs.

Fenugreek In their book, Folk Remedies that Work, Joan and Lydia Wilen recommend tea made from fenugreek seeds. Red clover tea is also an herbalist’s standby. Both are suggested to relieve allergy symptoms.

Acupuncture Seeking the assistance of a licensed and properly trained acupuncturist is a great idea. Newer research is finding that along with everything else that acupuncture and Chinese herbs help with, the body responds well to acupuncture treatments. A 2004 study in Germany found that 85% of those treated with acupuncture and herbal therapy showed significant improvement.

Common side effects of popular allergy drugs are often the same as the symptoms we are trying to avoid. How senseless is that? There are alternatives.

Be well.

Heartland Healing is a New Age polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Visit for more information.

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