Q. Dear Natalie, I suffer terribly with hay fever. Can you recommend any herbs that I can take to lessen or prevent hay fever symptoms? Thank You.

A. There are indeed certain herbal remedies which are very effective in treating allergies and hay fever. My number one remedy to prescribe is Nettle. Nettle is a tall weed that grows in regions all over the world and the plants have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy properties as well as being full of multiple nutrients. Nettle includes Vitamin C, trace minerals and several properties that nourish and protect the adrenal glands. I recommend making a nettle infusion by mixing 1 cup of dried (or fresh) nettles with boiling water, leave it to brew for a few hours and then strain the cup. You should drink up to four cups daily. Nettle tincture is also available from most good health food stores.

The herb Butterbur is also very effective at reducing hay fever symptoms. It decreases the amount of histamine and leukotrienes produced by the body thereby resulting in fewer allergy symptoms. The British Medical Journal (2002) published a report which examined the effect of butterbur on patients suffering from seasonal allergies. Patients were given one butterbur extract tablet four times daily or one tablet of cetirizine-an antihistamine -for two consecutive weeks. The study showed that butterbur worked equally well for reducing symptoms but without the sedative effects of cetirizine.

Eyebright is another wonderful remedy for those who suffer from sore and irritated eyes during hay fever season. Eyebright is famously known for its anti-inflammatory and natural astringent properties. It is the tannins found in eyebright which offer relief from mucus discharge caused by allergies.  Eyebright can be taken as a tea, oral supplement or as eye drops.

Goldenseal is also highly recommended for use as an antihistamine due to its ability to fight inflammation and bacteria. Goldenseal strengthens the immune, gastrointestinal, lymphatic and respiratory systems. I recommend that you take this in conjunction with the herb echinacea.

Q. Dear Natalie, are there any particular foods that I should be eating to reduce my hay fever during the springtime or any foods I should avoid? Thank You.

A. There are a number of foods which can help ease allergy symptoms without the side effects of drugs. I recommend beginning with a good dose of probiotics. Probiotics appear to steer the body's immune system into a nonallergic mode. The University of California carried out a research study which fed patients 7 oz. of live-culture yogurt a day and this showed that their allergic symptoms declined by 90 percent.

Try the probiotic Lactobacillus either as a yogurt or in capsule form. Try adding more spices to your home cooked food. Spicy dishes can help allergy sufferers to thin mucous secretions and clear nasal passages by encouraging the sinuses to run. Both the spices Turmeric and Ginger are commonly known for their powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Try to consume fish about two-three times a week. The omega-3 fatty acids found in many varieties of fish are natural anti-inflammatories EPA and DHA, which are building blocks for a series of anti-inflammatory hormones.

Try including more salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel and sardines. If you are vegetarian you can find these omega 3 fatty acids in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil and walnuts.

Have an apple a day! The flavonoid quercetin found in apples slows down allergy symptoms by inhibiting the body's release of histamines and has excellent anti-inflammatory properties. Make sure to eat your apple with the peel because most of the quercetin is in the peel. Other sources of quercetin include citrus fruits, onions, parsley, garlic and tea. Try to eat a low protein diet. Histamines are amino acids which are often released by the breaking down of foods rich in protein. Therefore try to limit animal proteins as well as trying to reduce your intake of soybean products, nuts and legumes which contain a high level of proteins.

Lastly, make sure to stay hydrated since this can limit histamine production. By making sure that you get enough liquid during the day your body will produce less histamine. Consume eight glasses of water per day. If you suffer from a blocked nose, warm fluids will help congestion by producing steam.

Q. Dear Natalie, I have heard conflicting opinions that caffeine can trigger hay fever symptoms or make them worse. Is this true? Should I be avoiding caffeine during the spring?

A. The real issue here lies in finding the right balance. Recent reports prove that increased coffee consumption can indeed help alleviate some symptoms of hay fever. However, too much coffee can also be detrimental since it can be dehydrating and therefore cause more nasal congestion. The right amount of coffee can act as a natural antihistamine reducing the amount of histamine released in soft tissue, resulting in a reduction of symptoms. Just make sure you stay hydrated with enough water.

This column is brought to you as general information only and unless stated otherwise is not medical advice nor is it based on medical experiments. This column is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. For more information about specific problems, please contact a doctor.

The most effective way to treat your hay fever symptoms is to make an appointment with your natural health practitioner so that a plan can be created specifically for you and your specific symptoms. There are some wonderful homeopathic remedies that can support you through the spring season. Book your free consultation today: nateopath@gmail.com.

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