Spring is here! The landscape will soon transform into a scene of blooming flowers, buzzing bees, and unfortunately for millions of people, seasonal allergies. In this post, we’ll examine the root causes of seasonal allergies through Traditional Chinese medicine. We’ll also investigate how to prevent and treat seasonal allergies with herbs, diet, and home remedies.
Seasonal allergies can be extremely bothersome and can include:
- Runny nose
- Post-nasal drip
- Itchy, puffy, red, or watery eyes
- Slight wheezing
- Throat Irritation
What Causes Seasonal Allergies? A Western Perspective…
In conventional western medicine, the release of pollen and spores into the air by weeds, trees, grasses, and fungi is by far the most common catalyst of allergies during springtime. The immune system can sometimes mistakenly recognize pollen and spores as a pathogen. It then activates IgE antibodies to attack these intruders. This triggers the release of histamine- an inflammatory chemical. Histamine opens the blood vessels causing swollen membranes and resulting in sneezing and congestion.
Fun Facts and Theory about IgE Antibodies
The part of our immune system that fights allergies also fights parasites. Scientists believe the reason that we have more allergies in modern times is that we have fewer parasites! So that part of the immune system becomes overactive and then reacts to otherwise harmless things like pollen. Well I’m sure glad we don’t have parasites anymore at least!
What Causes Seasonal Allergies according to TCM?
Traditional Chinese medicine offers different theories for why we suffer from seasonal allergies. Allergies are referred to as “bi yuan”, which translates to “nose pool”. TCM holds that seasonal allergies are related to the element wind that invades the body due to a weakness in qi. Seasonal allergies can be due to weak lung qi. The lung meridian opens in the nose and sinuses, which explains the leaky faucet syndrome. In TCM the lung qi regulates the wei qi (defensive qi)- the internal force that protects us from wind invasions and pathogens. Wei qi can be thought of as our immune system. Bi yuan comes from a deficiency in the wei qi. TCM practitioners will usually treat seasonal allergies though strengthening the lung qi which in turns helps properly regulate the wei qi.
For centuries Chinese herbs have been used in treating seasonal allergies. There are specific herbs that are known to dry phlegm, relieve coughs, and ease red itchy eyes.
TCM practitioners often create their own custom herbal prescriptions. For seasonal allergies there exist a few herbal formulas that work well and come in pill form.
Common Chinese Herbs for Seasonal Allergies
- Japanese catnip or Jing Jie helps dispel wind and ease allergic symptoms.
- Saposhnikovia or Fang Feng is frequently used to prevent wind invasion and alleviates headaches and nasal congestion that accompany allergies.
- Magnolia flower or Xin Yi Hua is great at relieving sinus headaches, runny nose, and nasal congestion.
- Astragalus or Huang Qi is beneficial for lung qi. It has been researched for its immune-modulating and anti-inflammatory effects.
Chinese herbal formulas that are used to treat seasonal allergies
Jade Defender or Yu Ping Feng Pian is an herbal formula that is taken preventatively and stops allergies from developing. Its main goal is to reinforce and support the body’s immune system. This formula strengthens the body’s lungs and spleen while pushing pathogens that harm the body out. Unfortunately, it’s common to wait too long by taking this formula when symptoms have already arisen. If you are already experiencing allergy symptoms then your lung qi has already been impaired and we should look into another formula for you.
Nasal AllergiClear or Te Xiao Bi Min Gan Wan is a perfect formula for sneezing and a runny nose due to allergies. Consisting of 11 herbs this formula helps dry out congestion and is non-drowsy.
Bi Yan Pian is one of the more popular herbal allergy medicines. It is extremely effective for nasal or sinus congestion.
Herbs that help with seasonal allergies used by both Western and Eastern herbalists
- Butterbur: Which has been shown in some studies to be as effective as prescription antihistamines without the side effect of drowsiness. If you are allergic to ragweed it would be best to avoid butterbur as they are in the same family.
- Quercetin: A plant flavonoid which acts as an antihistamine. It is found in onions, green tea, berries, apples, and Ginkgo biloba.
- Chinese skullcap: Has been used to effectively treat the symptoms of hay fever, including both congestion and water eyes.
Best Diet for Seasonal Allergies
- Avoid dairy: Dairy increases mucus production and dampness in the body.
- Eat more stews and soups: Foods that are both easily digestible and nourishing.
- Incorporate nutrient rich veggies like yams, cabbage, beets, or swiss chard, which are high in Quercetin- a natural compound that fights inflammation and hay fever.
- Green tea: The catechin found in green tea have also been shown to have an antihistamine effect. Indulging in a cup of green tea, along with all of its other amazing medicinal properties may alleviate the symptoms of springtime allergies seasonal allergies.
- Local Raw Honey: A spoonful of local raw honey (the closest to where you live the better) helps relieve watery eyes, congestion, and most other allergy symptoms.
- Probiotic-Rich Foods: As always, the stronger your digestion the less likely you are to experience allergic reactions and seasonal allergies. Eat more sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and other foods that have high content of probiotics.
- Reishi Mushroom is a strong medicinal mushroom that has immune-modulating capabilities and supports homeostasis in the immune system. Reish’s terpenoid constituents support an anti-inflammatory response. Scientific studies show that Reishi’s triterpenes inhibit the release of histamine. This reduces allergic reactions and inflammation.
Best Tea for Seasonal Allergies
A Homemade tea that you can make at home that helps sooth seasonal allergies:
Reishi Lemonade for Seasonal Allergies
1 oz dried Reishi slices
6 cups water
1-2 cinnamon sticks
2-4 Tbsp lemon juice
Optional: stevia or raw local honey to taste
Pour the water into a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Place your dried Reishi slices and cinnamon sticks in the boiling water and simmer this mixture on low heat for at least 30 minutes. Strain the liquid and mix in your lemon juice and sweetener while it is still warm. You can sip this as a warm tea or cool summer drink. Feel free to serve this tasty beverage with a lemon, lime, or orange wedge to garnish.