Allergies: Nothing To Sneeze At

Posted: May 20th, 2011

Allergies: Nothing To Sneeze At

Are you one of the hundreds of people who dreads that fine spring day when pollen starts to fly? In addition to what you breathe, you may be allergic to what you eat or touch. There are two main types of allergic reactions — innate and acquired.

Innate allergies consist of substances to which a person is inherently allergic. Some people can’t take penicillin, are allergic to bee stings, or do not have the enzymes to digest dairy products. These allergies are part of the body’s make up and, although there may be ways to modify an allergic reaction, the allergy generally cannot be eliminated.

Often, however, allergies are developed over time. These are called acquired allergies, and they occur due to hypersensitivity to irritants. Acquired allergies surface for several reasons. Impaired liver function and/or weak digestive function can contribute to acquired allergies.

If the digestive system is weak, substances that are not fully digested can enter the bloodstream. The body sees these substances as foreign intruders and sends out an “alert” which causes reactions such as headache, dark circles under the eyes, chronic infections, stomachache, diarrhea, rapid pulse, fatigue, irritability, body aches, irritated eyes, congestion, sore throat, swollen mucus membranes and skin rashes or hives.

The liver is responsible for breaking down waste products in the body. If it is overtaxed, the liver may not do its job effectively and, waste products do not get adequately filtered out of the blood. Again, the “alert” goes out. If this happens repeatedly, the body may develop a hypersensitivity to certain waste products. The good news is that acquired allergies can be minimized and often even eliminated. There are many useful herbs to treat allergic symptoms or even eliminate the causes of acquired allergies.

Herbs for allergic symptoms work in several ways.

Decongestants help dry up excessive mucus membrane secretions. They include Yerba Santa, Mormon Tea, Horehound and Nettles. Anti-inflammatories help reduce inflammation, freeing up the transport of nutrients and wastes to and from the cells, essential for maintaining healthy cell function. They include Echinacea, Yerba Santa, Ambrosia, Bayberry and Yerba Mansa. Demulcents help coat mucus membranes, which protect the body form foreign substances. They include Marshmallow, Mullein and Slippery Elm. Expectorants help loosen and bring up congested mucus. They include Mullein, Balsam Root and Grindelia.

Herbs for the digestive system help tone and strengthen both digestive function and the tissues of the digestive tract. They include Yellow Dock, Black Walnut, Fire Weed, Gentian, Oregon Grape Root and Digestive Bitters (one of our extract combinations).

Herbs for the liver help the liver break down waste products quickly and efficiently while improving the digestive process. They will often help with headaches and skin irritations caused by allergic reactions. They include Oregon Grape Root, Barberry, Burdock and Dandelion Root.

Common allergens include animal dander, pollen, dust, dairy products, wheat, corn, soy, shellfish, sugar, alcohol, rancid fats, genetically altered plants, coffee, chocolate and black tea (also other methyl-xanthine containing foods). To help determine hypersensitivities, eliminate the potential allergen from the diet. After three weeks, reintroduce the substance by itself and see how the body reacts. For example, eliminate all dairy from the diet for three weeks and then drink a glass of milk. Pay close attention over the next 24 to 72 hours to see how the body reacts. If two or more of the symptoms mentioned above are noticed, they may be a sign of an allergy.

By working to lessen hypersensitivities, one can reduce or eliminate reactions to acquired allergies. The body can usually get things back under control in an average of four months. After this time, the allergen can often be reintroduced in moderate amounts.

© 2013 Elaine Sheff, Clinical Herbalist
Green Path Herb School

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