Ahhh, Spring… I think it may have finally arrived. The weather is getting warmer and the flowers are beginning to bloom. if you’re like me, you want to have a month of low utility bills, where you need turn on neither heat or A/C; you want to ride in the car with your windows down; you want to take walks and bike rides around the trails, ponds, parks, and woods BUT it’s allergy season! The sneezing, runny nose, itchy throat and swollen teary eyes are absolute misery. Usually, I would run to the nearest drug store and buy myself a bottle of Claritin (the liquid children’s’ version always seems to work best for me). But I’ve been looking to my herbal friends to help me this go around and I’m happy to report that I’ve had great success.
Here’s What I Use
Both my son and I have been taking an herbal formulation made by one of my former professors – Ms. Claudia Joy Wingo – and sold at Smile Herb Shop in College Park, MD. The ingredients, presumably in greatest to least ratio, are the dried herbs of the following: Nettles, Elderflowers, Elderberries, Ground Ivy, Eyebright, and Golden Rod. I’ll break down the virtues of the ingredients in Claudia’s formulation… here goes.
Nettle (Urtica dioica) – the plant leaves have a long history of use by cultures around the world for treatment of allergic rhinitis symptoms (coughing, sneezing, and runny nose), asthma, whooping cough (pertussis), and even tuberculosis.
Elder (Sambucus nigra)
I’ve already told you in a previous post about the wonderful results I’ve had with elder in the past. The inclusion of both the berries and the flowers in Claudia’s formulation confirms the impressions I’ve had from my experience with this wonderful plant. It has been used traditionally for the treatment of colds and flu, as well as the accompanying cough and fever. The flowers are good for drying up mucous and silencing a cough, whereas, the berries are mildly laxative, and good for joint aches and pains. Both are good for breaking a fever.
Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea)
This herb has been used traditionally as an ear, nose, and throat herb. It is especially effective at tightening and toning mucus membranes in these areas of the body. It has been used to treat otitis media in children (where an earache is caused by the middle ear filling with fluid), sinus infections, and to dry up excess mucus.
Eyebright (Euphrasia spp.)
The leaves and flowers of this herb, as the name suggests, have been used topically as an eyewash for conjunctivitis and eyelid infections that cause weeping and mucousy eyes. It can also be taken safely as an internal medicine and is effective in its astringent and anti-inflammatory properties within the respiratory system. As a result, it is effective at relieving itchiness and watery eyes as well as tightening mucous membranes in the eyes, nasal passages, and sinuses to alleviate mucus and fluid buildup. Because of the herb’s astringency, it should be used sparingly, if at all, when a dry, unproductive cough is present as it may exacerbate a condition where the mucus needs to be loosened and expelled.
Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
Though better known for its use in digestive and urinary tract disorders, this is another herb that has some reputation of usefulness in cases of allergic rhinitis. It also has antimicrobial and diuretic properties that greatly assist with flushing the body of toxins.
My Experience Taking this Tea
The tea has a pleasant, mildly sweet taste (although I prefer a bit of honey) and it doesn’t make you drowsy. I am now noticing that the instructions say to make a decoction, which I haven’t been doing. I’ve been making a regular tea (infusion) and have been drinking on average about 3 cups a day. See my video on making a decoction if you’re not sure of the difference between an infusion and a decoction.
You’ll definitely need to drink some first thing in the morning, before you go outside and expose yourself to all the pollen in the air. I’ve been leaving my windows open all day and sleeping with them open at night as well so I’ve been drinking a cup in the afternoon and a cup in the evening as well. This has been enough to keep my allergies completely at bay.
You will need to keep taking this – don’t make the mistake of thinking that once you’ve taken it for a day or two that will be enough to see you through the season (or even through the next day, for that matter). I walked to the store yesterday evening when I hadn’t had any tea since the morning. I started sneezing and felt my eyes begin to swell within 30 minutes. When I got home, I immediately made some tea and very soon after drinking it (I’d say about 15 minutes) the itchiness in my throat disappeared and within the hour I felt less tightening in my face. Although I slept with the windows open, by morning the swelling in my eyes was gone.
Make It Yourself
If you’d like to re-create Claudia’s formula on your own, purchase from a local herb shop that sells quality loose, dried herbs. I don’t know the exact formulation, but none of the herbs are dangerous in high doses, and they’re all suitable for children. Just by eyeballing it, my best guess of its composition would be:
- 2 parts nettles
- 1/4 part elderberries
- 2 part elderflowers
- 1 part ground ivy
- 1 part eyebright
- 1 part solidago
You can also try using only a few of the herbs together or you can even select just one.