Allergic rhinitis is a common inflammatory disorder of the nasal mucosa. Rhinitis may be seasonal (such as hay fever), perennial (all year round) and some people may experience a mix of the two (all year round, but with seasonal flare-ups).
Seasonal rhinitis, otherwise known as hay fever, tends to affect people in the summer. The main allergens are grass, tree, and flower pollens, or mould spores from trees. The time of year when you get hay fever can help indicate which type of pollen you are allergic to: if your hay fever starts in spring it is likely that you are allergic to tree pollen; hay fever which starts early summer and continues through to autumn, may be due to grass pollen; and hay fever which starts in autumn may be due to allergies to some weed pollens or mould spores.
Perennial allergic rhinitis occurs all year round and the range of allergens is much wider. These include house dust (and house dust mites), animal dander and mould. Cigarette smoke and food allergies may exacerbate symptoms.
When the body is exposed to an allergen it produces histamine which causes the symptoms of rhinorrhea (watery nasal discharge), sneezing, a blocked and itchy nose and irritated eyes. There may be a history of asthma or eczema.
Seeing a herbalist
Medical herbalists tailor the prescription to suit the individual. There are a number of herbs and herbal actions which may be used in a prescription for rhinitis. These include:
Anti-catarrhals - such as Eyebright, Golden rod, Elderflower
Anti-inflammatories - such as Eyebright
Expectorants may be needed if the lungs are affected - wheezing/congestion
Immune support - such as Echinacea
Anti-histamines - such as Plantain, Nettle
Demulcents - such as Liquorice (not with high blood pressure), Marshmallow, plantain
Anti-allergy - such as Ephedra sinica (practitioner use only),
When taking herbs for hayfever, it is best to consult a medical herbalist at least a month before the hayfever season starts.
If symptoms are severe it is best to consult a medical herbalist, who can design a tailored prescription.
Euphrasia rostkoviana (Eyebright) is anti-catarrhal
Herbal teas for hayfever
Herbal Teas which herbalists may use to help relieve symptoms:
Add 1 teaspoon of dried nettle to 1 cup of boiling water. Infuse for 5-10 minutes. Strain.
Drink 3-4 cups a day.
Add 1 teaspoon of dried elderflower to 1 cup of boiling water. Infuse for 5-10 minutes. Strain.
Drink 3-4 cups a day.
Plantago lanceolata (Plantain) is an anti-histamine and demulcent