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The hayfever season is upon us and each year more people visit my Selfcare Clinics because they are unable to find adequate relief from their conventional medicines. The wet weather keeps the pollen count down, but rain only delays the inevitable, if you are one of the 15% of Britain’s population who suffers from this allergic reaction. It is caused by an allergy to pollen or sometimes mould spores. In hayfever the body’s immune system over reacts to the presence of external substances, as if they were something toxic. This result in sneezing, itchy watery eyes, runny nose and sore throat.


Western Herbal Practitioners, or Phytotherapists, have a long history of successful treatment of Hayfever or Allergic rhinitis. Because the causes and symptoms are variable, there is no standard, single, herbal medicine for hayfever. There are, however, some common symptom patterns recognized by medical herbalists, which will affect their choice of herbs for treatment. One common symptom pattern corresponds to the “fever” part of hayfever. The sinuses, eyes, nose and throat are hot, dry, and irritated. During an attack they can stream with watery mucus. For this type of picture, cooling and soothing anti inflammatory herbs are helpful; herbs like:

chamomile, marshmallow, eyebright, fresh nettle juice and ribwort plantain.

Some of these herbs strengthen the cells in the immune system that contain substances like histamine that cause hayfever’s symptoms. They are nature’s own antihistamine remedy.

A different symptom picture is the “cold and damp” presentation, with a stuffy, blocked nose, often associated with a history of chronic sinusitis or perennial rhinitis. The patient may also suffer with earache or headaches. Here one of the main factors can be insufficient circulation, and warming remedies such as ginger and cinnamon can be helpful. Herbal treatment also addresses deeper constitutional factors, such as improving the elimination of the body’s waste products via the liver and kidneys, with herbs such as dandelion. Other herbs and recommendations can aid the repair and restoration of the inflamed tissues which in the long term helps to keep triggers of allergy, like pollen, out of the patient’s system.

Some foods can help ease hayfever like: as berries, plums, citrus fruits, peppers, spinach, and broccoli. These contain nutrients such as Vitamin C,  quercetin, rutin, and hesperidin all natural antihistamines, that help to reduce nasal secretions and inflammation. Some foods can aggravate catarrhal problems particularly rich and sweet foods like cow’s milk and it’s products: butter, cheese and yoghurt. Herbalists recognise that an irritation in the gut can result in more catarrh in the airways of the body, so an intolerance of foods, such as wheat, or foods in the potato family (tomatoes and aubergines for example) could lie at the root of the problem. One of the features of my approach is the deep appreciation of all likely factors involved. This enables the development of a unique treatment plan, in partnership with the patient, so that they can manage their hayfever comfortably and free from unwanted side effects.

This information is for educational purposes only. For any advice on medicinal use of herbs consult a registered Medical Herbalist.

What you can do to lessen symptoms by avoiding contact with pollen:

  • Be aware of the pollen count (usually broadcast with the weather reports), and avoid areas of high pollen concentration, eg long grass, lawn mowings, and trees if allergic to these. If you need to work in these environments consider wearing a mask and goggles.

  • In the summer stay inside when pollen counts are high especially between5pmand7pm. At this time keep your windows and doors closed, also when sleeping.

  • Damp dust and vacuum your home regularly, to minimise the presence of pollen and dust.

  • Air bedclothes in direct sunlight.

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