Traditional Herbs for Allergies
Traditional Herbs for Allergies - What Generates An Allergic Reaction?
What happens inside the body that actually generates an allergic reaction and what are some traditional herbs for allergies? Histamines trigger local inflammatory immune reactions in response to foreign pathogens. They are produced by basophils and by mast cells found in nearby connective tissues.
Histamines increase the permeability of the capillaries to white blood cells and some proteins. This shows up as mucus sometimes to allow them to engage pathogens in the infected tissues. Because they are found in virtually all animal body cells, an inflammatory allergic immune reaction can occur pretty much anywhere on or throughout the body. This means we can have allergic reactions to almost anything, including dust, cat hair, mold, and poison oak or ivy.
Unfortunately, although it is a well-intentioned attempt at defense, histamine response in the form of allergies, often wind up doing even greater damage to the body than the irritant against which it attempted to protect.
Suppressing Allergic Reactions
The ultimate anti-reaction drugs cortisone or prednisone can suppress and arrest severe allergic reactions. The body produces its own indigenous counterpart to cortisone in the form of cortisol. This is mostly in the cortical part of the adrenals, which Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) classifies as Kidney Yin. Licorice is described as being "cortisone-sparing."*
In other words, it allows the body's own cortisol to remain in circulation longer, thus creating a deeper, longer lasting, protective cortisol effect.* If you are not prone to high blood pressure, drinking licorice tea can provide temporary relief from allergies.*
Traditional Chinese Herbs for Allergies
The Chinese herb bai zhi (radix Angelica dahurica) has an acrid flavor, warm energy and enters the Lung, Stomach and Spleen organ meridians is used for Wind-Cold nasal congestion, headaches, muscle aches and symptoms of Dampness and itching. Bai zhi has been found to have antihistamine properties.*
The traditional formula Pe Min Kan Wan, also known as Bi Min Gan Wan or Nasal Allergy Pills, provides relief from common nasal discomfort and hay fever. It is an alternative to harsher antihistamines and decongestants to relieve stressed out nasal passages.*
Pe Min Kan Wan's efficacy rests on the inclusion of one of the most powerful antiviral botanicals. This botanical is ban lan gen (isatis root). Isatis happens to be one of the oldest and most common Western herbs so common in fact that its once-popular name, woad, in medieval times simply meant, weed. Unfortunately, most of isatis's medicinal uses were ignored in favor of its use as a blue dye plant for which it was cultivated.
This bitter and a cold (meaning anti-inflammatory) herb treats all those kinds of conditions associated with viral infection. Even though this blog focuses on treating allergies, it is not uncommon that such conditions are complicated with a cold or flu. Pe Min Kan Wan clears Heat and toxic materials, cools Blood and subdues swelling.*
People who are taking blood-thinning drugs or who have known sulfur sensitivities should avoid isatis. Isatis is a member of the Cruciferae family which contains sulfur-like compounds. Otherwise, it is regarded as safe enough that traditional Chinese people take this herb in the Spring as a blood cleanser. It's also to relieve the internal burden of toxins in the body. This makes it better able to contend with the external ones that it is likely to encounter in this season.
Another commonly used formula for springtime allergies is Bi Yan Pian (Sinus Infection and Headache Pill). This is used as a gentler herbal alternative to pharmaceutical antihistamines. However, it combines antibacterial properties making it useful for allergies and colds complicated with bacterial infections. The difference between Pe Min Kan Wan and Bi Yan Pian is that the latter is indicated for acute conditions with thick yellow mucus. The former is for more chronic conditions associated with clear or whitish mucus.*
Ayurvedic Herbs for Digestion
Ayurvedic herbal formulas for allergies are less specifically antihistamine but work on digestion. Traditional herbal medicine views digestion as the underlying cause of most diseases. A lack of enzymes leads to poor breakdown of food, which in turn causes an accumulation of mucus.
One possible physiological connection between the generation of histamine, mucus and the stomach are Enterochromaffin-like cells or ECL cells. These are found in the stomach's mucosa and synthesize and secrete histamine. This may explain why some people seem to be relatively clear of allergic symptoms so long as they carefully monitor their diet to prevent histamine reactions. It is also characterized by extreme acute paroxysmal coughing reaction caused by long sticky, stringy, mucus. This is where the Ayurvedic formula Trikatu is most effective. Consisting of black pepper, long pepper, and ginger mixed with honey, it stimulates digestive enzymes. If taken early in the season, may help with springtime allergies.*
Western Herbs to Reduce Prostaglandin Production
Stinging nettle leaf has anti-inflammatory properties and seems to reduce prostaglandin production in the body. A study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2009 demonstrated in the laboratory that the Nettle leaf blocks histamine receptors, and acts to block prostaglandin production by the COX-1 and COX-2 pathways. It also blocks the release of enzymes from mast cells. All those effects together make this a potentially potent anti-allergy herb.* Confirming the lab data are some studies showing that it reduces sneezing and runny nose for people with allergies.
There are no reported adverse herb drug reactions between these milder herbal treatments for springtime allergies and common over-the-counter allergy drugs. However, all herbal and pharmaceutical approaches to treating allergies involve resolving and drying mucus in one form or another. Individuals with serious Yin Deficiency (preexistent constitutional dryness) or what Ayurveda calls a vata condition might experience an aggravation from either the drug or to a far lesser extent the herbal allergy treatments. If there are any signs of an exacerbation of dryness and Yin Deficiency symptoms (night sweats, extreme thirst, irritability, etc.), it might be wise to back off your dose of anti-allergy formula or drug (or at least, don't use them together).
- 2 carrots
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 raw potato
- 1 thumb size fresh ginger root
- 1/4 medium green cabbage
- 1/4 fennel root
Alternatively: 1 medium papaya (seeded), 3 slices pineapple.
*These statements are not evaluated by the FDA. These products do not intend to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
This information does not intend to be medical advice nor is it intended to take the place of care provided by your healthcare practitioner. The information is for educational and information purposes only, to educate about the traditional use herbs.