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June 2013



Lessons learned in allergy season DIY remedies are sometimes the best BY ALICE TOLER

used to hate my allergies. What’s to like about them? When I get a good snootful of pollen, it feels like my brain is trying to evacuate itself through my sinuses. Sometimes I start to teeter into asthmatic territory. I lose my ability to think properly. I can’t physically function at all. It is incredibly frustrating. Spring is a lovely time of year, but I’ve learned to associate fresh plant growth with inevitable bodily distress. Lately, though, I’ve managed to start looking at my hay fever as an interesting opportunity to learn more about my immune system and how it interacts with my environment, diet and mental state. It’s hard to consider allergies a gift from the Universe, but since sitting like Job on his heap of ashes, bemoaning my fate and cursing God isn’t really a constructive option, herewith I present to you What I’ve Learned. First: A neti pot of warm saline solution will immediately remove all pollen from the surface of your sinuses and stop the allergic reaction from getting any worse. Washing your face with cold water will immediately quiet itchy eyes and skin. A bad histamine reaction makes you want to just lie down and suffer. Don’t give in—go wash your face and clean out your sinuses. Now that your face is fixed and you’re able to think, and since you’re trapped in your house for a while, sit and consider what’s been going on in your life over the past six weeks or so. Any new stressors? Have you been sick? If you have


other allergies (for instance, to food), have you been exposed to those allergens lately? Once your immune system gets riled up over something, it tends to stay riled up for a while. This year my allergies are particularly bad, and I think it has to do with a hectic spring travel schedule and a bad case of gnat bites at the beginning of the season, which caused my lymph nodes to swell up painfully. Introspection may give you some clues about your physical state, and perhaps you can try to do things differently next year. Starting in late winter,

February to start taking nettles couple tablespoons of the new then, to build up your body before green growth, minced it and the pollen hits. steeped it in hot water A particularly hardcore for a few minutes. It profriend of mine claims that duced a surprisingly “wearing shorts and walkpalatable tea. I drank it ing through a field of like matcha, greens and stinging nettles will cure all, and experienced your allergies for a whole relief from sneezing for a season.” I’m not that full six hours. masochistic, nor do the Our little Mormon tea nettles in Utah come up bush isn’t large or fastnearly early enough for growing enough to prome to nip my hay fever in vide me with tea for Mormon tea the bud by stinging myself allergy relief all season, on purpose, but in my personal so I consulted Kane again for another remedy. The Brittlebush he recommends doesn’t grow this far north at these altitudes, so I turned to another volume of his, titled Herbal Medicine: Trends and Traditions which is more widereaching in the herbs it describes. To my surprise, top of his list experience, nettle supplements globally for hay fever treatment is work at least as well as most overyerba mate, a very popular tea, the-counter allergy remedies, and and something I already better than a lot of them. If I start had in my cupthe nettle-taking regimen in board. Like February, two 400mg capsules Mormon tea, three times a day will keep my yerba mate is body in line and my hay fever in an adrenal stimMay down to a dull roar. This year ulant, causing I had just about despaired of ever your body to moderating the raging histarelease immunemines in my system, but another moderating cortifriend recommended I up my sol, waking you up, dosage to five capsules three and making you feel times a day. Although all those generally livelier. I capsules at mealtimes can be a am, in general, pretty drag to swallow, I have to say, it wary of adrenal stimuseems to be working. lants since they’re easy to As it’s spring, you should overdo and the withdrawal headalso plant a Mormon tea aches can be wicked, but so far a bush. Plant it in a sunny part few cups of mate a day has not of your garden. This hardy, injured me, and in combination drought-tolerant with the nettles, seems to have perennial came to my quieted the histamine riot. notice as a possible If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you have my deepest sympaallergy-relief ally thies. It’s incredibly vexing to know when I leafed that, essentially, your body is at through Charles W. Kane’s war with itself over nothing. Still, it excellent book, Herbal Medicine is a golden opportunity to learn of the American Southwest. how to hack your own immune Handily, we already system, if you can refrain from had a small dwarf despair. Good luck, and remember variety of Ephedra to take your nettles. u nevadensis growing in our parking strip, Alice Toler is an artist, editor and CATALYST so I harvested a staff writer.

I’m not sure why nettles work, but perhaps they give my overactive immune soldiers something more robust to engage than simple airborne pollen. make sure you’re going to those restorative yoga classes, drinking lots of water, eating healthy food and maybe getting some prophylactic acupuncture. Buy some nettle supplements. Common stinging nettles, Urtica dioica, are something of a wonderweed when it comes to manipulating histamines in your body. The stinging hairs contain acetylcholine, histamine, serotonin, moroidin, leukotrienes and possibly formic acid (the main component of ant venom). Nettles have a long tradition of medicinal use, and have been known as a folk remedy for rheumatism and a stalwart ally against allergic rhinitis. I’m not sure why nettles work, but perhaps they give my overactive immune soldiers something more robust to engage than simple airborne pollen. Also, make a note on Stinging Nettle your calendar for next

Profile for CATALYST Magazine

CATALYST June 2013  

CATALYST Magazine June 2013 issue

CATALYST June 2013  

CATALYST Magazine June 2013 issue