A Holistic Treatment Plan for Seasonal Allergies

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you know how frustrating the symptoms can be. Dealing with running, itchy eyes and nose, sneezing, coughing, and wheezing can make life very uncomfortable and unfortunately, prescription allergy medications can leave you feeling groggy and tired. There are ways, however, to treat allergies holistically. The results are not immediately effective, however, when the treatments are done faithfully, the result is permanent relief from seasonal allergies and better health overall.

PREVENTATIVE PROGRAM

It is best to start this part of the treatment when you are having the least amount symptoms, well before the onset of an acute allergic reaction. Continue the below program for 6 months to a year.

Support the Liver with Diet & Herbs
Allergies occur when the liver over reacts to foreign protein bodies in the environment, including things like plant pollens, dust, animal hairs, chemicals, foods, and cosmetics. Usually, this hypersensitivity to environmental factors is caused by a weakness or breakdown somewhere in our internal system.

If cellular wastes are not being efficiently broken down or eliminated, they build up and begin to weaken internal tissues and organs. This excess protein build up in the blood triggers white blood cell activity, which activates other defense systems in the body. This creates a state of chronic low level agitation in the body that makes it hypersensitive to foreign proteins, also known as antigens.

When an antigen enters the blood stream, the body produces antibodies to “protect” itself. This reaction causes the production of histamine, which is toxic to membranes. This substance causes blood vessels to dilate and makes them more permeable. Histamine is responsible for causing allergy symptoms, like swelling of the mucous membranes in the nose, eyes, and lungs, and the contraction of air passages that results in wheezing and edema.

The liver is responsible for deactivating poisonous substances in the body, even those that the body itself creates. When the liver is healthy, it is able to produce an enzyme, histaminases, which is a natural antihistamine. However, when the liver is stressed, it can not produce enough histaminases to eliminate the histamine the body produced and allergy symptoms continue. Thus, a healthy liver is crucial to being able to eliminate allergies.
Because the liver plays such an important role in the allergic process, the first step to treating hay fever and getting rid of allergies is cleansing and toning the liver.

Diet

Most liver imbalances can be classified as deficiencies or excesses. A person who suffers from hay fever tends to be liver deficient.

In this case, the liver function is slow and weak. Cellular wastes are not properly eliminated, and the body is polluted with its own toxic metabolic wastes (as described above). A liver deficiency results in poor use of ingested nutrients and inefficient uptake of the proteins and cholesterol the body needs to regenerate cells. Diet is crucial to helping to improve the health of the liver and establish balance in the body.

Deficient livers are often caused by a diet that includes too many simple carbohydrates and not enough quality protein and fats. Usually, too much emphasis has been put on raw, or cold “yin” type foods; dairy, fruits, and carbs. So in general, a corrective diet for a liver deficient person should include more high quality proteins, fats & oils, and warming foods, as well as:

  • dark leafy greens
  • fresh sprouts – especially clover, fenugreek & alfalfa
  • fresh, steamed vegetables – especially beets and other root veggies
  • whole grains
  • seeds – especially sesame
  • raw almonds
  • fresh, alkalizing fruits, like lemon & grapefrui

Foods to Avoid 

  • alcohol
  • cold drinks and foods
  • fried, fatty, oily foods
  • dairy
  • food preservatives and additives
  • sweets, sugar, and fruit juices
  • raw fruits and vegetables

Continue reading

Herbs for A Healthy Pregnancy

Herbs are a lovely, natural way to support mom and baby during pregnancy. They can help provide important vitamins and minerals, ease morning sickness, relieve stress, and help to level out mood swings.

The following tea blend is one that herbalist , Rosemary Gladstar, recommends for pregnant mothers. It is tasty and nourishing. This blend can be enjoyed throughout pregnancy to provide essential nutrients, strengthen muscles used during childbirth, ease stress, and gently boost energy levels.

Pregnancy Tea 

  • 4 parts peppermint or spearmint
  • 3 parts raspberry leaf
  • 3 parts lemongrass
  • 2 parts nettle
  • 2 parts oat straw
  • 2 parts strawberry leaf
  • 1 part comfrey leaf
  • Optional: a pinch of stevia

[TONICS]

Tonic herbs strengthen and improve general, overall health and vitality of the whole body or in some cases, a specific body system. They are gentle enough to be used often over an extended period of time, and in fact, often work best when used regularly.

Raspberry (Rubus)
Raspberry leaf is a safe and widely used herb for supporting pregnancy. Prepared as an infusion,* it makes a lovely uterine and general pregnancy tonic. It can be used regularly throughout pregnancy to nourish mother and baby and to strengthen the muscles used during childbirth.

The leaves of raspberry contain an alkaloid called fragrine, which helps to tone the muscles of the pelvis and uterus. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B complex, C, & E; phosphorus, potassium and iron. The infusion of raspberry leaf also contains calcium in its most absorbable form. The uptake of this mineral is further enhanced by the aforementioned phosphorus, vitamin A & C contained in the leaf.

The regular use of this tonic herb is especially beneficial before and during pregnancy. Prior to conception, raspberry leaf combined with red clover blossoms can help to improve fertility in both men and women. During pregnancy, it can help to ease morning sickness by gently relieving an upset stomach and nausea.
If taken throughout pregnancy, Rubus helps to tone the uterus, which helps prevent miscarriage and postpartum hemorrhage. During childbirth, this toning allows the uterus to contract more effectively, which may make birth faster and easier. Also, because it strengthens the muscles used during labor and delivery, regular use of raspberry leaf during pregnancy can reduce labor pains and healing time after birth.
Raspberry leaf can also be beneficial after the baby is born. The high mineral content of this herb often helps the mother’s body to produce enough breast milk. However, since it is slightly astringent, some mothers may actually experience the opposite effect.

Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Nettle is a wonderfully nourishing tonic herb, especially during pregnancy. It has a high chlorophyll content compared to other herbs and is source of nearly every vitamin and mineral that is known to be needed for human development. It is rich in vitamins A, C, D, & K; calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and sulfur.
Nettle is easy to enjoy. The infusion* is deep and rich tasting. It is also a delicious spring edible in temperate zones. If you’re lucky enough to live in warmer climates, it can be eaten year round.
There are many benefits to regular consumption of nettle before and during pregnancy. Before pregnancy, nettles help to improve fertility in both men and women.

During pregnancy, this herb helps to provide essential nutrients for mother and baby. Nettle infusions supply readily absorbable phosphorus, calcium, and vitamins A & D.

Nettles also help to ease leg cramps and other muscle spasms. Since this herb is mildly astringent and generally nourishing, it strengthens the blood vessels can help to reduce hemorrhoids. Additionally, nettles tone and strengthen the kidneys, which have to cleanse 150% of the normal blood flow during most of pregnancy.
Regular use of nettle throughout pregnancy helps to reduce pain during and after childbirth because it is high in easily assimilated calcium, which reduces muscles pains in the uterus, legs, and other areas. It also is an excellent source of vitamin K and increases the amount hemoglobin that is available, both of which help to decrease the risk of bleeding postpartum. In case bleeding after birth does occur, drinking fresh nettle in teaspoon doses will help to slow it. After birth, nettle helps mothers produce rich, abundant breast milk.

Continue reading

Herbal Dream Pillows & Tea


Throughout history, dreams have had a special significance in many cultures. There is written record of dream interpretations dating back to over 5,000 years old. Ancient Egyptians, for example, highly valued dreams, especially vivid ones, as they believed they were messages from the gods. The ancient Greeks also felt that dreams were divine messages and used interpretations of their dreams to help them make decisions, predict the future, and solve problems.
Today, dreams are still a bit of a mystery to us. Some researchers claim that they help to store memories, while others feel that they are important for resolving conflicts and regulating mood. While the specific benefits of dreams are still uncertain, it is clear that healthy sleep patterns are important to health and well being.

Insomnia and difficulty with dream recall can make it hard to benefit from sleep and dreams. Herbal dream pillows and teas, however, promote vivid dreams, peaceful sleep, and dream recall. They are simple to make and are a natural, non-habit forming way to promote healthy sleep and dream cycles.

The herbs in these dream blends are naturally calming and dream boosting. Mugwort is used to enhance and promote lucid dreams. It has also traditionally been used for protection and was woven into necklaces by Native Americans to help keep away dreams about the dead.

Lavender and chamomile are calming herbs. They promote relaxation and restful sleep. Passion flower is soothing and naturally reduces stress. It aids in easing anxiety and quieting a busy or worried mind.

Oats are a natural sedative and are well-loved by herbalists for their soothing effect on the nervous system. They have been used traditionally to help calm anxiety and alleviate insomnia.

 

Dream Pillows

Ingredients:

  • 3 parts lavender
  • 3 parts roses
  • 2 parts mugwort
  • 1 part chamomile
  • 1 part rosemary
  • 1/2 part eucalyptus

Directions:

Combine all dry herbs in a large bowl and mix well. Scoop this herbal mixture into pouches sewed from fabric scraps of your choosing. Sew the pouch closed.

To use: tuck the herb sachet under your pillow to promote peaceful sleep and enhance dreams. Drink a cup of sweet dreams tea before bed for an added effect.

Continue reading

Digestive Bitters

 

img_3171Bitter foods and herbs play a very important role in digestion and the health of the organs that facilitate it. Bitters stimulate the production of digestive fluids that help to break down food to ensure that the body can absorb the nutrients from it. They also help to tone and heal the digestive tissues.

When you first taste bitter foods, bitter taste receptors on the tongue trigger reactions throughout the digestive tract. In the mouth, bitters promote salivation, which breaks down starches and begins to digest fats.

In the stomach, bitters promote the production of gastrin, a hormone that regulates how much gastric acid is produced. This is especially important because an adequate amount of stomach acid is necessary for the body to be able to uptake minerals from food.

Bitters also aid in the production of pepsin, an enzyme that helps break down proteins and is key to the proper absorption of vitamin B12.

In the pancreas, liver, and gall bladder, bitters promote the production and flow of pancreatic enzymes and bile, which help to break down fats & oils, lubricate the intestines so digested food can pass through, and rid the liver of waste products.

While it is clear that bitters are essential to a healthy digestive system, typical modern diets are severely lacking in bitter foods. According to herbalist, James Green, this can contribute to variety of health issues, including indigestion, abnormal metabolism, liver and gall bladder issues, diabetes, and so on.

Fortunately, adding more bitter foods to your diet can be simple and delicious. Bitter greens taste great, are extremely nutritious, and are easy to find at the farmer’s market or to grow in your own back yard. Greens like dandelion, arugula, mustard, and garlic mustard are tasty additions to stir fries, salads, pestos, or soups. Use sparingly initially if you don’t often eat bitter foods, as they can be a bit overwhelming to a palate that is unfamiliar with bitter flavors. Add acid (like vinegar or lemon juice), fats (like olive oil or butter), salt, herbs, or spices to complement and balance the sharpness of bitter greens.

If you find you aren’t eating enough bitter foods in your diet or know that you have issues with sluggish digestion, making a tincture of bitter herbs is a simple way to benefit from bitters. Tinctures can be stored in small dropper bottles and are easy to keep on hand for cases of acute digestive issues or just to take daily with meals to help promote digestion. In his text, “Blessed Bitters,” Michigan herbalist, jim mcdonald, recommends taking 15-30 drops of bitters tincture for relief of acute indigestion. One could also take a few drops in water before meals to aid the digestive process and help prevent gas, bloating, and stomach pain.

The below recipe for a digestive bitters tincture utilizes the bitter properties of chamomile and yellow dock to help promote a healthy digestive tract and process. Because bitter herbs are cooling in nature, it helps to combine them with a warming herb to help balance this action, thus the addition of ginger to this formula.

Additionally, the aromatic properties of the orange peel and chamomile in this recipe are helpful for relieving gas and bloating. Orange peel has been used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine for thousands of years to aid digestion, promote liver function, and relieve gas & bloating. It can be helpful for abdominal distention, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Digestive Bitters Tincture

Ingredients:

  • Vodka (at least 80 proof)
  • 1 part orange peel
  • 1 part ginger
  • 1 part chamomile
  • 2 parts yellow dock root

Directions:

Roughly chop the orange peel, ginger, and yellow dock. Combine with the chamomile in a glass jar.

Fill the jar about 1/2 to 1/3 of the way with plant material. Avoid packing the jar too full. The herbs will need space to move freely in the alcohol so that their properties can be fully extracted.

Pour vodka over top so that the roots and flowers are completely submerged in alcohol. Cover the jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake a few times a week or as often as you remember. Cover with more alcohol if the herbs absorb it and are exposed to the air. Let extract for 6-8 weeks.

Strain herbs from the alcohol using a cheese cloth. Rebottle your tincture into a glass bottle with a dropper and label the jar. Store in a cool, dark place. Tinctures can last for several years of stored properly.

Take as needed for digestive issues or daily before meals to promote healthy digestion.

Cheers to happy, healthy digestive system!

 

References:

“Blessed Bitters” by jim mcdonald. http://www.herbcraft.org/bitters.pdf. Accessed September 17, 2016.

“Citrus Peel Medicine” by Don Matesz. Mother Earth Living. October/November 2010 issue. Article online: http://www.motherearthliving.com/health-and-wellness/citrus-peel-medicine.aspx. Accessed September 17, 2016.