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

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The Many Benefits of Red Clover 

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is a lovely little plant that grows abundantly in meadows and along roadsides here in Southwest Michigan and in temperate regions across the world. It is a favorite among farmers, foragers, and herbalists.  In his book, Back to Eden, herbalist, Jethro Kloss, called red clover “one of God’s greatest blessings to man.” And for good reason! This wonderful legume is edible, medicinal, and extremely useful in the garden.

We planted red clover heavily our first year at the Augusta Creek Permaculture site to aid in the transition from lawn to forest garden as it helps to force out unwanted weeds and grass. It also loosens poor, rocky, or clay soil and fixes nitrogen. We chop and drop it throughout the season to prepare areas for planting and feed other plants. It is a low-maintence, easy to grow perennial and is a favorite cover crop among farmers because it easily adapts to a variety of climates, grows quickly, and has few issues with diseases and pests.


Red clover has many medicinal uses. It is blood purifying and improves liver function. It also has antispasmodic and expectorant properties, making it helpful for coughs and other bronchial issues.

It is helpful in aiding the healing of skin problems, such as skin eruptions, eczema, psoriasis, skin growths, and fresh wounds. It is also a great herb for treating skin problems in children, as it is very gentle. Because of these properties, it is a wonderful addition to healing salves.

Red clover and nettle combine well for treatment of skin problems. This lovely clay mask is simple to make and naturally purifies oily, acne prone skin types. The clay draws out toxins and gently exfoliates. Red clover and nettle cleanse and heal problem skin.

Red Clover & Nettle Exfoliating Face Scrub

  • 1 cup betonite clay
  • 1/4 cup finely ground dry red clover blossoms
  • 1/4 cup finely ground nettle leaf

Combine ingredients and mix well. Store in a glass container with a lid.

To use: mix a small amount (1-2 teaspoons) of the clay & herb blend with water to form a paste. Apply mixture to face and massage gently into skin. Rinse with warm water. If desired, follow with an astringent facial spray (click here to learn how to make your own dandelion, cleaver & violet toner!) then a little bit of a natural moisturizer.

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Natural Goat Care: Soothing Herbal Tea

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Herbal teas are wonderful for goats and my girls love them. This particular blend is one of their favorites and is a good all-purpose tea to help tone and strengthen their systems. I like to make up a batch for them periodically, especially during more stressful times- like heat, baths, hoof trimming, or transport- or during the changing of seasons to help give their bodies a boost during wet or cold periods.

The ingredients in this tea are naturally soothing and nourishing. Chamomile is a gentle sedative and anti-spasmodic. It also tones the digestive system and helps to relieve constipation and expel gas and worms.  It is a natural pain reliever, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory and helps to heal wounds (making it great for external use too!). While it is a very mild, safe herb its use should be limited with pregnant goats.

Lemon balm is an uplifting, tonic herb that helps to soothe anxiety, depression, heart palpitations, and insomnia. It is also beneficial to the digestion system and relieves gas and cramping. It makes a lovely tea and can be fed fresh by the handful.

Nettle is a very nutritive, toning herb that helps to cleanse the blood. It is rich in iron and other important minerals. Herbalist, Juliette de Baïracli Levy, used this herb for her animals to help prevent contagious diseases and worms. She says that nettle makes animals more spirited and gives them shinier, fuller coats. It can also be used to treat poor appetite and arthritis, making it a good herb for older animals.

Oats are very nutritious and are rich in vitamins and minerals. They are important for strong bones, teeth, hooves, horns, and hair. They are soothing and toning to the nervous system. Oat tea is a good tonic for sick animals.

Honey boosts energy, soothes coughs, and reduces stomach and throat inflammation. Goats also love the taste so it makes a great addition to herbal teas to help make them more enticing.

As an added bonus, this tea is great for humans too! It’ll often enjoy a cup myself when I make up a batch for the girls.


To make this tea, you will need –

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon chamomile blossoms
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon balm leaf
  • 1 Tablespoon nettle leaf
  • 1 Tablespoon milky oats
  • 1/2 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 quart boiling water
  • 1/2 to 1 quart water, room temperature

This makes enough tea for two adult Nigerian dwarf goats (a small breed). If you have big goats or more goats you will want to double (triple, quadruple, …!) this recipe. You can also make a bigger batch and keep some in the fridge for a day or so. It won’t keep for very long though, so don’t make too much at once. 

To save time, combine equal parts of each of the dried herbs in a clean glass jar with a lid and just add 4 tablespoons of the tea blend per quart of boiling water when making tea. 


Directions:

Add herbs and to a glass quart jar. Pour boiling water over them, cover, and let steep till tea is warm, but the jar is not to hot to hold. Strain out the herbs using cheese cloth or a fine mesh strainer, pouring the tea into another jar. Press out all the liquid from the herbs and compost them. Add honey to the tea, cap the jar and shake well. Let cool to room temperature.

Once the tea has cooled, dilute tea with 1/2 to 1 quart water. See what your goats like and adjust it to their tastes. You may have dilute it with a bit more water if your goats aren’t keen on trying new things, but once they get a taste for teas, they will likely drink them down happily. Mine sure do!

Teas are just one great way your goats can benefit from herbs. Our girls also love fresh herbs and homemade herbal treats. To learn how to make your own natural goat treats, click here.

Have fun crafting your own herbal teas and treats to keep the goats in your life happy and healthy!


Resources:

The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette de Baïracli Levy

Molly’s Herbals: Natural Care for Animals. www.fiascofarm.com 

Purple Dead Nettle: Not Just A Weed

Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium Purpureum) is a lovely and useful herbaceous plant. It grows abundantly around our site in Southwest, Michigan and I see it popping up all over this area. It can be found throughout the US, Canada, and many other parts of the world. This hardy weed thrives in lawns, roadsides, and can grow in a variety of conditions. It is also frost tolerant. It is most commonly found growing in loamy or sandy soils, but will also do well in clay soils. It is an self-seeding annual. Each plant produces lots of seeds (it’s estimated to be several hundred to several thousand) and those seeds can germinate year round.

Purple dead nettle is considered to be an “invasive species” due to its ability to thrive and reproduce in many environments. In fact, much of the literature available on this plant is geared towards methods of eradication, including pulling up the herb to control its population. It is interesting to note that purple dead nettle seeds germinate better when the soil is disturbed. “Invasive” plants like purple dead nettle often grow in places where humans have disrupted the natural balance.  These plants are simply trying to restore equilibrium to their environment. When we pull and spray these plants we are further disturbing the areas where they grow and actually increasing their ability to return and spread.

If we care about the environment, should be be attempting to eradicate these species, like purple dead nettle, that have been determined to be invasive? Research shows that meddling with nature isn’t necessary and could cause more harm than good. Tomás Carlo, assistant professor of biology at Penn State, states that “Invasive species could fill niches in degraded ecosystems and help restore native biodiversity in an inexpensive and self-organized way that requires little or no human intervention.”In 2011, he conducted a study on how invasive species affect their ecosystems.  He found that some invasive plants actually helped improve natural areas that had deteriorated due to human use. He stated that attempting to get rid of invasive species could actually harm the newly found balance in these ecosystems. In fact, the areas he studied, for example,have actually had an increase in the native migratory bird population because the invasive plants that grow abundantly there provide an important food source that had previously been displaced by human development. Carlo also stated that trying to eliminate invasive species on a large scale could also be a waste of time and money. He explained that when organizations try to rid an ecosystem of a particular invasive plant, it often ends up growing back despite all of their efforts.

Instead of pulling and spraying these weeds, we can appreciate and utilize them. Invasive plants often play important roles in their ecosystem. For example, purple dead nettle blooms in the early spring and is an valuable food source for insects when not much else is is flowering.  Many invasive plants are also useful to humans and make wonderful food and medicine. They require little to no care as they often occur and thrive naturally in our gardens and yards. These wild edibles can be a great low-maintenance, free food source. Foraging wild greens like purple dead nettle is easier than tending to more fickle commercially grown greens and is certainly cheaper than buying organic greens at the store. If you aren’t sure how to forage purple dead nettles, visit the Edible Wild Food site for more tips on finding and identifying this plant so you too can enjoy this spring green.Always be sure you properly identify a plant before eating it! For more foraging tips, check out our post on foraging spring edibles.

Purple dead nettle can be eaten raw or cooked. The leaves have tiny little hairs that some may find strange texturally, but I have found that they aren’t bothersome when the plant is cooked. The leaves taste similar to spinach. When bruised, the plant has a noticeable green, earthy scent. Purple dead nettle leaves are great source of fiber, iron, and other important nutrients. They can be used in recipes much as one would use more conventional greens like kale or spinach.

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Easy Summer Pesto Recipe

Zucchini Pesto Pizza
zucchini, pesto & tomato pizza

Pesto is one of my favorite things to make in the summer. Its a great way to use up the bounty of fresh produce I have on hand, its super easy to make, and you can use it a million different ways. I follow this basic recipe using whatever greens/herbs I have on hand from the garden or farmers market.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 2 cups fresh greens of choice,* roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh herbs of choice (use one kind or a blend of several)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (or less if you don’t like a lot of garlic)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • salt and pepper to taste

*If you don’t want to use any greens in your pesto, you can just use 2&1/2 cups of fresh herbs.

Directions:

Blend seeds and nuts together in a food processor until they are finely ground.

Add the greens, herbs, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper to the food processor and blend until smooth. You may have to scrape things down with a spatula as you go to make sure everything gets mixed in.

Use your pesto on pizza or a sandwich, stir into scrambled eggs or pasta, or serve with crusty bread for a delicious appetizer.

Not sure what kinds of herbs and greens to use in your pesto? Here’s a few ideas:

Greens:

  • turnip greens
  • radish greens
  • beet greens
  • collards
  • kale
  • chard
  • Spinach

Herbs:

  • Basil
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Oregano

Feel free to use whatever greens or herbs you have on hand to make a unique and tasty pesto that’s all your own. Enjoy!

Brightening Winter Herbal Tea Blend

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Around this time of year, it’s easy to get a bad case of the winter blues, especially if you are feeling under the weather. I like to drink this tea when I first start feeling like I’m getting sick to give my immune system a boost. This blend is sure to warm you up, keep you healthy, and brighten your spirits.

The rosemary and St. John’s wort in this blend help to fight winter blues and boost spirits while lemon balm brings a calming effect. Thyme and Echinacea help to prevent and fight infection.

 

To make this tea blend you will need:

-Rosemary
-St. John’s wort
-Thyme
-Echinacea
-Lemon balm
-Honey (optional)
-Lemon juice (optional)

 

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Natural Relief from Spring Allergies 

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, April showers and May flowers can bring you a lot of discomfort. And you aren’t alone. Hay fever (an allergy to mold or pollen) affects 30 to 60 million people nationwide each year. Springtime is especially rough for sufferers since trees are beginning  to produce pollen. Additionally, all those spring showers, especially accompanied by warmer temperatures, encourage mold growth. Spring breezes worsen the problem further by carrying these allergens far and wide.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology there are 11 types of trees that trigger spring hay fever. They are: oak, sycamore, maple, elm, birch, ash, western red cedar, walnut, hickory, poplar, and cypress. These trees start to produce pollen as spring arrives, around the same time every year. Once their pollen is airborne, those who are allergic to it will experience sneezing, congestion, along with  itchy eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Rainy and cloudy days, or days when there is no wind to carry the pollen will allow some relief from these symptoms. However, warm, dry or windy days will aggravate symptoms because there will be higher levels of airborne pollen.

Mold spores are very similar. Molds, like yeast and mildew, release spores (seeds) that can be carried in the wind, much like pollen. Spores, however, can be found both outdoors and indoors. Some outdoor molds are Alternaria, Cladosporium, and Hormodendrun. Indoor molds include Aspergillus and Penicillium. These molds can cause common allergy symptoms, such as congestion, itchy eyes, runny nose, and sneezing.

If you experience springtime allergies, you’re probably wondering what you can do to eliminate or at least lessen your symptoms. While there are many prescription and over the counter allergy medications, there are also many natural options you can try instead of medication.

Using a saline nose rinse can help alleviate allergy symptoms by flushing out irritating particles that can become stuck in your nasal passages and cause itching and inflammation. You can buy saline solution at the drugstore or you can make your own rinse at home. Just add a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of baking soda to a pint of warm, distilled water. Then bend over a sink and sniff some of the solution through each nostril and let it drain out through your nose or mouth. You can do this once or twice a day.

Taking a hot shower may help during a coughing/sneezing allergy attack because it helps to open up the sinuses, which allows you to breathe easier. Additionally, it will rinse off any irritating allergens that may have stuck in your hair. Rinsing itchy, red eyes with clean, cool water can also help to alleviate symptoms.

Hot herbal tea can also provide allergy sufferers with relief. The hot liquid and steam helps open up nasal passages. Additionally, many herbs have medicinal properties that can help alleviate allergy symptoms.  Natural or health food stores usually carry tea bags that contain blends of medicinal herbs. Traditional medicinals teas, for example, have blends specially prepared to help treat and nourish various body systems or ailments. Their blends  Gypsy Cold care,  Herba Tussin, Organic throat coat, and Breathe Easy are ideal in helping battle allergy or cold symptoms.

Natural food and health food stores often also carry herbs in bulk if you want to mix your own tea blends.The following are just a few herbs herbs that can help with allergy symptoms. Look for these herbs in your pre-blended tea bags to identify teas that will help with your allergy symptoms  or mix and match them in a variety of your own tea blends to see what tastes and works best for you.

  • Peppermint: helps relieve nasal and sinus congestion; has antiseptic properties; an anti-inflammatory 
  • Mullein: a natural expectorant, helps clear the airways of mucus
  • Licorice: helps relieve pain and inflammation of mucus membranes; helpful for sore throat
  • Elderberry: a natural expectorant and detoxifier
  • Marshmallow: often used to treat respiratory disorders and inflammation; a natural expectorant
  • St. John’s wort: used to treat bronchial problems; a natural expectorant and antiseptic
  • Wild cherry bark: used to treat respiratory disorders, soothes cough; natural expectorant

Adding honey to your herbal tea may be a great way to boost its effectiveness in fighting allergy symptoms. Consuming local, non-pasteurized honey is thought to help reduce your initial reaction to pollen. When bees make honey, they transfer some of the pollen they collect from local plants into their honey. So, when you consume honey made by local bees, using pollen from local plants, its like you’re getting a series of mini allergy shots and specifically targeting the pollens in your area. Eating this honey will help you slowly build a tolerance to allergens and thus, can eventually decrease the severity of your allergic reaction to pollens. Honey also has anti-inflammatory properties and thus, can help relieve allergies in the short term as well.

Wasabi and horseradish can also help alleviate the symptoms of hay fever. This is because they contain allyl isothiocyanate, which promotes mucus flow. Try putting a generous amount of horseradish on your sandwich or wasabi on your sushi to help with allergy symptoms.

 Allergies can certainly make life miserable for those who can’t kick the symptoms. But, living with allergies doesn’t have to be terrible. It is possible to get your symptoms under control and to enjoy everything life has to offer, without all that snuffling and sneezing.


Resources: