Hay fever

Hay fever season is almost upon us. You can suffer from allergic rhinitis at any time of year, but there is a peak in May and June, just as the lovely weather arrives. The good news, from a herbal point of view, is that it usually responds very well to treatment. It’s ideal to start your herbs a few weeks before your season begins, so that your system is well primed to deal with it. There’s every chance that you will get away with much milder symptoms than usual, or even none at all. But even if you just take herbs when you already have the symptoms, they do have a useful ‘first aid’ effect that will bring you some relief. It’s also a good idea to avoid dairy products for a while, because they tend to encourage mucus production.

Some of the best hay fever herbs are very ordinary weeds, like nettles and ribwort (called ‘shooters’ by children because you can fire the flower heads at each other). Chamomile, yarrow and eyebright can also help. There are other herbs like Ma Huang (Ephedra sinensis) which are more powerful, but these can only be prescribed by practitioners because there are cautions about their use. As usual, different plants suit different people, so if you’ve tried a herb or a formula for hay fever and not got good results, don’t despair; there will be something that can help.


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