Amidst the blossom and bounce of spring, you may find yourself dragging about with symptoms of allergies, strange skin reactions and moments of exhaustion. There is plenty of pollen flying round and April showers have brought more flowers, along with grasses and molds. Our reaction to all this bloom often indicates immune imbalance, typically an highly-reactive immune response. When immunity gets over-whelmed or under-whelmed by internal and/or external environmental factors, it can use some assistance. Nature offers herbs and foods that serve as immunomodulators. These are plants that strengthen organs and provide chemical complexity to help up-grade or downgrade immune response as needed. The hypothalamus, liver and adrenal glands are especially involved in allergy response, so herbs that help modulate or balance immune response usually help the body to adapt to change in general. Medicinal mushrooms (reishi, cordyceps, maitake, shiitaki, turkey tails) do this, as well as Schizandra berry, Elder flower and berry, Oregon grape root, Eleuthero root, Pau d’arco bark, Nettle leaf, Astragalus root and California spikenard among many others.
Common allergic reactions, like hay fever, certain types of asthma, hives and food allergies are linked to our antibody immunoglobulin E (IgE). Each IgE antibody can be very specific, reacting against certain pollens and not others. Studies have shown that some herbs and foods can reduce overaction of IgE, such as: Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum), black pepper, green peppercorn, comfrey root, eastern coltsfoot (Tussilago farafara), butterbur, rose petal, Oregon grape root and several Asian herbs. Many flavonoids like quercetin help modulate histamine response and are found naturally in the peels of fruits and vegetables, especially red onion, garlic, grapefruit, cranberry, green tea and apples. Eating local bee pollen and raw honey can help you adapt to plant pollens, while nibbling on spring pop-up plants like plantain, fir tips, chickweed, dandelion, sorrel, mustard flowers, calendula flowers, borage and nasturtium help our bodies deal with symptoms.
We can also do our part in managing our intestinal health (where over half your immune system lives) by eating live cultured foods (yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi etc.) and eliminating refined flour, unfermented dairy and sugar, all of which slow lymphatic flow. Reduce the build-up of allergens in the respiratory tract with nasal rinsing, facial steams, sinus oils – do these throughout the season, not just when symptoms are intense. Drinking plenty of water and liver-supportive teas will also improve the situation. Consider spring and fall liver cleansing for more relief over the long term.