Our first herb of the month is Stinging Nettle, or Urtica Dioica. This plant has an extensive native range and is found all over, including Africa, Asia, and North America, where it grows wild as a forest herb. If you grow this, try to contain it in pots as it will self seed everywhere! The leaves of stinging nettles contain chemicals, including histamine, formic acid, serotonin, and acetylcholine, that when touched can produce a burning sensation on the skin. It is sometimes also called burn weed. These sensations can be minimized by wearing gloves when collecting, then allowing the herb to wilt before using.But never fear, it's many health benefits outweigh the stinging sensation, and it often grows near the dock plant, which when used on the skin, will remove the sting. You can also use a piece of adhesive tape on the skin to remove the fine hairs of the plant that cause the burning. More info on this amazing plant tomorrow!
What do we know about seasonal allergies anyway?
Quite a lot as it turns out. What we know is that an allergy is a response of our immune system. It happens to be an over-aggressive one, similar to the neurological response from your brain to your hand when you touch a hot pan, but that's actually a good thing, right? Yes! Because, the response is telling your body that you need to do something about it. You already knew that though. Sitting there sneezing, with watery eyes, maybe coughing, maybe itching, and probably wanting to buy stock in a tissue company!
So why do some people have this response and some do not?
The natural view is that some people have weak immune systems, or weak adrenal (that's your kidneys...they filter) systems, or possibly weak digestive systems. So it would make sense to treat the underlying cause, right? Right! Beginning allergy treatments at an appropriate time is key, and that is actually one or two months before the allergens that attack you the most appear.
What do I do now?
One of the best and most effective things to do is to attack allergies with good nutrition. Boosting your immune system, your kidneys, and your digestion in one fell swoop, this means of treating allergies can help to reduce the severity of your symptoms. And, because most people with airborne allergies are also sensitive to certain foods, you can start by trying to eliminate what causes you the most problems.
Begin by removing the most common triggers. Foods that contain caffeine, artificial colorings and sugar, nuts and red meats, fruits that are high in citric acid, and finally, wheat. See if it makes a difference.
Certain nutritional supplements can also help to combat the symptoms of a seasonal allergy. Probiotics are always key, as well as increasing what your body can healthily process of B vitamins, bromelains, and Vitamin E for a start.
Are there herbal remedies that can help?
Of course! I don't like to call them remedies. I prefer Herbal Complements. Why? Because I think that herbs are simply one instrument playing along in the orchestra of good health. You can't just use herbs, in the same way that you can't just use vitamins. Each has it's own role to play in optimizing the fine tuning of your body's symphony of health.
And since herbs are where we at Yellow House come in, all I can say is give us a call. Initial consults are free and if we can't help you, we will try to find someone who can.
So before you start those allergy shots this season, consider the underlying reasons for your miserable symptoms. Maybe this is the year we start building up suppression and end those sneezes for good!
Herbs have been used as medicine since time immemorial. We may have only recently harnessed the power of growing them ourselves, but the plant's role in the history of medicine is a long and storied one.
As an herbalist it is my job to learn from this past and share it with you. How do herbs work, and why should I use them? This is one of the most common questions I am asked. The how is a bit tricky, but the why is easy. Herbs are available in many forms now. You can go to your local health food store and purchase a supplement, and with luck, you might even get to talk to someone who can tell you a bit more about that particular herb, or help you find other things that will be effective for a particular lifestyle or medical issue. You can also add herbs to your diet to gain the benefits. Thanks to the recent surge in organic gardening you might even be able to find the herbs you want without pesticides or chemicals added.
Most importantly though, herbs are safe when used with the advice of an herbalist or Holistic Healthcare Practitioner. They don't come riddled with side effects and worries. And in some cases they can be a tasty alternative to a nasty pharmaceutical compound.
So whether used as a complement to conventional medicine, or alone, herbs are a great way to maximize your health and to help overcome health issues.
As an herbalist, I look forward to helping you explore the world of herbs, educate you about them along the way, and help you find a greener way to better health.