Are you a hanky kind of person or tissues? I personally prefer the softness, washability and sustainability of the good old cotton handkerchief. Many friends find this a perfectly revolting idea and prefer the crisp folds and superior hygiene of the disposable pocket tissue. If you are a parent then chances are you have one or t’other on hand at all times, not for yourself necessarily but for the many occasions when your little one needs something smeary or goopy removed from their face.
The main reason, of course, that we need either of these devices is nasal congestion. Excess mucus in the nose and sinuses. Catarrh, snot, coryza, call it what you will, we all know what it is. The two main causes of such a phenomenon are bugs and allergies. Bugs as in bacterial or viral illness, usually viral, usually a head-cold. Allergies as in pollens, dust, dust-mites, that kind of thing. When it is allergic in origin it is called allergic rhinitis; “rhin” meaning ‘nose’ and being the same origin as “rhinoceros”, which is what you might feel like when you’re all bunged up and congested.
Whatever the cause, the outcome is an irritation of the mucous membranes in the nasal passages and sinus cavities which results in increased ‘secretions’, a delicate word for a potentially unpleasant substance. The secretions are the body’s way of defending itself and flushing out the unwanted irritant. Clever old body.
Herbal treatments of nasal congestion ideally focus on treating the cause AND the symptoms. If the cause is a bug (or pathogen if you want the technical term), it is important to boost the immune response to deal with the intruder. If the cause is an allergen, it is important to balance the immune response so that it is not so hyperactive. Luckily, some herbs can both boost and balance, and Echinacea root is one of the best. Other herbs for allergic rhinitis are Baical Skullcap, Rehmannia and Eyebright.
Symptomatically, the keys are to reduce mucus production by reducing inflammation and by toning and tightening the membranes, and also to improve the ability to breathe through the nose to reduce discomfort. Herbs with the power to do this include the wonderful and under-utilised Ribwort, which may just be growing up in the cracks of your driveway, and the somewhat larger but no less prolific roadside weed Elderflower. Both of these herbs possess considerable anti-inflammatory activity and help to reduce nasal congestion and are the key ingredients in De-Stuff and De-Stuff for Kids. Also Peppermint is a favourite for helping ease nasal breathing and opening up the airways. A combination of these herbs can have an impressively rapid effect.
The herbs mentioned above have the added advantage of helping to keep the ears clear, which is wonderful especially when dealing with babies and infants who get recurrent ear problems.
So whether you are a hanky or a tissue kind of person, you may just be able to keep them tucked away safely in your pocket with the right combination of medicinal herbs on hand.