Spring: while many people delight as daffodils and hyacinths bring the first daubs of colour back to the landscape, others inwardly sigh and brace themselves, knowing that itchy eyes and sneezing are just around the corner. For those who suffer from sensitivities due to the natural increase in pollens and airborne allergens at this time of year, the symptoms will be all too familiar; itchy watery eyes, sinus congestion, noses that are either stuffy or streaming (or both!), sneezing, itchy rashy skin, and a general sensation of irritability.
The sensation of irritability actually describes the body’s response perfectly. Allergenic material literally ‘irritates’ the tissues in the airways (nasal passages, sinuses, mouth, throat and lungs), or for some the skin (as in hives or dermatitis) or digestive tract. The irritation comes about due to a hyper-active immune response to the substance, whether it is pollen, dust or a food component. The body treats the substance as an unwanted invader (pathogen) and mobilises its best defences to attack. It is the immune response itself that creates the inflammation, swelling, redness and mucus production that we recognise as a hypersensitivity reaction. This response is actually a defence system, and relies on the production of chemical messengers such as histamine.
Seasonal sensitivities are all too common in Australia, and the degree of symptoms can vary from just plain annoying to completely debilitating.
A herbal approach to seasonal sensitivities prioritises the relief of symptoms while also working to rebalance the immune system, providing both short-term and long-term solutions.
Herbs such as Elderflower (Sambuccus nigra) and Ribwort (Plantago lanceolata) provide symptomatic relief by reducing the production of excess mucous, reducing inflammation and toning irritated tissues. Elderflower and Ribwort are both renowned anti-inflammatory herbs for all catarrhal conditions of the ears, nose and sinuses. While these herbs tone tissues through their astringency, they also soothe and heal tissues, meaning that they are not overly ‘drying’ although they do indeed reduce mucus production.
While many people think of Echinacea (E. purpurea, E. angustifolia) as purely for staving off winter colds, it is actually capable of so much more. Often those who have taken Echinacea through the winter for immune support will find they are surprised by fewer allergic symptoms come spring. This is because Echinacea does not simply stimulate the immune system, it balances it, therefore reducing sensitivities and hyper-reactivity.
The ability of herbal remedies like Kiwiherb De-Stuff and De-Stuff for Kids to address both the presenting symptoms and the underlying causes of seasonal sensitivities is what makes it a unique and valuable form of medicine. Herbs are only as good as their formulation, and when grown well, manufactured well and given in the right doses, can work incredibly quickly to provide relief. They also help to improve the body’s capacity to be less reactive in the medium and long-term, so everyone can enjoy all the colours of spring.