Spring is Here...and So Is Allergy Season!
In addition to the usual sniffles and itches, allergies can also be responsible for headaches, fatigue, and other cold-like symptoms. We know you love being out in your gardens this time of year, so here are a few of Pat’s favorite remedies to keep that golden plant dust a friend and not a foe:
*As always, check with your doctor before trying any new herb or plant if you have severe allergies or are on any medications.
1. Use a neti pot daily!
Some of you may be familiar with these genie lamps of sinus clarity—but have you tried using them consistently? It can make a world of a difference. For those of you new to neti pots, they are ergonomically shaped tea-pot-like vessels, originating from Indian Ayurvedic yoga tradition. The pot is filled with warm water and a pinch of sea salt and positioned so that so that the saline solution flows into one nostril and out the other, effectively flushing out the lower sinuses of pollen and other environmental allergens. While allergy medicine and other methods may suppress the histamine response to embodied allergens, if the irritants are not flushed from the body, the reaction can continue occurring—just as it’s important to remove a honeybee stinger right away so it doesn’t continue injecting venom. It only takes a minute or two to heat the water and add the salt once you get the hang of it, making it easy to use your neti pot after being outside, in the morning, or before bed as needed.
Nettles have been traditionally used in herbalism to support a healthy immune response to allergies, and to move things along through the body (in addition to being a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and plant-based protein). Nettles are coming up abundantly in many locales at this time of year, and can be harvested multiple times from the same patch. You can wear gloves while harvesting, but the nettles will lose their sting upon drying or cooking (though the hairs can still be somewhat irritating to those with sensitive skin when handled). Nettles also make a delicious delicious seasonal soup, along with leeks and early potatoes.
Cleavers are easy to identify from their wheel-spoke radial leaf arrangement and tendency to stick on clothing due to their many fuzzy hooked hairs. Cleavers have been traditionally used as a spring lymphatic cleanse. Lymphatic herbs are especially useful, as the lymph nodes collect bodily toxins and wastes, yet do not have an active pump like the cardiovascular system to eliminate them from the body. Drinking lots of water, exercising, and receiving massage can help cleanse the lymphs, and cleavers may also help this process along. The tea also just tastes great- like a fresh breath of spring :)
As has been mentioned on the show, many flowers which are currently in bloom are edible, and may support pollen desensitization. Similar to the concept of eating local raw honey, flowers like violets, redbuds, and black locust flowers are edible and contain small amounts of pollen which the body will digest and learn to recognize. Overwintered greens like kale and broccoli (in greenhouses) will also start to bolt with the increase in heat. Their sunny yellow flowers are sweet and vegetal.
My personal favorite floral seasonal delight is the nectar of tulip poplar flowers. These large tree flowers may fall to the ground in the forest, but are most accessible from a planted tree. These gorgeous trees provide shade, soil stabilization, and are the host for the beloved tiger swallowtail butterfly larvae. They make honesuckle nectar seem like a drop in the bucket, with gobs of nectar on the tie-dyed green-orange-yellow petals that is quite similar in texture and taste to wildflower honey.
Also called gill-over-the-ground and creeping Charlie, among others, this aromatic lawn invasive can create carpets of light purple flowers this time of year. While usually necessary to weed from beds, they can be made into a tea which may alleviate congestion. Many European cultures historically used the leaves of this plant as a salad green. The taste is herbal and medicinal (i.e. not for everyone), but undoubtedly a great plant ally to know about.
Phytonutrients from seasonal greens help the body in myriad ways. Some of my favorite ways to incorporate these ephemeral veggies are chickweed pesto and kuku sabzi.
To make chickweed pesto, simply substitute chickweed for some or all of the basil ratio in your favorite pesto recipe. The flavor is bright, fresh, and green-bean-like.
Kuku sabzi is a traditional Persian frittata served during Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which falls in the spring. Containing eggs and copious amounts of fresh garden herbs, the frittata is both healthy and a symbol of spring fecundity. As each grandmother has her own style and secrets in the kitchen, you can find a variety of recipes for kuku sabzi online--but one thing you'll find in common is that so many herbs are used that the frittata ends up a verdant green! This makes a unique and nutritious contribution to a picnic or potluck—enjoyed out of doors in the beautiful weather!
6. Clean often.
While not as exciting as making kuku sabzi, the power of cleaning cannot be overstated! Showering as soon as you get indoors, changing clothes, and washing pillowcases and bedsheets often can make a significant difference in how you fare with spring allergens. Air purifiers have become very efficient and economical and can be total game changers for your home or workplace--look for one with a HEPA filter and suited to the square footage of your space.
So take some deep breaths and get out and enjoy the spring glory!
Wishing you wellness,