Hayfever symptoms typically include sneezing, runny nose, burning eyes, lethargy and headaches. And for those who suffer, the pleasure of the spring and summer months are ruined by their allergy to pollen.
In Ayurveda, symptoms are classified by the three different constitutional types. So, Vata (an air type) will usually have a cough with some phlegm, headache, insomnia along with restlessness and anxiety. Pitta, (a fire type), are likely to suffer with burning eyes, thirst, yellow nasal discharge and skin rashes. The Water type, known as Kapha, will produce abundant clear or white phlegm and will feel the most dull and lethargic. As a result treatment will vary for each type, depending on which is the most dominant.
Naturally the trigger is the allergy to pollen. However, allergic rhinitis can also result from other environmental sensitivities from pollution to dust, washing powders and animal hair to name just a few. And, whilst hay fever sufferers will know when to expect their first symptoms, we are all at risk after a period of stress or debilitating illness, when the immune system has been on high alert and working harder than usual to protect and heal our body. Stress, overwork and illness weakens our immune system; as a result it overreacts and becomes hypersensitive to these environmental factors which it has coped with well in the past. With allergic rhinitis, this overreaction comes in the form of the overproduction of histamine in the mucous linings in the nose and sinuses.
A strong immune system, which reacts appropriately to bacteria, viruses, and pollution and not overly threatened by dust, pollen and other allergens, is, in Ayurveda, linked to strong digestion with a seasonal diet of freshly prepared warm food, along with a balance of work and downtime. It is important to avoid a diet rich in cheese, yoghurt, ice-cream and cows milk along with sugary foods which increase the production of mucous.
If there is no health reason to avoid it, local – local is important – honey with warm water and fresh ginger tea taken regularly in the run-up to the start of the season has many fans who report a reduction in symptoms during their next bout of hay fever.
For treatment of allergic rhinitis, I concentrate on symptom relief, strengthening the digestion, fortifying and calming the immune system and soothing the nervous system and stress reduction. There are many herbs that offer both symptomatic relief and long term treatment and also have the advantage that they do not cause drowsiness.
Ayurvedic Health Tip
Regularly cleanse the nasal passages using a neti pot with warm salt water. Regular use will really help to clear the congestion and phlegm, soothe the inflamed mucous membranes and therefore reduce the irritation. If this can be done regularly throughout the year it will help to reduce the symptoms and prepare for the following hay fever season.