As we all know, overall health can never be perfected by addressing only ONE thing. If you think of the body as your empire, (contrary to most emperor’s beliefs) it is not solely the emperor who creates a successful reign, it takes everything and everyone around the emperor to create a successful empire. When thinking of your health, it is important to remember your body as an empire. If one part of the village is “off,” the empire could be defeated!
By definition an allergy is a reaction in the body to a foreign substance and is, therefore, an imbalance in the body and not due to something inherently wrong with the allergen. (Although, it is worth considering the allergen in many instances, such as in the case of genetically engineered ingredients… but for this blog we will set that discussion aside and focus on what one can do for their body.) Since the allergy is not in the allergen, we can say that the allergen is like the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It is not the straw, but the load! Therefore, in order to address allergies, we must improve overall health.
Standard recommendations for diet, exercise, sleep, etc. can be considered to improve overall health. According to each individual’s constitution and condition, specific recommendations may be necessary. For instance, people with excessive mucus in general and when suffering from allergies should avoid mucus-causing foods like dairy and processed foods. On the other hand, if a person is more on the dry side of the spectrum and experiencing irritation due to dryness, they should use foods that moisten the body and airways. Springtime examples of such foods include Strawberries, Chickweed, and Slippery Elm.
Since allergies are related to the immune system we can consider supporting the immune system, particularly if there are other signs of weakened immunity. Often it is said that one should not use “immune-boosting” herbs in the case of allergies, but such is over-simplified theory (emphasis on “theory” – the notion is largely abstract and not based on experience). Many medicinal mushrooms can help boost and regulate the immune system, particularly Reishi (Ling Zhi). Certain individuals can benefit from Licorice, Ginseng, and the like, that boost immunity and nourish the lungs. When inflammation is an obvious contributor, herbs like Dandelion can be used to remove the heat from the body. Common beverage herbs like Green Tea and Rooibos are also considered to be generally beneficial in the quest to overcome allergies and restore health.
-Contributed by Master Herbalist Nathaniel Whitmore