Remedies for Allergy Season
A home medicine kit for allergy season can help get you through the spring—a time of year that would be delightful were it not for the allergies. To make your kit, first determine whether your allergy, or those of your family or clients, involves vata, pitta, or kapha. Then you can build the appropriate home medicine chest with remedies for before, during, and after allergy season.
Allergy Manifestation and the Doshas
Pitta allergies and hay fever express in very red, sore eyes and sore, red, inflamed, and itchy nose, and it may feel exactly as if one has been chopping onions. A low fever or tenderness throughout the body may manifest. The liver area may be sore and tender and pitta emotions, like feeling unusually irritable, may occur. Exposure to bright sunlight sets off sneezing attacks. There are some allergens that are notorious for setting off pitta allergies in people of any constitution. Citrus blossoms, for example, can initiate a pitta allergy attack because the pollen is so hot, sharp, and sour. The same applies to the pollen of Anacardiaceae, members of the Sumac family, such as mangoes and cashews.
Kapha allergies manifest with a dull, heavy feeling in the head, very stuffy nose and sinuses, a feeling of fullness in the face, swollen eyes, lethargy and sleepiness, and copious mucus production. There may be onset of asthma related to post-nasal drip. Some damp-related allergens such as molds will set off kapha allergies and asthma in susceptible people of all constitutions.
A vata-caused allergy attack could be set off by exposure to dry dust and would typically involve a feeling of excess dryness and pain in the nose and sinuses, as well as a dry, hoarse feeling in the throat. Spasmodic asthma may result in severe cases. However, above and beyond these typical vata manifestations, it is very important to be aware of the role of vata in allergies that appear to be related to pitta or kapha. The doshas that are present throughout the body are not necessarily those that are expressing in the head. It is often the case that vata may push the other doshas to the head. In fact, it is in this situation that Ayurvedic analysis really comes into its own.
To give an example, a mother brought her eighteen-month-old child in with a head cold. The mother was very concerned because the stepmother had given the same herbs that had cured the stepbrother, "So why didn't my child get well?" On examination it was obvious that the little girl was vata, with vata pushing kapha to the head. A dose of bitter herbs such as echinacea was exactly what she did not need. As soon as she stopped the herbs, she got well. It is always important to be aware of the role of vata pushing kapha to the head. In such situations, ensure that the remedy will not be vata-provoking.
Vata's Allergy Remedies
It is important to begin preparation for allergy season about a month ahead of time. For vata-caused allergies, organic sesame oil is an essential item. To prepare for allergy season, begin regular self-massage with sesame oil or Vata Massage Oil. This will help keep vata in check so it will not push the doshas to the head. Dashamula is another item vata should always have on hand. It can be used for basti (enema) therapy in preparation for allergy season. Dashamula tea is also a pleasant beverage which helps pacify vata. A teaspoon of ashwagandha can be taken at bedtime in a cup of warm milk to help balance vata.
During allergy season, vata can use sitopaladi churna to mitigate symptoms of runny nose and cough. For vata pushing kapha, causing sinus symptoms or asthma, dashamula tea is the perfect remedy since it pacifies both vata and kapha. Charaka also recommends dashamula kunji, which is rice gruel prepared with dashamula and is said to alleviate "cough, hiccough, breathlessness, and kapha." In vata-type allergies, nasya oil is the best remedy for dry, painful nasal passages, while licorice tea will alleviate a dry, raspy throat. Licorice is also endowed with anti-allergy properties. After allergy season is over, it is wise to continue with nasya oil for about a month to help the nasal mucosa recover from the assault of the allergens.
Pitta's Allergy Remedies
At least a month before allergy season, pitta needs to get to work on strengthening the liver and reducing pitta dosha. Mahasudarshan is the remedy of choice in preparation for allergy season. The actions of mahasudarshan in strengthening the liver, cleansing the lymphatics, and reducing pitta are ideal for this situation. Unfortunately, Mahasudarshan can be difficult to come by, in which case, general immune boosting herbs may be used. One of those immune boosting herbs is amalaki—an item pitta should always have on hand. Its action as a virechana (laxative) herb in gently removing excess pitta dosha is an essential preparation for allergy season. Steep ½ teaspoon for ten minutes in boiling water, strain, and sip before bedtime. In preparation for allergy season, it is also important to follow a pitta-soothing anti-inflammatory diet, avoiding fried foods, processed foods, nightshades, chilies, onions and garlic, red meat, and egg yolks. Avoiding excess consumption of alcohol and caffeine will also be of great benefit. A week of a cleansing kitchari fast will be an ideal preparation for those prone to severe allergies.
During allergy season, many people have recourse to over-the-counter antihistamines. Unfortunately, these remedies are in themselves pitta-provoking, thus tending to be counterproductive. An equally good antihistamine effect can be obtained from the humble turmeric. Mix a teaspoon of turmeric in honey and eat to dispel an allergy attack or allergic asthma episode more or less instantly. It is important to use organic turmeric. We stock our kitchen with Banyan's organic turmeric to use for all our cooking and home remedy purposes to be certain we are getting the full benefit from the turmeric.
For red, sore eyes, an anti-inflammatory eyewash can be prepared from amalaki, and make sure to use distilled water.
After allergy season is over, it is time to rejuvenate pitta with Shatavari Kalpa. Roast 1 ounce of shatavari with 1–2 tablespoons ghee in a cast iron pan until light brown and add 2 tablespoons of sucanat, rapadura or turbinado sugar, 2 pinches saffron, and a pinch of freshly ground cardamom. This can be eaten two or three times daily and is especially good with warm milk at bed time.
Kapha's Allergy Remedies
Detoxifying lymphatics and strengthening the lungs are necessary steps for kapha in preparing for allergy season. Unfortunately for kapha, allergy season follows hot on the heels of flu season. If Kapha was hit by flu or bronchitis, then the best preparation for allergy season is to take Chyavanprash twice daily to strengthen the lungs. Triphala will also help with overall detoxification: add ½ teaspoon to boiling water, steep for ten minutes, strain, and take at bedtime. Eliminate the kapha-provoking foods from the diet, especially wheat and cow dairy.
During allergy season, punarnava is God's gift to kapha, possessing anti-histamine properties and kapha-soothing and lung-strengthening properties. Mix ½ teaspoon of punarnava in honey and eat after meals. Turmeric can be used for an acute allergy attack and dashamula tea for symptoms of cough and breathlessness. For allergic asthma, it is also beneficial to take a pinch of pippali in 2 tablespoons of aloe vera. This can be taken after meals along with the punarnava remedy. For swollen eyes, an eyewash can be prepared from punarnava. Always use distilled water for eyewash preparations.
Pollens and molds have been found to adhere to the nasal mucosa, causing ongoing problems that may even outlast allergy season. To remedy this situation, nasya or saline nasal rinse is crucial. A nasal rinse cup or neti pot is an essential piece of equipment both for kapha individuals and for those vata people who typically suffer from vata pushing kapha to the head. Be sure to use purified water for your nasal rinse, as you do not want to assault your nasal mucosa with chlorine, which could adversely affect the flora of your nose. And it is important after washing the nose to dry it with forward bending poses, side to side stretches such as Waving Palm Tree, and vigorous Alternate Nostril breathing (Anuloma Viloma).
After allergy season, the lungs can be further rejuvenated by resuming Chyavanprash. Punarnava can also be continued as it is an important rejuvenative for kapha.
By making use of a medicine chest of Ayurvedic remedies for allergy season, allergy sufferers may begin to find spring enjoyable for the first time. Indeed, faithfully following all the relevant suggestions here could greatly improve overall health and well-being. I never cease to be amazed at how herbs such as turmeric, amalaki, licorice, and purnarnava seem tailor-made for our needs. Although it is often plants that give rise to hay fever and allergies, it is also through a wise use of medicinal plants that these troubling symptoms can be relieved.