Today I want to talk about my latest experiment for allergy relief. I happen to be allergic to many things which is in some ways unfortunate and in other ways a great gift. I see my allergies as a gift because they have been the greatest teachers and motivators in my life always keeping me on my toes searching for healing and relief. I have to say allergies are what brought me to my path of herbalism and apothecary practices. So, as uncomfortable as allergy suffering can be, there are some great benefits like exploring the world of plants and herbal remedies!
My latest experimenting consists of an herbal infusion made of:
3 parts nettle
3 parts peppermint
2 parts elderflower
1/2 part marshmallow root
1/4 part licorice root.
The part refers to the relationship between the amounts of each ingredient. In my case the part I am using is a tablespoon (so 3 tablespoons of nettle, 3 of mint, 2 tablespoons of elderflower, etc.). If you wanted to make a smaller amount your part could be a teaspoon.
I put the mixture into a quart canning jar and fill it full of boiling water. Be sure to do this slowly to allow the jar to warm up. Too much hot water too fast into a cold jar can cause it to crack or break. I am letting it steep from 4-8 hours. This makes the blend be strong, nourishing and something I drink over the course of the day. But, you could also mix up a batch and just use 1-2 tsp steeped in a cup of boiling water for a nice cup of tea that can bring you some relief from allergy symptoms.
Let's take a look at the purpose of each ingredient in this blend.
Nettle - Urtica dioica - Nettle contains natural antihistamines and anti-inflammatories that open up constricted bronchial and nasal passages. Its beneficial affects on allergies may be due its ability to reduce the amount of histamine the body produces in response to an allergen. In general nettle is used as a cleansing and detoxifying herb. It promotes the elimination of waste and toxins in the body through increased urination. It is also high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc, Vitamin B's and A. It contains niacin, vitamin C, D and K.
Peppermint - Mentha piperita - The high menthol content of peppermint helps to open up the respiratory passageways, and relieve congestion making breathing a bit easier. It also tastes good which makes it a useful addition to many tea blends. Mint is rich in Vitamins A and C and also contains small amounts of minerals such as manganese, copper, iron, potassium and calcium.
Elderflower - Sambucus nigra - Elderflower is mildly relaxing and has anti catarrhal properties which help the body get rid of excess phlegm. It is also anti-inflammatory and promotes the elimination of toxins from the body through increasing perspiration. This makes elderflower useful for nasal congestion, throat inflammation and bronchial conditions. It is high in vitamin C and flavonoids and is useful for colds and winter chills. The flowers tone the mucus membranes increasing their resistance to infection. It is suggested that elderflower infusions can decrease the severity of hayfever attacks especially when taken for some months prior to hayfever season.
Marshmallow root - Althea offcinalis - Marshmallow protects and soothes the mucus membranes which line the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems. It is soothing and and decreases inflammation of the mucus membranes helping to expel phlegm and relax the bronchial tubes. It helps with dry coughs and bronchial congestion.
Licorice root - Glycyrrhiza glabra - Licorice reduces inflammation and supports the adrenal glands. It acts as an expectorant, getting rid of phlegm and mucus from the respiratory tract. Substances in this herb are able to enhance the body's production of cortisol, a hormone that decreases inflammation. In Chinese medicine, licorice is said to replenish vital energy, moisten the lungs, strengthen the digestion and modulate the effects of other herbs. It is also very sweet so use it sparingly to sweeten tea blends.*Licorice can raise blood pressure if taken in large doses for long periods of time.
Lately, I have been experiencing some pretty drastic allergic reactions. I'm not sure what I'm reacting to but my eyes are very itchy, my nose is stuffy off and on, my lungs feel tight and constricted and I am experiencing hives off and on during the day. So I thought it would be a good time to test out this allergy tea blend. As I said above I am drinking a quart of strong infusion over the course of the day. And I have been doing this off and on for a couple of weeks now.
What I am finding is that my eyes stop itching usually within about 10 minutes. My lungs open up immediately and breathing becomes easier. My nose opens up also within about 10 minutes and often hives and rashes calm down quickly. All of this lasts for several hours. When I notice the symptoms coming on again I drink another cup of the tea. I'm mostly drinking it cold because I've let it infuse for such a long time but I'm sure a cup made with 1-2 teaspoons of the hot tea would work well for most minor symptoms.
Try it yourself and let us know what happens!
James Duke, The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook (2000)
Andrew Chevallier, Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants (1996)