Monday, May 9, 2011

Seasonal Allergies--Holistic treatment?

A sad and worried Greenmom sends her son to school with drippy nose and bright red eyes...

I’ve managed through trial and error to manage a lot of our family’s health issues with non-pharmaceutical medical treatments. Echinacea tincture and green smoothies to build the immune system and keep the bugs away to begin with, diffused essential oils like eucalyptus and tea tree to clear out the passages, medicinal teas and herbal potions to alleviate symptoms when they do come—like peppermint and ginger for indigestion, lemon balm for stuffiness, slippery elm for inflamed throats and voices, stuff like that—and the occasional homeopathic remedy when things get a little tougher.

This time I may be stumped. My son appears to have fairly severe seasonal allergies. In the past few weeks he’s gone from a little eye rubbing to full-fledged coughs and sneezes, nostrils lined with gross dried boogerishness, and eyes so red he looks kinda like a werewolf. (Um…I hope they are seasonal allergies. When’s the next full moon?)

I’m looking at my pharmacopeia and realizing I don’t really have much to work with here, except for treating the symptoms themselves. We give him elderberry cough syrup for the cough (and immune building), and tea for the general symptoms, but beyond that I don’t really know what to do.

Which gives me something new to do a Google search about.

Unfortunately, even Google is of limited help this time. What I get are a lot of miracle cure potions, rather than actual material medica information. But I know my Google, and I have come up with some possibilities:

Nettle tea is said to be helpful for reducing hayfever symptoms. I’d never get him to drink it, but I might try a tincture in some juice. Angelica is another anti-allergy herb we might try. Licorice is an anti-inflammatory and demulcent, so while it might not address the causes of the symptoms it may alleviate them a good bit. Rooibos, found in a lot of teas, is also said to reduce histamine activity. Honey—specifically local honey—is also said to help with allergies, I suppose because it contains the allergens themselves in a form that helps the body in a quasi-immunotherapy kind of way to assimilate them. As with practically any other physical complaint, apple cider vinegar comes up in allergy relief searches as well as an aid in reducing rhinitis type symptoms, as does Vitamin C.

Acupuncture is having some pretty successful trials. I’m not sure I’m ready to try that on my 8-year-old…anyone have any experience with this particular art form?

Finally, I took a look at homeopathy. About 18 months ago I did a post here about my burgeoning interest in this popular but exceedingly non-intuitive form of health care, and since then I have been continuing to explore and learn about it. It’s still pretty darned non-intuitive, but it also seems to work, though I don’t really know why. Anyway, there’s a page on ABCHomeopathy that’s strictly for allergies, and it suggests that I might try Sabadilla or Capiscum Annuum for my son’s problems. I’m not sure how it works or if it works, but one way or the other I’m prepared to put down the $5.99 plus tax to give that a try before sending my son to the allergist and having his arms pricked full of little holes and then sending him for years of allergy shots.

On the other hand, I am resigned that the allergist and immunotherapy route might be where we’re headed one way or the other. We could make it a family affair—my husband already goes, and my cat allergies are bad enough that I’ve considered for years whether I should just suck it up and get the allergy shots for that. If it really is a family connection, my daughter might well be set to start her own allergies in a year or two…

And now (as usual) I shout out to Booth readers: anyone have any experience with holistic allergy treatments?

--Jenn the Greenmom

16 comments:

Andrea @ The Greenbacks Gal said...

I'm in the midst of miserable allergies myself. I find if I take anything over the counter I just end up with thick snot. Not less snot. Just thick. (Happy Monday thought) Anyway, I LOVE using a saline nasal rinse - whether you choose the neti pot or NeilMed (I find NeilMed easier to use) it really gives me a ton of relief. So much so, I don't mind spraying something up my nose!

mb said...

i don't have experience treating allergies but i can't say enough good about nettle, and i know if i had any family members with this problem it is where i'd start. i get what you're saying- you have the holistic remedies for symptoms worked out, and the next step i think is working out which plants and things like honey are nourishing tonics for you/your family (meaning they get used daily and help you build up strength over a longer period of time.) this is even more holistic in the sense that it's dealing with longer term, less obvious effects (it's harder to see nettle at work unless you use it for a while) rather than point-source treatment of an infection. good luck- allergies are no fun. :(

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I use a neti pot every day, and it helps with the symptoms not taken care of by the zyrtec I also take every day. Particularly the itchy eyes. But I tried getting my eight year old to try it, and oh no, not happening.

I've heard very good things about nettle and allergies, though I haven't tried it. I also consider peppermint to be a miracle herb - it always seems to be on the list for any ailment - and my son and I both drink peppermint tea whenever we feel congested.

Jessica said...

I used to have such bad allergy attacks that i would have to stay home from work or school because I'd be sneezing so much. I'm not exaggerating when I say I was, at times, sneezing 200 or more times a day. Anyway, I stopped drinking milk and that helped a LOT. I still get allergy attacks but nothing like the ones I used to have. Cayenne in pill form (or in food, if your lips don't swell up and tingle from eating it) helps clear up the sinuses. Avoid the 100,000 scoville heat unit and go for a lower heat unit if you can't handle heat. I accidentally picked up the 100,000 and got severe heart burn and stomach cramps.

Aside from that, get rid of dust and pollen in your home by washing your bedding and sweeping/vacuuming often.

TheSimplePoppy said...

I've had pretty good success with herbal allergy capsules. They have to have a combo of nettles, quercetin - they often have other helpful ingredients. I've never gone to an allergist so I don't how severe mine would be classified as, but I do know that it would be nothing for me to sneeze 50 or more times during a trip outside in nature. I also eat local honey. Nothing I've used cures them completely, but I find these things make my allergies totally bearable.

Heather said...

If nothing else works, could I encourage you to try the allergy shots? I had them myself over about 4 years, and they were magic! The allergist diagnosed that I actually had such severe hayfever that I had it year round - it got worse in the pollen season, but never went away. I had no idea. I'd never really thought about the fact that other people could breathe through their noses and I never could :-)

The allergy shots are a big hassle, as you have to take them for so long and they need to be done quite frequently at first. However, although they're made by pharmaceutical companies, they're basically as 'natural' as you can get. They don't contain anything synthetic or petroleum-derived except maybe a presevative - other than that they are simply extracts of whatever natural stuff the person is allergic to, and water.

JGB said...

My eight year old and I are suffering with allergy shiners around our eyes, major itching with bloodshot eyes, our noses are red and drippy. We have tried Allium Cepa which is a homeopathic medicine for allergies and we have had some good luck with it. Not cured, but definitely subsided. We take four three times a day... not so bad and they taste sweet for that eight year old taste bud...good luck. I am sure he is so miserable and drained of energy.

Krista said...

I suggest you read Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride. It talks about what's the cause of the allergies (the gut is not healthy)and how to cure it (eat lots of nourishing foods like homemade stock and fermented vegetables).

Clean by Alejandro Junger is written from a different angle. He thinks a 3 week detox is all you need. You have two liquid meals per day (morning and dinner) and it all is natural unless you decide to buy one of the kits.

Mitty said...

My daughter used nettle--it is pretty foul-tasting, but the allergies were awful enough that she held her nose and drank it. We used tincture in a half glass of water. Eyebright tincture also helped her with the itchy eyes for a while, but it shouldn't be used long-term. We didn't find the homeopathic remedies to be of much help for allergies.

ruiaf said...

Take him to the allergist to find out what he is allergic to. When you know what he's up against, everything becomes much easier to deal with.

Also something obvious: using sun glasses outside helps a lot with the red eyes since it avoids some pollen in the eyes.

Catherine Love said...

Nettle tea does help, as do local honey and apple cider vinegar. My oldest daughter hates the taste of nettle tea, but will force it down in order to find allergy relief! We've also had good results from Al-R-G from Trilight Herbs.
Hope you find a solution that works for you.
Blessings,
Catherine

knutty knitter said...

Acupuncture definitely works. My mother used that for several years with very good results.

viv in nz

Jenn the Greenmom said...

Thanks, all! (JGB--"Allergy Shiners"--I've never heard that before, but it's PERFECT for what his eyes look like right about now.) We will most likely end up going the allergy shot route, but it's so absolutely NOT a quick fix that at least we want to find ways to give him a little relief now.

We're trying some homeopathic stuff now, and the elderberry syrup for his cough...I may try a saline nasal spray for him, though as Erin said, getting an 8 year old to Neti might be more of a battle than I'm prepared to face. It also probably wouldn't hurt to get him off so much dairy; he drinks a crazy amount of milk, and I keep thinking that might be setting some of his problems off. And it's good to hear that some of you have tried some of the stuff I've researched and vouch for it.

We'll see how it all goes!

AmazinAlison said...

Purely anecdotal, but in the 1.5 years since going gluten free (that covers two springs) I have not had a single allergy related sniff.

In the years preceding that change in diet, I lived on a diet of Claritin, coffee, Kleenex, eucalyptus, nasal spray, and still felt and looked miserable, tired, had a scratchy throat all through allergy season.

And, I do not test positive for celiac, but had many other symptoms that resulted in my diagnosis and need to be gluten free. The fact that I am now free of seasonal allergies is simply an unexpected bonus, but given that allergies are the result of an immune system interaction (as is gluten intolerance), perhaps not so surprising.

Anonymous said...

It's fine to try to go natural but... if the allergies are too bad they could end up in a sinus infection. My world view is that allergy shots are far less bad for my kid than antibiotics are. And, my husband has seasonal allergies so bad that he had to have sinus surgery (after having 6 massive infections in one year) - which has dramatically helped him out. He does a combo sinus rinse and allegra and can usually fight off the bad infections with extra rinses (he ads grapefruit seed extract to the rinse)...

Our 3 year old daughter just now developed allergies and we've yet to see a doctor for them. Allegra is now (happily) over the counter and are working well for her. You might consider that before going the shot route. We only use it as needed, too. And again, a few weeks of allegra surely beats out a round of antibiotics... (she's never been on them yet!). Good luck.

Alison said...

We do use homeopathy and I've now trained as a Homeopath. So I can't give you any specific advice I have to do a consult for that. But - there are several things I'd say. One is that saline or salty water is great for sore throats and sniffly/stuffy noses. If you have checks for specific allergens then you know what you need to avoid. If you are allergic to certain foods then you'd stay away from them. I use specific remedies for people who have evidence of what their allergens are ie moulds, grasses, pollens, cat hair, dust mites etc. And you can work to desensitise with homeopathy as well. I also use a remedy for specific outbreaks as well as other less specific remedies. The trouble is that you can't treat 'allergies' as such because you need to know what it is and how to dose it. If you see a homeopath they can do that - same as an allergist will. Some things need more than just home remedies.

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