The splendor of spring signals a rebirth not just in the physical world around us, but also within ourselves. As we take in the beauty of the new season -- the increased light and warmth, budding blooms and singing birds -- we should take inventory of how we feel emotionally and physically. During this time of renewed reflection, we can set clear intentions that may have been left dormant during the long winter.
But for those of us who suffer from allergies, it can be hard to gather the energy required to push ourselves into a full awakening. With spring’s first bloom, clouds of pollen from flowers, trees and grass are sent swirling through the air, triggering symptoms of allergic reactions, including the dreaded postnasal drip, coughing, sneezing and itchy, watery eyes. Allergies can take their toll on our mental well-being. They zap our clarity and the ability to focus on our daily tasks, much less deeper contemplation. To make matters worse, we’re advised to stay inside and shut the windows -- right at the time we want to commune with nature.
Thankfully, there are several simple natural remedies that can be very effective for allergy relief. We’ve gathered our favorites for you to try. Different remedies work for different people, so try a variety and see which works best for you.
1. Shower After a Long Day Outside
Pollen sticks to our hair, body and clothes. After a long day outside, take a hot shower to wash off any pollen residue. Another benefit: the steam from your shower can open up your sinuses, helping you to breathe easier. Be sure to rinse your eyes with cool water, too.
2. Avoid Toxic Air
Polluted air can worsen your symptoms, so do try to limit your outdoor activity on super smoggy days. Exposure to smoke, including tobacco smoke and smoke from grills, can aggravate respiratory allergies, so try to avoid contact as best you can. (Which doesn’t mean you can’t go to your neighbor’s barbecue! Just don’t stand right next to the grill.)
3. Use a Neti Pot
A neti pot has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda to alleviate sinus and allergy problems. Irrigating the sinuses with salt water soothes dry nasal passages, washes away pollen and removes excess mucous naturally. You can make your own saline solution by dissolving one teaspoon of sea salt or non-iodized table salt in a pint of warm purified water inside the neti pot. To flush, tilt the head to the left side, insert the spout into the right nostril, keeping the head tilted slightly forward so that the salt water drains back out through the left nostril and into the sink. Breath through the mouth. Let the water flow until the pot is empty. Gently blow your nose and repeat on the other side. When the process is complete, blow your nose, clearing both nostrils at once.
4. Drink Peppermint Tea
The next time you feel congested, sip peppermint tea. The essential oil in peppermint acts as a decongestant and provides anti-inflammatory benefits as well.
5. Try Herbal Supplements
Don’t give into the temptation of traditional over-the-counter drugs that come with unwanted side effects, like drowsiness and dry mouth. Instead, search out natural antihistamines. Quercetin is a natural bioflavonoid and powerful antioxidant that reduces inflammation and boosts the immunity in your mucous membranes. It can prevent allergy symptoms altogether if taken 4-6 weeks before allergy season. Nettle leaf may be a common weed, but it can be very effective, since it naturally blocks the body’s ability to produce histamine. Look for freeze-dried stinging nettle in capsule form.
6. Maintain a Healthy Diet
It should go without saying that eating whole fresh foods and avoiding processed foods will help provide the body the nutrients its needs to fight inflammation. Include foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as cold-water fish, walnuts and flaxseed oil. Consider fermented foods, like Kombucha or Kefir (or take a daily probiotic) to help boost gut bacteria. And, of course, drink plenty of water to prevent infection caused by thick mucous.