Herbs for Allergies

Posted on Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

As a Western Clinical Herbalist, to work with allergies, I look at the environmental factors, diet and improve the body’s defenses with herbs.  You can help yourself get through allergy season with fewer traumas with herbs and some simple changes to your lifestyle.

One in five Americans suffer from allergies or asthma symptoms.  Many don’t seek help because the symptoms aren’t serious enough; however, many people with allergies find that allergies seriously impact their quality of life.  Allergic reactions can also be fatal.  Over the counter medications can help relieve allergy symptoms, but don’t assist the body in improving its defenses against allergies in the first place.

Allergic Reaction:

Immune response hyper-activity in response to allergens is on the rise as our bodies have a larger toxic burden from modern living – exposure to chemicals, polluted air, water, soil, foods with chemicals and car exhaust.   This means that our bodies have a harder time processing these allergens with no allergic response.  Also of note, if you have one parent with allergies, you will have a 33% chance of developing allergies.  If both parents have allergies, you have a 70% chance of developing allergies.

When exposed to an allergen, the body responds by producing congestion and mucus to seal off the allergen “Invader”.

The mucus is created through the following process:  The body creates antibodies to fight off the allergen invaders that attach themselves to the mast cells in the nose and airway.  Mast cells are immune system cells that detect foreign substances and initiate local inflammatory responses against them. In turn, the mast cells produce and release a chemical call histamine, which latch onto nearby blood vessels causing them to dilate and widen.  This results in the inflammatory symptoms of allergies such as watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, sinus congestion or infection, resulting headaches or asthma.  Sometimes the body tries to throw off this excess though the skin resulting in hives or rashes.


Most allergies are protein based.  The body doesn’t recognize how to synthesize these proteins without an allergic response:

  • Pollen – Trees, plants, grasses.  This is the most common reason for “hayfever”.  Consider staying inside on high pollen count days, look into air filtration systems if your allergies are severe enough.
  • Dust – Dust includes molds, fibers, pollen, insects, insect feces, animal dander & dust mites.  Most often it is the dust mite.  They live on skin and flourish where we sleep.  2 million mites can live on one mattress.  Carpeting, upholstered furniture, draperies and air ducts all trap dust mites.  Bedroom and pillows are the first line of defense.  Use special coverings for mattresses and pillows. Avoid down comforters.  Get rid of carpeting.  Use washable furniture covers.
  • Cockroaches & rodents– not the creature but their droppings..  37% of inner-city kids tested were allergic to roaches.  Keep foods wrapped-up, pet food too.  Always put trash in a container with a lid.
  • Fluffy – your pet – Flakes of skin and animal saliva have proteins in them that are potential allergens.
  • Mold & Mildew – Molds are parasitic, microscopic fungi that grows in damp areas- San Francisco is mold central. So is your bathroom and under your kitchen sink where water may be escaping.  Look for black mold around your tub or on the shower curtain or ceiling of your bathroom.

Herbal Support for Allergies

Herbal support for allergies would look at herbs to help support the body by using:

  • Bitters to tone the immune system response.  Use daily 3-5 drops 15 minutes before each meal to strengthen the digestion and synthesis of protein allergens.  Probably the most important component of herbal allergy treatment.
  • Decongestant herbs will help clear any mucus.  Remember to not east congestive foods such as dairy and sugar. Licorice Root, Fennel Seed, Ginger Root &Yerba Mansa
  • Anti-inflammatory herbs to soothe inflammation: Echinacea, Reishi Mushrooms & Turmeric
  • Anti-histamine herbs to tone the histamine response: Nettles & Bee Pollen
  • Adrenal Enhancing herbs to ensure that there is enough cortisol in your body to counter the inflammatory process.  It is your body’s natural steroid: Licorice Root, Astralagus Root, Sarsaparilla Root & Kelp
  • Anti-oxidant herbs to reduce inflammation: Rosehips, Elderberry, Bilberry, Garlic & Kelp
  • Immune support herbs to avoid infection: Bupleurum, Echinacea (stimulates the production of interferon, a natural body substance that increases the body’s ability to defend itself against disease) & Goldenseal
  • Liver support herbs to help clear out liver congestion so that the body can process the allergen more efficiently: Oregon Grape Root, Yellow Dock Root, Burdock Root, Bupleurum & Milk Thistle
  • Respiratory Tonic Support: Mullein tea to strengthen the lungs.

Protocol for allergies

  • Use bitters before meals
  • Review the allergen list above to look at the environmental factors that may be affecting you – use pillow covers etc.
  • For sinus congestion use nasal irrigation: Use a neti pot – 15 drops of yerba mansa and one drop peppermint oil in neti pot with warm water (make sure to stir the peppermint oil in as you don’t want to burn your nasal cavity.  2-3 x a day.
  • Eat Local Raw Honey. Pollen is produced by trees, flowers & grasses. The bees gather these pollens, which are then brought back to the hive and become blended in trace amounts with the honey that the bees produce. When you consume honeys that are both LOCATION-SPECIFIC, about a 50 mile radius from where you live and work, and/or from an area where the vegetation is similar, when the honey is also SEASONALLY-CORRECT (harvested during the season that in “Now”), you are ingesting just enough of the pollens currently airborne to help your system build up a resistance to the pollens that are causing your allergic reaction.  (Adapted from http://www.marshallshoney.com)
  • Foods to include in your diet:  Bee Pollen, Ginger, Turmeric, Rosehips, Burdock Root, Kelp, and Garlic
  • Avoid congestive foods such as dairy and sugar

Feel free to contact me for additional information:



Caution: Please check herbal side-effects or contra-indications before using herbs to make sure that they are safe for you.  For example, Licorice Root should not be used with folks that have High Blood Pressure.  Echinacea should be avoided with auto-immune disorders.

J. Blythe Adams        CommunityHerbalist.com ©