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Hay Fever

It’s hayfever time again. You can have allergic reactions at any time of year, but grass and other pollens are definitely one of the most common things to set us off. Anything from itchy eyes and a runny nose to a full-blown asthma attack can result.

It seems very unfair, just as the weather is cheering up and spring is unfolding, but there are herbs that can help.

An allergic reaction begins with the release of histamine, which sets various inflammatory processes in train. It’s a normal response to infectious micro-organisms, but if you are allergic, your body responds to triggers like pollen, animal fur and so on. So there are two levels on which to work: reducing the severity of the allergic response, and avoiding having it in the first place

Plenty of plants contain constituents that have an anti-histamine action: nettles, ribwort, chamomile and yarrow are common examples. Take them during the hayfever season and they will ease your symptoms; and if you start taking them before the season begins, and keep taking them throughout – whether you think you still need them or not – they will strengthen your system and calm down the allergic response. I’ve seen this happen, many times, and I know there is always something that can be done.

Sometimes stronger measures are needed. Herbs like Euphorbia and Ephedra can help to avert an asthma attack, but the dose needs to be carefully controlled and you should consult a professional herbalist. As your immune system calms down, you need less herbs to keep yourself out of trouble.

It really does work. One of my very first patients was a farrier who was allergic to horsehair. He was on the verge of giving up the job, but the herbs helped to turn things around. At first he needed heroic doses – he used to swig from the bottle before starting to shoe a horse, and goodness knows what his human clients thought – but gradually, over three or four years, the amount he needed got smaller, until he didn’t need the herbs at all. That was over twenty years ago, and he’s still working.

EDITOR: Su has an excellent handbook available from her website or click here to buy from Amazon.

Meet The Author...
Su Bristow
Who Am I?
I studied at the School of Herbal Medicine for four years, and qualified in 1989, becoming a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists ( The road to herbal medicine led from my early interest in organic gardening and healthy eating, through the study of social and physical anthropology at Cambridge, where I specialised in medical anthropology. What fascinated me was how people deal with their health problems when they have only the natural resources around them, and their own ingenuity. I went on to learn massage and reflexology, and worked at a residential naturopathic clinic, where I learned about the use of diet and other natural ways of healing. After qualifying as a herbalist, I set up practice in mid-Devon. Since then I have continued to expand my expertise, with counselling skills, first aid, and knowledge of the Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of herbal medicine. Besides one-to-one consultation, I have also taught evening classes, students of the Westcountry Massage Association, and various private courses.
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