Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where my tissues is!
I love Spring and all its glories and challenges. New growth peeking out everywhere reminding you that plant identification is all about patience and maybe you don’t know as much botany as you thought. Warm, sunny days with yellow clouds of pollen coating everything in their path. Well, maybe I don’t love that particular celebration of yellow. Does your love of spring get dampened by sneezing, itching eyes and rashes too? I thought I would share some of my favorite herbal goodies for combating the woes of allergy season.
My daily go-to plant for allergy symptoms is Urtica dioica, Stinging Nettle, in the form of both tea and tincture. I have fresh Nettle available during the growing season and make enough tincture (extract) to last me through the winter months. I am “blessed” with year round allergies and a daily dose of Nettle extract is extremely helpful. I fill a jar with freshly picked Nettle leaves and pour enough 100 proof vodka over the top to just cover the plants. Allow the leaves and alcohol to sit for at least six weeks before using. Give the jar an occasional shake during the waiting period, just make sure the plant material stays covered. A longer period of time is fine too. I often let extracts “do their work” for months before straining. I strain the extract into dark-colored 4 ounce jars with dropper and label. I use one to two droppers daily under my tongue. If you prefer not to use alcohol you can make a glycerite by pouring vegetable glycerine over the fresh plants and allowing the mixture to sit.
Another fine and tasty method for getting your daily dose of Nettle is having a cup or two of Nettle tea. For Nettle tea allow the leaves to dry. Dried Stinging Nettle loses its sting and is easy to handle. There are also many fine Nettle teas available commercially if you don’t want to harvest and make it yourself. I enjoy mixing my dried Nettle with a bit of dried Clover blossoms and some dried Dandelion leaves for a smooth flavor and added herbal benefits. Herbal teas should be allowed to steep a bit longer than most other teas. Twenty minutes give you a good infusion of the beneficial plant components and the tea is still quite warm for drinking.
Goldenrod is my next allergy season warrior and the blossoms can be prepared as both tincture or tea using the same method as above with Nettle. I love Goldenrod tincture with its lemony pepper taste. It is an absolute powerhouse for fighting sniffles and sneezes caused by pollen. Contrary to popular belief Goldenrod does not have much pollen itself and often gets a bad rap due to blooming at the same time as Ragweed, the real allergy trigger. Goldenrod glycerite is great for use with children. It is mild flavored and sweet, so is readily accepted by the wee ones.
So we are drinking our tea and taking our tinctures to curb the sneezes, runny nose and itchy eyes but what about those rashes? Externally I love both Calendula salve and Plantain salve for itchy red patches of skin. Calendula salve is available in most stores these days. Plantain may require a DIY approach. Fortunately, it is a commonly available plant in most of our yards. Just be sure not to pick Plantain in areas treated by herbicides in the past two years. As with any plant, stay a good ten feet away from roadways too. If you can find some nice untreated Plantain pick the leaves and put them in a jar with some extra virgin olive oil and slowly warm. Either in the sun or place the jar in warm water for a few hours. You can use just the oil or make it into a salve by adding melted beeswax or plant wax until thickened. I use an ounce of wax per cup of oil. Plantain leaves can be used freshly picked too. Bruise a fresh leaf and apply directly to the area. This is a great trick if you get mosquito bites while out in the yard, very soothing! If you want to make your own Calendula salve the same method is used with Calendula blossoms instead of Plantain leaves. You can make a lovely combination salve by mixing the two oils prior to adding melted wax. A few drops of lavender essential oil can be added for scent, if you are not sensitive to it. For eczema, allergy related rashes and “itchies” I prefer to keep the salve pure and scent free for optimal benefit and minimal risk of secondary reactions.
There is a plethora of herbal remedies for allergies out there but Stinging Nettle, Goldenrod, Calendula and Plantain are my top picks for the daily struggle to face the season of sneezes, congestion and itchy blotches. If all else fails take comfort in the knowledge that summer is around the corner and the sun will burn all your enemies until the pollen levels are tolerable again! Happy tea and tincture time!