Ha-choo! Oh yes, the delightful sound of springtime. Allergies effect some 40 to 50 million Americans each year, with the majority battling sneezing fits, difficulty breathing, and itchy, watery eyes somewhere between April and June when those pesky pollens are in full burst.
Most allergies are a symptom of modernity and our bodies going a little haywire in light of our genetic makeup and interference from a number of artificial chemical substances abundant on the planet these days. Recent research out of Finland has found that those of us who live in cities are more likely to be affected by seasonal allergies as we lack exposure to certain bacteria more commonly present in rural or forested areas that help to prevent the onset of allergies. So while it may seem as though more exposure to nature would just increase the number of plants one is allergic to, the opposite is actually true. We're meant to be closer to nature, not further from it (no offense, pavement, skyscrapers, and highways, but that's just the way it is!) and that's precisely why we can heal ourselves from allergies most effectively with all natural remedies.
The Neti Pot
You may have seen this teapot-looking ceramic vessel at a yoga studio or health food store and wondered, "What in the world?" The neti pot is a nasal irrigation system first noted in ancient Hindu traditions as one of the Ayurvedic kriyas or cleansing techniques. Using warm salt water in order to match the tonicity of the body's blood so as not to irritate the delicate sinus cavities and mucus membranes, water in the neti pot is slowly poured into one nostril by gently tipping the head forward and slightly turned (if pouring into left, tilt head to right, etc). The saltwater then travels up into the sinus cavity and should come out the other nostril. If the sinuses are particularly stuffed-up, this may not occur at first, but repeat attempts can help break down the mucus and allow the flow of the water.
In addition to thinning mucus for ease in expelling it from the sinuses, the neti pot also helps in flushing out the pollens (or other environmental allergens) that can linger in the nasal cavity causing sneezing and difficulty breathing. The neti pot can be used several times a day during peak allergy season. If irritation occurs, discontinue use and consult your physician. (Note: It is important to use a sea salt or saline solution and avoid mineral salts as they can be too harsh on the sinuses.)
While inhaling the pure essence of plants and flowers may seem counterintuitive to quelling an allergy attack, it is one of the most effective measures in naturally calming allergic reactions.
For sufferers of hayfever due to ragweed (one of the most common allergic reactions) you can actually help to build your immunity with roman chamomile, a relative of ragweed, by starting to work with the oil in small doses months before your hayfever hits. Roman chamomile is an anti-inflammatory and can help to relieve headaches associated with allergies.
Other essential oils that can aid in allergy relief by opening the respiratory system and enhancing breathing include rosemary, eucalyptus, lemon, and peppermint. Lavender, one of the most popular essential oils, is a natural antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, and is incredibly calming.
When using essential oils for allergy relief, several methods can be employed. You can anoint yourself with the oils on the wrists and neck like you would a perfume, so the fragrance is naturally lingering in your airspace. Because they're natural, the scent won't last as long as the detergent-based perfumes, so frequent applications may be necessary. (A great trick is to also rub a few drops in your hair; the smell will last a bit longer there.) You can also add a few drops to a tissue or handkerchief and inhale as needed or use an oil diffuser.
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