the longed-for green of spring is
just around the corner. But for many of us, the vegetable kingdom's annual resurrection exacts a toll measured in kleenex. Plants' sexual pleasures mean pollen-laced winds will blow again.
An allergic reaction to these harmless particles represents immunity run amok. The swelling, itching, exhaustion and nasal dripping of hay fever are caused by massive releases of histamine and other compounds that normally protect our eyes and nasal passages from invaders. Why some of us react so violently to pollen is a mystery. But if you want to declare a truce this spring, now's the time to act.
Holistic types believe over-the- counter antihistamines only suppress your reaction rather than address the immune imbalance causing it. Better, they say, to prepare your body well in advance for the coming pollen.
Indulge in stinging nettle. If two to three 300-mg capsules of freeze-dried extract don't work within two weeks, it's time to try something else.
Quercetin can stop the release of histamine in a test tube -- and might do the same in your body. Take 400 mg twice a day, starting several weeks before the season starts. Anecdotal evidence counsels year-round vitamin C/bioflavonoid supplement use, about 1,000 to 2,000 mg daily. Combine with vitamin B5, 150 mg twice a day, to fine-tune immune response. Evening primrose, flax and hempseed oils strengthen cell membranes, making them less easily irritated by inhaled particles. And some say you can keep your reaction in check by avoiding meat and dairy products.
Homeopathic hay fever remedies can work wonders and are gentler than pharmaceuticals, but they may have to be taken frequently. Bio Allers tincture costs $13.35 for 30 ml, and at 15 drops every three to four hours, it gets pricy. Granules like those made by Nu Medicine tend to be cheaper ($6.75 for 120 granules). The idea is that taking pollen in extremely diluted form teaches your body to deal with it, so immune freak-outs can stop.
Allium cepa, made from the good old onion, might help if you have a fluent, burning nasal discharge, while Pulsatilla can aid nighttime congestion. And you might consider an air filter.
THE EXPERTS"Grasses that cause some hay fever are botanically related to grain grasses like wheat, rye, spelt, kamut. Avoiding consumption of these plants during allergy season will prevent aggravation of inhaled allergies to grasses.'
Tari Lee Cornish
"Over-the-counter antihistamines work if the symptoms are mild. But the relief will not be complete. Prescription medications are a better solution."
MD, allergy specialist, St. Michael's Hospital, Sunnybrook
"It's possible to find out what people with hay fever are reacting to and then what homeopathic potency of the substance they need to shut off the reaction.'
Electro-dermal screening technician
"People have to get treatment before the season comes in. A monthly dose of arsenic iodatum 200C develops resistance. Also, I use an antiparasitic and a nosode remedy, Dr. Reckeweg R84. (You can) overdose on this, so consult a homeopath."
"An old fashioned Ayurvedic treatment is onion cooked with turmeric. Another good nutrient is zinc -- 25 mg a day improves immune function. Support liver function with dandelion root, goldenseal root or milk thistle."
Ruth Anne Baron