What Are Allergies: Why Are They Common!

By Ellen Kamhi, PhD, RN, HNC, AHG
The Natural Nurse®, http://www.naturalnurse.com

When a person with an allergy to foods or environmental factors encounters an offending substance, the immune system interprets it as the enemy. To help ward off the intruder, the human body activates antibodies, and releases a substance called ‘histamines’. Allergies are abnormal reactions to everyday substances such as pollen, dust, dander, house dust, mold or common foods. Allergy medications are referred to ‘anti-histamines’ because they attempt to turn off this natural, although over zealous, body reaction. The immune system readies for battle with a vengeance, and attacks the offending substance, along with other body tissues, imposing an uncomfortable variety of symptoms on the allergy sufferer. These can range from annoying but bearable conditions–such as rashes, scratchy throats and toothaches– to more frightening reactions like a closed throat and difficulty breathing. Frequent bouts of bronchitis, asthma and severe eczema, conditions that can be physically and emotionally painful—are all the more common in allergic individuals.

In rare cases, food allergies can even be deadly. For example, some people are so severely allergic to peanuts that even a teaspoon of peanut butter can cause them to go into anaphylactic shock, a severe allergic reaction that can be life threatening. They must constantly carry epinephrine to counter these ever-present dangerous effects- in this case herbs and natural remedies are not enough!

The most common food allergies include dairy products, nuts, wheat, yeast, eggs, soybeans, shellfish, and tomatoes. Some foods can cause an allergic reaction as soon as you take a bite, while others can take hours or even days to elicit an allergic response. Immediate food allergies are moderated by a group of immunoglobulins in the body, referred to as IGE, while the delayed allergies are related to a different immunoglobulin called IGG. Conventional allergy screening often looks for IGE mediated allergies, while ignoring IGG based allergies.

No one understands exactly why certain people are allergic. The propensity to develop allergies can run in families and may be inherited to some extent. Many people who suffer from food allergies, are also more prone to other types of allergies such as sensitivities to pollen and chemicals. Especially during spring and fall pollen seasons, allergens can be blown onto melons and other food crops. “Cross-reactivity” for pollen sensitive individuals is also common with avocados, bananas, kiwi, papaya and chestnuts.  Interestingly, babies who are breast-fed are less likely to develop allergies than their formula-fed peers.

If you have any type of allergy carefully scrutinize the labels of any substance you ingest.  Even supplements may contain allergens that you are unaware of. For example, if you are allergic to shellfish, then you should probably think twice before taking an oyster shell calcium supplement, or Glucosamine/Chondroitin , usually made from the exoskeletons of shellfish. If you are allergic to pollen avoid bee pollen supplements such as royal jelly and honey. On the other hand, honey made from the exact flower pollen that a person has a sensitivity to, can sometimes help the allergy by de-sensitizing the immune system.

Dyes, preservatives and other chemicals found in abundance in both the Standard American Diet, as well as the environment can increase allergy symptoms.  If you eat preserved or non-organic items and are experiencing an allergic reaction, consider switching to all natural, organic, preservative-free foods. People with environmental allergies may also have to remove sources of toxic chemicals and fumes from the home, including cleaners, carpeting and other sources of ‘out-gasing’.

In the 30+ years that I have been working with allergic patients, I have seen them make remarkable progress once they commit to tracking down the ‘triggering’ substances (including stress inducing thought patterns) that set off their symptoms. The use of nutritional supplements and herbs can be extremely helpful, non-toxic adjunctive therapy to dietary and life-style changes.

Anti-Allergy Cocktail:

2000mg powdered , buffered Vit C
100 mg Vitamin B-6
1000 mg Magnesium
1000 mg Calcium
250 mg Bioflavonoids

mix all into 1/2 glass water up to  2 times / day during an allergy attack

Bromelain( a digestive enzyme from Pineapple) and Quercitin( one of the bioflavonoids) work well together to offset an allergic reaction

Allergic reactions involve many different organ systems of the body, besides the area that manifests symptoms. These include the respiratory system, the liver and the adrenal glands. Using herbs to strengthen these systems will give your body a preventative edge over allergic reactions, and will further help decrease the severity of uncomfortable symptoms.

Herbs for Allergies:

Licorice – the most widely studied adrenal herb. Licorice has anti-inflammatory actions similar to the glucocorticoids (which are produced by healthy adrenals) and are involved with resolving allergic reactions. It also preserves the effects of cortisol, the adrenal hormone involved in clearing allergies.(avoid with high blood pressure)

Ginseng- the onset of allergies can be attributed to stress. The adaptogenic properties of Ginseng allow the adrenal glands to balance stress while creating an overall resistance to allergic reactions, colds, flu and infections.

Dandelion – nutritive and strengthening herb for the liver. It helps clear toxins and stimulates the liver to work towards the resolution of the allergic reaction.

Milk Thistle- acts as both a protector and regenerator of the liver. This herb helps repair damaged tissue and support the actions necessary for dealing with allergens and their accompanying symptoms.

Nettles and Eyebright- work well together to calm nasal congestion, watery eyes and stuffiness often experienced by allergy sufferers.  They are appropriate remedies for short-term relief, and may also be taken before the season begins as a means of prevention for pollen allergies.

Ma Huang- contains natural ephedrine. Psuedo-ephedrine is the active ingredient in prescription and over-the-counter allergy medications. Ma Huang acts to open the bronchial passageways.  Due to its stimulating nature, use Ma Huang with caution if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.

Elder Flower – acts to increase bronchial secretions and is a natural decongestant. Helps to soothe mucous membranes.

Mullein and Fenugreek- traditionally used for upper respiratory problems. Helps to clear mucous and support the lungs.

Echinacea and Goldenseal- combat both the discomfort of allergies as well as reduce excess mucous from the nasal and respiratory tract.

Ellen KamhiEllen Kamhi PhD RN , The Natural Nurse®  is the author of The Natural Medicine Chest, Arthritis, The Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide, Cycles of Life, Herbs and Energetics for Women, Weight Loss: The Alternative Medicine Guide, and other books. She is on radio/TV daily, and consults with individuals and the Nutraceutical Industry.  http://www.naturalnurse.com

The Magic of Dandelions and Breast Health

Dandelion & Breast Health

Dandelion & Breast Health

By Patricia Kyritsi Howell

When you look out at all those sunny yellow dandelion flowers in your yard this spring, rather than seeing them as a signal to do something about your lawn, I invite you to congratulate yourself for your good fortune. One of the most important herbal remedies for breast health is growing right in your own backyard.

Whether you or a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer, are healing from breast cancer, or just want to have healthy breasts, you need to know about the healing properties of dandelion (Taraxacum officiale).

The seeds of this humble flower are dispersed by the wind. Once they are airborne, they travel vast distances, crossing oceans with ease. Once the seeds find solid ground, they cheerfully thrive in just about any kind of soil. As a result this Mediterranean native is now found on every continent except Antarctica.

Dandelion’s deep taproot is similar to a carrot though paler and much smaller. It’s difficult to eradicate or harvest by simply yanking it out of the ground. Dandelion is target of a well-­‐funded campaign by companies that manufacture herbicides.

In a futile attempt to eradicate dandelions, homeowners are encouraged to dump toxic chemicals onto their lawns. Once these toxins are introduced into the environment, they ultimately find their way into our water and food supplies. These carcinogenic substances, most of which are also estrogen disruptors, are a proven contributing factor in increased cancer rates, especially breast cancer.1

The most effective remedy for treating diseases caused by exposure to environmental toxins is actually the much-­‐maligned dandelion.

Dandelion root is one of the most detoxifying herbs we have and it is hepatic, or tonic for the liver. It improves liver and gallbladder function, which improves digestion and elimination. Most importantly, dandelion root helps the liver clear excessive estrogens and toxins from the blood and eliminate them. In addition, research with alcohol extracts (tinctures) of dandelion root indicates it may prevent or reduce tumors.2 Dandelion extracts also decrease something known as the tumor

necrosis factor (TNK) that causes inflammation and disrupts immune response to increase the risk of developing cancer.

Spring is the best time to gather dandelion leaves -­‐ a nutrient rich wild food with high levels of vitamins A, C, K and calcium that also stimulate endocrine secretions and supports digestion. Drinking dandelion root tea on a regular basis encourages the growth of 14 strains of bifidobacteria that are critical for healthy gut flora.3 When used regularly after taking a round of antibiotics or other strong medications that may disrupt digestion, dandelion root helps restore the digestion. Regular use of dandelion root tea or extract protects the liver from damage caused by pharmaceutical drugs and environmental toxins.

What all of this boils down to is the use of dandelion root and leaf to improve liver function, promote healthy digestion and elimination, and break down tumors, malignant and benign, is well supported by folk tradition as well as modern research. And because dandelion root is a food-­‐like tonic herb, it is suitable for long-­‐ term use. (In some rare cases it may cause a loose stool and it is contraindicated while taking antihypertensive or diuretic medications.)

Who would benefit from dandelion as a tonic or food? Women who suffer from cyclic breast pain and swelling or fibrocystic breast disease and anyone being treated for or at risk for developing breast cancer would be wise to consider dandelion root part of a long-­‐term health strategy. While harvesting dandelions from urban areas is not recommended as they contain toxins generated by air and water pollution, most health food stores and on-­‐line sources have organic dandelion root in various forms. Unlike pharmaceuticals, dandelion works slowly and deeply to bring you into balance. It can, and should, be used for months or even years as part of every woman’s wellness program.

How to Use Dandelion

Dandelion root is available in three forms: as bulk dried herb for tea; as a capsule; or as an alcohol extract or tincture. If you have a source of unpolluted dandelions, spring is the time to harvest them. Get a good sturdy trowel to dig up their long roots. Clean the entire plant and use it to make tea. Or eat the greens in salad. And of course there is always dandelion flower wine!

A Recipe for Dandelion Root Tea

Bulk dried dandelion root may be purchased from mail order sources or your local herbs shop. To prepare dandelion root tea, use 1 heaping teaspoon of dried root, or 2 teaspoons for fresh root (chopped) per 8 ounces of boiling water. Measure dandelion root into a teapot or quart canning jar and cover with freshly boiled water. Cover and steep for 40 minutes. Strain the herb and discard. Drink a half a cup of tea three times a day. The taste is bitter, which many people enjoy, but if you prefer you may combine it with other teas you enjoy, especially aromatics like lemon balm, peppermint or spearmint, and little bit of honey. Store tea in the refrigerator for no longer that two days.

Patricia Kyritsi Howell, RH (AHG) is a clinical herbalist with more than 20 years experience and the author of Medicinal Plants of the Southern Appalachians. A member of the Governing Council of the American Herbalists Guild, she is founder and director of the BotanoLogos School of Herbal Studies, located in the mountains of northeast Georgia. Learn more at www.wildhealingherbs.com

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