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Herb Doctor tells: the truth about hayfever

Ever wondered about the role our general health and nutrition plays when it comes to allergies and hayfever?  How effective are natural methods to alleviate the symptoms? What’s new in the world of naturopathy that might help us beat the wheezes and sneezes this spring?
We were curious, so we asked naturopath Susie Ashley, N.D.M.H, a Naturopath, Medical Herbalist and founder of “Herb Doctor” to enlighten us.
Q:  Hi Susie!  First of all, what is your background and how did you get into the field of herbal/natural medicine?
Susie:  I have enjoyed growing herbs since a very young age.  That passion has continued on.  In my early 20’s I started making perfumes, poultices, creams, compresses balms and lotions.  I would always harvest from nature, things like rose petals for perfumes or herbs for lotions or teas.  I am a bee keeper as well so I have plenty of wax for lip balms and products.  

The progress just grew and grew.  I just wanted to make up products all the time.  I got my Medical Herbalist & Naturopath Diplomas and I started a clinic in 1995 – I’ve also gained many other qualifications including in aromatherapy, homeopathy, massage and ayurvedic medicine.  I loved helping people and still do, but my main passion is product formulation.  I also love treating and working with animals and launched a natural grooming range of products for pets in 2001 (Herb Doctor’s Pet Care http://herbdoctor.com.au/about/pet-care/).

Q: What is your philosophy concerning natural ingredients?
Susie: It all starts with a wholesome home life.   I believe in ‘harvesting from nature’ - so if I make a cake it is always from something I have harvested from the garden, like rhubarb, zucchini, kiwi fruit, raspberries or whatever is in season.  In fact, I always start outside looking in the garden when planning my meals!  It is a pleasure to work around natural herbs and I truly believe in the power of plants to support us both in sickness and in health.   The results always continue to surprise me!
I keep it simple and enjoy working with what nature provides, but we must all look after nature as well.  So keep your kitchen scraps and put it all in your compost bin, let the cycle begin and bloom.  That’s where it all starts.
Q: Hayfever and chemical sensitivities are on the rise.  Why do you think this is?
Susie: Our life in general is more toxic.  The skin is the largest breathing organ of the body, and it’s also an eliminatory organ, along with the lungs, bowel, liver and kidneys.  
Pollen and dust may be a triggering factor for illness but in order to deal with them the body’s eliminatory organs must be in top shape.  What we’re finding more common these days is a toxic build-up of environmental waste in the body.   It is important to get it all working, eliminating and breathing again. Think of it like a vacuum cleaner – if you do not clean the filter and empty the debris, it will not operate right!
Q: What are some of the things people with hayfever in general should try to avoid?
Susie: When it comes to foods, anything processed basically… but especially white flour products, products with yeast, dairy products (as they are mucous forming), alcohol (especially wine), honey, preservatives in foods, artificial colours in foods as well.  Reduce fat intake and avoid blue cheese, mushrooms and processed meats.
I always say to my clients:  BBQ flavour, what is that?  Well it is a variety of numbers, which gives the product its flavours, colours and taste. How good for you can that be?
Use eco-friendly household cleaning products or natural substances like eucalyptus, orange and tea tree oils – no harsh chemicals or bleaches.  Cleaning is a pleasure when you do it with eucalyptus and it’s also clearing to the sinuses and gentle on the environment.
Cosmetics and personal care products should be natural and vegetable based with no harsh chemicals, colours or preservatives.
Q.  Hayfever is particularly frustrating for many people around this time of the year.  Do you have any tips to help manage it without using pharmaceuticals and medicated sprays?
Susie: Nasal irrigation is my top pick.  You can buy nasal irrigation kits, or a saline spray (like Bosisto’s Nasal Sprays).  Using saline to clear out the nasal passages will help with elimination and cleansing, clear the nostrils to aid breathing, remove excess mucous, relieve dryness and reduce the build-up of pollens and daily environmental pollutants and including dust.
I also use massage to cleanse and detoxify.  I usually massage the face, sinus areas and lymphatic areas to get them moving for elimination first.  I massage the scalp area as well for relief of any tension, and the chest to release mucous.  If this is successful usually within a few weeks the client starts eliminating mucous – and I warn them, “this is not a cold or flu, you are well, it’s just your body is eliminating”.
Once the nasal passage eliminates I usually work on the bowels and the liver.  A liver tonic, like St. Mary’s Thistle (Milk Thistle) is often useful, to support the liver in cleansing and rejuvenating.
Yoga is a wonderful aid to balanced breathing, and I also believe in ear candling.  I love herbal teas - particularly ginger, marshmallow, licorice root, nettle and green tea.  Rosehip tea is also wonderful and a rich source of Vitamin C.
Q.  What about diet, what role does it play?
Susie: It makes an enormous difference.  If you eat well, you’ll detox your eliminatory organs, your immune system will be healthy and you’ll be stronger and more resilient to any foreign bodies, whether that be viruses or airborne pollutants.
Get onto a wholesome food diet; raw fresh juices, green drinks and green smoothies.
Pineapple juice is wonderful as it contains the enzyme Bromelain, has an anti-inflammatory effect and is good for sore throats as well.

Fruits and vegetables that are yellow, orange and red in colour are high in Vitamin A which gives respiratory system support, and purple ones like blueberries, red grapes and blackcurrants have Bioflavonoids which support the immune system.

I love juicing and some of my favourites include beetroot, carrot, parsley and ginger with 30% water or watermelon & ginger with 30% water.  Add wheatgrass or spirulina for an extra healthy boost.
Garlic clears congestion in the respiratory system and is a very strong natural antibiotic.  Onions contain a natural antihistamine known as Quercetin (found in the outer layers of onions).  This is also a powerful antioxidant which may help to reduce inflammation.  It’s found in apple skins and red grapes as well.  Ginger is another powerful anti-inflammatory and excellent added to freshly squeezed juices.  Tumeric contains the potent antioxidant Curcumin and is useful for helping reduce inflammatory conditions.
Omega 3’s are very important (from oily fish, like salmon) as there is evidence that they reduce the production of histamines; these and Omega 6’s (from flax seeds)  are essential for healthy cell membrane structure and function and can also assist in dry eyes and skin.
Probiotics help to build up a healthy gut environment and aid the absorption of foods.  They also reduce inflammation in the mucous membranes, including the stomach and nasal passages.
Finally, try horseradish!  It’s a very pungent root vegetable which can be purchased in capsule form at health food shops and chemists, or raw in the fridge section of supermarkets in a little jar (use it as a condiment with meals).  It’s an excellent decongestant.
Note: Susie Ashley N.D. M.H does not treat hayfever or allergies but provides lifestyle support and advice as outlined above.  If you have allergies or hayfever you should always consult your health care practitioner for a proper diagnosis before embarking on any treatment.  The above article is for information only and does not constitute medical advice.  Always consult your doctor if symptoms persist, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or on any other medications before using any complementary medicines.