A home medicine chest for allergy season can help get through a time of year that would be delightful were it not for the allergies. To make your kit, first determine whether your allergies--or those of your family or clients--involve vata, pitta or kapha. Then you can build the appropriate home medicine chest with remedies for before, during and after allergy season.
Pitta allergies and hay fever express in very red, sore eyes and sore, red, inflamed and itchy nose. It may feel exactly as if you have been chopping onions. You may run a low fever or feel tenderness throughout your body. The liver area may be sore and tender and you may feel unusually irritable. Exposure to bright sunlight sets off sneezing attacks. There are some allergens that are notorious for setting off pitta allergies in people of any constitution. Citrus blossoms, for example, can initiate a pitta allergy attack because the pollen is so hot, sharp and sour. The same applies to the pollen of anacardiaceae or members of the Sumac family such as mangoes and cashews.
Kapha allergies manifest with a dull, heavy feeling in the head, very stuffy nose and sinuses, a feeling of fullness in the face, swollen eyes, lethargy and sleepiness, and copious mucus production. There may be onset of asthma related to post-nasal drip. Some damp-related allergens such as molds will set off kapha allergies and asthma in susceptible people of all constitutions.
A vata-caused allergy attack could be set off by exposure to dry dust and would typically involve a feeling of excess dryness and pain in the nose and sinuses, as well as a dry, hoarse feeling in the throat. Spasmodic asthma may result in severe cases. However, above and beyond these typical vata manifestations, it is very important to be aware of the role of vata in allergies that appear to be related to pitta or kapha. The doshas that are present throughout the body are not necessarily those that are expressing in the head. It is often the case that vata may push the other doshas to the head. In fact, it is in this situation that Ayurvedic analysis really comes into its own.
To give an example, a mother brought her eighteen month old child in with a head cold. The mother was very concerned because the stepmother had given the same herbs that had cured the stepbrother, "So why didn't my child get well." On examination it was obvious that the little girl was vata, with vata pushing kapha to the head. A dose of bitter herbs such as Echinacea was exactly what she did not need. As soon as she stopped the herbs she got well. It is always important to be aware of the role of vata pushing kapha to the head. In such situations, ensure that the remedy will not be vata provoking.
Vata allergy remedies
It is important to begin preparation for allergy season about a month ahead of time. For vata-caused allergies, organic Sesame Oil is an essential item. To prepare for allergy season, begin regular self-massage with Sesame oil or Vata Massage Oil. This will help keep iin check so it will not push doshas to the head. Dashamula is another item vata should always have on hand. It can be used for basti (enema) therapy in preparation for allergy season. Dashamula tea is a pleasant beverage which also helps pacify vata. A teaspoon of Ashwagandha can be taken at bedtime in a cup of warm milk to help balance vata.
During allergy season, vata can use Sitopaladi Churna to mitigate symptoms of runny nose and cough. For vata pushing kapha, causing sinus symptoms or asthma, Dashamula tea is the perfect remedy, since it pacifies both vata and kapha. Charaka also recommends Dashamula kunji or gruel. Rice gruel prepared with Dashamula is said to alleviate "cough, hiccough, breathlessness and kapha." In vata-type allergies, Nasya Oil is the best remedy for dry, painful nasal passages, while Liquorice tea will alleviate a dry, raspy throat. Liquorice is also endowed with anti-allergy properties.
After allergy season is over, it is wise to continue with Nasya oil for about a month, to help the nasal mucosa recover from the assault of the allergens.
Pitta's allergy remedies
At least a month before allergy season, Pitta needs to get to work on strengthening the liver and reducing pitta dosha. Mahasudarshan is the remedy of choice in preparation for allergy season. The actions of Mahasudarshan in strengthening the liver, cleansing the lymphatics and reducing pitta are ideal for this situation. One half teaspoon of Mahasudarshan can be taken in the morning on an empty stomach, mixed in honey, followed by warm water. Although Mahasudarshan is so bitter, many pitta types actually enjoy the taste and cleansing energy of this remarkable combination. Amlaki is an item Pitta should always have on hand. Its action as a virechan (laxative) herb in gently removing excess pitta dosha is an essential preparation for allergy season. Take half a teaspoon at bedtime, steeped ten minutes in boiling water and strained. In preparation for allergy season, it is also important to follow a pitta-soothing anti-inflammatory diet, avoiding fried foods, processed foods, nightshades, chillies, onions and garlic, red meat and egg yolks. Avoiding excess consumption of alcohol, caffeine and recreational drugs will also be of great benefit. A week of cleansing kitcheri fast will be an ideal preparation for those prone to severe allergies.
1/2 cup split mung beans
1 cup basmati rice
Wash them both thoroughly, melt ghee and add spices: fresh ginger, turmeric (fresh or powdered), powdered fennel, cumin and coriander. (It is best to buy organic whole spices and grind them fresh in a spice mill since powdered culinary spices may lack the full medicinal properties.) Add rice, beans and 6 cups water, then bring to boil. Turn down to simmer for 45 minutes or until mung beans are very soft in pot on stove (or make in crock pot cooking overnight--be sure there's plenty of water or you're making a much larger batch to activate the heating elements in the crock pot). After cooking, add salt to taste. If you live at altitude, cook the mung beans for 45 minutes while soaking the rice, then add the rice and cook for 45 minutes more.
During allergy season, many people have recourse to over the counter antihistamines. Unfortunately, these remedies are in themselves pitta-provoking, thus tending to be counterproductive. An equally good antihistamine effect can be obtained from the humble Turmeric. Mix a teaspoon of turmeric in honey and eat to dispel an allergy attack or allergic asthma episode more or less instantly. It is important to use medicinal grade organic turmeric since the ordinary turmeric from the grocery store or Indian market may be significantly lacking in curcumins. We stock our kitchen with Banyan's organic turmeric to use for all our cooking and home remedy purposes, to be certain we are getting the full benefit from the turmeric. For red, sore eyes, an anti-inflammatory eyewash can be prepared from Amlaki.
Continue Mahasudarshan and Amlaki throughout allergy season. (If libido should become lowered it is a signal to discontinue Mahasudarshan for a while). Continuing the anti-inflammatory diet is likewise essential.
After allergy season is over, it is time to rejuvenate pitta with Shatavari Kalpa. Roast an ounce of Shatavari with one or two tablespoons ghee in a cast iron pan until light brown and add two tablespoons of sucanat, rapadura or turbinado sugar, two pinches saffron and a pinch of freshly ground cardamom. This can be eaten two or three times daily and is especially good with warm milk at bed time.
Kapha's allergy remedies
Detoxifying lymphatics and strengthening the lungs are necessary steps for kapha in preparing for allergy season. Unfortunately for kapha, allergy season follows hot on the heels of flu season. If Kapha was hit by flu or bronchitis, then the best preparation for allergy season is to take Chyavanprash twice daily to strengthen the lungs. Otherwise, a month before allergy season, begin taking Mahsudarshan to cleanse the lymphatics. Triphala will also help with overall detoxification. Take half a teaspoon at bedtime steeped ten minutes in boiling water and strained.
Eliminate the kapha provoking foods from the diet, especially wheat and cow dairy.
During allergy season, Punarnava is God's gift to kapha, possessed of anti-histamine, kapha soothing and lung strengthening properties. Mix half a teaspoon of Punarnava in honey and eat after meals. Turmeric can be used for an acute allergy attack and Dashamoola tea for symptoms of cough and breathlessness. For allergic asthma, it is also beneficial to take a pinch of Pippali in two tablespoons of Aloe Vera. This can be taken after meals along with the Punarnava remedy. For swollen eyes, eyewash can be prepared from Punarnava. Always use distilled water for eyewash preparations. Mahasudarshan and Triphala can be continued throughout allergy season.
Pollens and molds have been found to adhere to the nasal mucosa, causing ongoing problems that may even outlast allergy season. To remedy this situation, nasya or saline nasal rinse is crucial. A Nasal Rinse Cup is an essential piece of equipment both for kapha individuals and for those vata people who typically suffer from vata pushing kapha to the head. Be sure to use purified water for your nasya, as you do not want to assault your nasal mucosa with chlorine, which could adversely affect the flora of your nose. And it is important after washing the nose to dry it with forward bending poses, side to side stretches such as Waving Palm Tree and vigorous alternate nostril breathing (anuloma viloma).
After allergy season the lungs can be further rejuvenated by resuming Chyavanprash. Punarnava can also be continued as it is an important rejuvenative for kapha.
By making use of a medicine chest of Ayurvedic remedies for allergy season, allergy suffers may begin to find spring enjoyable for the first time. Indeed, faithfully following all the relevant suggestions here could greatly improve overall health and wellbeing. I never cease to be amazed at how herbs such as Turmeric, Amlaki, Liquorice and Purnarva seem tailor made for our needs. Although it is often plants that give rise to hay fever and allergies, it is also through a wise use of medicinal plants that these troubling symptoms can be relieved.
All products mentioned in this article are available from www.banyanbotanicals.com.
Alakananda Ma M.B., B.S. (Lond.) is an Ayurvedic Doctor (NAMA) and graduate of a top London medical school. She is co-founder of Alandi Ayurveda Clinic and Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula in Boulder Colorado, as well as a spiritual mother, teacher, flower essence maker and storyteller. Alakananda is a well known and highly respected practitioner in the Ayurveda community both nationally and internationally.
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