Podcast 161: Top 3 Herbs for Seasonal Allergies
Whenever we choose herbs for health issues, we work to match the qualities of the herbs to the state of the body. These three plants we work with as herbs for seasonal allergies are each drying in nature. So, if you run dry or have dry symptoms, then make sure to pair them with something moistening like marshmallow or violet. But if you’re on the watery side, these will be a great help!
Nettle (Urtica dioica) is a superstar plant with a variety of beneficial effects. Not all of them are available in every format – but the good news for allergy sufferers is, any preparation of nettle will do the trick! Tincture, tea, capsules, powders – any way you get nettle into you will reduce histamine expressions and reduce symptom severity.
Eyebright (Euphrasia off.) is another powerful “antihistaminic” herb, and is famously helpful when the eyes are red, itchy, and watery. Tincture’s a great way to work with eyebright, and supplements of this herb are also quite good.
Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) is another of our favorite herbs for seasonal allergies, even though it’s not super common in herbal commerce. Ground ivy is an excellent herb when the ears and sinuses are stuck up with fluids. It thins them, drains them, and by doing so relieves pressure and pain. (Did you hear our episode all about ground ivy, not too long ago? Check it out here: Ground Ivy – Sometimes It’s Hard To Hear.)
Mentioned in this episode:
- Statement from Mountain Rose Herbs on re-evaluating supplier relationships
- Nettle extract (Urtica dioica) affects key receptors and enzymes associated with allergic rhinitis, Phytother Res. 2009 Jul;23(7):920-6. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2763 – a nice study on some identified molecule/receptor actions of nettle to reduce allergic symptoms
Our course on Seasonal & Environmental Allergies goes into much more detail about these three herbs – and a couple dozen others, too! Learn why allergic reactions happen, how your body responds, and the role herbs can play in reducing symptoms. The course includes over 9 hours of videos, plus downloadable audio files so you can listen on the go if you prefer. You’ll also get printable quick guides, a materia medica for allergies, and specific guides on the most effective actions you can take (including low-cost options).
This course is only $25, and you also get access to our live Q&A sessions too – connect directly with Ryn & Katja as you learn. Your course access never expires, and whenever we add new material, that’s added to your account automatically at no extra charge!
As always, please subscribe, rate, & review our podcast wherever you listen, so others can find it more easily. Thank you!!
Our theme music is “Wings” by Nicolai Heidlas.
Hi, I’m Katja.
And I’m Ryn.
And we’re here at the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.
And on the internet everywhere, thanks to the power of the podcast. Well, today we’re going to talk about seasonal allergies. Because lately, my ladybird, Katja, has been sneezing like a delicate flower or like a baby bunny, you know.
Ya’ll, I’ve been sneezing like a lumberjack. It’s not pretty. It’s not pretty.
You know, like a little baby bunny when it wiggles the nose and goes “choo”. Like that. Yeah. Totally, just exactly like that.
I wish everyone to have a partner like this. A partner who sees your gross snotty nose and compares it to a baby bunny. I just, yes, please. For everyone.
That’s what we’re all about.
Well, anyway, I want to share my top three herbs for how I deal with seasonal allergies so that you can sneeze less too.
Yeah, yeah, for sure. Before we get rolling though, a quick note. So Mountain Rose Herbs recently sponsored eight episodes of our podcast. And a lot of people had been asking us about their policies with regard to social justice and to human rights issues and their suppliers in particular. So they’ve recently released or let us know about a new shift in policy, where they’re committing to evaluating all of their supplier relationships, not just based on the quality of the herbs and the commitment of their producers to the land and to sustainable farming and harvesting practices. But now also to look specifically at hiring practices and human rights practices of every supplier that they work with.
They’ve also decided to discontinue their relationships with a couple of their current suppliers based on these issues. So we want to thank everybody who wrote to us, both by email and all the different social media platforms, to ask about this and to ask about their policies here. And we especially want to thank Mountain Rose Herbs for their willingness to reevaluate their practices, and to take corrective action.
Yes. So, you can read their whole statement. There’s a link in the show notes. And again, they’re not sponsoring this particular episode. We just wanted to share this information because it was a big, justified concern in the herbal community. Yeah. Okay. So now let’s give you our reclaimer, right? This is where we remind you that we are not doctors. We are herbalists and holistic health educators.
The idea is discussed in this podcast, do not constitute medical advice. No state or federal authority licenses herbalists in the United States. So these discussions are for educational purposes only.
We want to remind you that good health doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. Good health doesn’t exist as an objective standard. It’s influenced by your individual needs, experiences and goals. So we’re not trying to present a dogmatic right way that you should adhere to.
Everybody’s body is different. So the things that we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you, but we hope that they’ll give you some good information to think about, and some ideas to research further.
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All right, now. Herbs.
Herbs when you are sneezing like a lumberjack.
Yeah. It’s super simple, right? You want nettle, eyebright, and ground Ivy. Okay. You’re done. We’ll see you next week. No, that’s not enough, right? And this is the thing. Actually, let me take a minute for this one. Because so often when we have this sort of like Google form health question. It’s like, hey. What are good herbs for allergies? What are good herbs for IBS? What are good herbs for ankylosing spondylitis? You know, whatever it is. Then the impulse is, well give me a list of plants. And now I’ve got my answer, and I’m don. But you’re not done. Even if you had a list of plants, and even if it was totally correct and appropriate.
A great lists of plants.
It matched your constitution somehow, because the stars aligned, whatever. Then it still wouldn’t be enough, because you need to know, well. How do I take that herb? What preparation is best? Which one is most effective for this particular purpose, as opposed to the 99 other things that nettle can accomplish in a body? So in this we’ll try to say, all right. Well nettle is great. And here are some reasons why. And here are the methods that we would work with to take it, or here are some options that you’ve got. And you can experiment and find the one that works best for you in your life. But recognize that a set of plant names is not the end of any story in herbalism.
Yeah. Wow, you could just say all that again, and it would still be great. Yeah. I think that before we get too deep into this, because you were mentioning constitutional stuff, this list is really well suited to the type of allergies that I get, which is like very watery. Runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, lots of fluid moving around or getting stuck in my head. And I think that many, many people have that kind of allergy presentation. But I do want to just note that it is also possible to have an allergy presentation that’s really dry. And so if that is the case, then these would not necessarily be the best herbs. Or they might be fantastic, but they would need to be balanced out by herbs that can also provide moistening action. Because these are all three herbs that have drying actions ultimately.
Start with Nettles
Yeah. That’s for sure. That’s for sure. Well we can start with nettles.
That’s a good thing to do.
You know, nettle is so effective in terms of seasonal allergies, that literally, if I skip it for a day, you know immediately that I did. Like, that’s how you really know. You know? I mean like, well, how do you really know if your herbs are working? Because if you don’t take them, you sneeze like a lumberjack. There you go. Then you know for sure that it’s really working. And nettle is really helpful that way. So in terms of how to get it in you, when we’re working around allergy issues, actually, we have a lot of flexibility.
Yeah. You know, I was just doing an herb walk yesterday, and I was explaining this to some students. And I was saying like, all right. So with nettles we have a lot of different medicinal qualities going on, right? We’ve got kidney support function from this plant. We have, along with that, some diuretic effects and some anti-inflammatory activity on the kidney itself. You’ve got the mineral, nutritive qualities of the herbs, just feeding your body, getting a bunch of great mineral content into you. Chlorophyll, as an always underestimated phytochemical, but one we think is really important. It has relevance to blood sugar regulation, has relevance to baseline inflammatory state in the body. So those are really like central features of health, you know. Things that are going to manifest in all kinds of different systems in your body and influence lots of different states of health or disease. So nettle has got a lot going on, right? But then when we look at nettle as an agent to reduce allergic symptoms, to reduce histamine accesses in the body, to help to cope with those watery symptoms you were just describing. The fortunate thing is that that aspect of nettle is going to come in pretty much any form you choose to work with it. Whereas, like the mineral nutritive stuff, well, you could actually eat the leaf, you know. You’ve got to take it as food or take it as powder, or at least make a long infusion or a decoction in something where you cook it down for a good long time, and draw those nutrients out. You know, the best way for nettle for nutritive purposes is really to eat the whole leaves. And having gotten to be on an herb walk yesterday and eat some nettle leaves fresh. Every time I’m like, what is this flavor? How do I even describe this to people?
Nettle has umami?
There’s umami in it. Yeah. Yeah. There’s a, it’s not meaty exactly, but almost. Like if…I don’t know. It’s just fantastic. It’s green. It’s mineral rich. There’s a saltiness to it. There’s that umami flavor. But it’s really distinctive. But I mean, as a nutritive that’s the best way, because then you’re getting not just those minerals, but also the protein. Like you don’t really get protein in tea, you know, nettle tea or any other kind.
And you might even be sitting there thinking, hold on a second. Protein? Wait, what did you just say? Yeah. Nettle is kind of unusual in that it actually has a sort of surprisingly high protein content, even though it’s a plant, even though it’s a leaf.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s pretty fantastic that way. But again, right, that element of it, the mineral nutrient value, certainly the protein nutrient value of nettle, you don’t get any of that from tincture, right? Yes. Okay. There is some mineral content that got drawn out in your tincturing process, but think of the dose you’re taking.
Yeah. It’s like a micro dose.
You’re going to take a couple milliliters, you know, maybe a tablespoon at a time. That’s no comparison at all to your quarts of nettle infusion in a day. Or again, just cooking this as a green into a stir fry or whatever else.
Yeah. Because the tincture isn’t really drawing the mineral content out very efficiently, the same way that you would get if you really cook it for a while, or if you let it sit for overnight. So you didn’t get an efficient extraction of that particular constituent, and then you took like two or three droppers full. So yeah. So we can’t really consider tincture in terms of the mineral content.
Right. But again, like today’s topic is allergies.
Right, right, right.
And so tinctures, infusions are great. Eating the nettles a lot is going to help here too. Even capsules of nettle, whatever format you find – I don’t know – effective, tolerable. Whatever it is.
Listen, tolerable. It’s okay to say that, because as an herbalist who doesn’t actually love the flavor of nettle except during allergy season…
Yeah. And also, I have to say. I didn’t know, for like seven or eight years, that you didn’t like the taste of nettle tea. Because we drank it all the time.
We drink it all the time
And I just thought oh yeah. She’s totally into it. And then I got…I mean, this was when I was first learning herbs. But I was like, yeah, this is good. I can get to like this. And then I did. And now I do. And then you’re like, oh, gross. Nettle tea. And I’m like, what?
No, I do. I like to have a nice flavoring agent in there. But the funny thing is that during allergy season, the flavor of nettle tea becomes super appealing to me.
You start to crave it.
I do actually like the flavor of the whole leaf a little bit more than I like the flavor of the tea, but whatever. My point here is that if you are a person who does not love the flavor of nettle tea, you don’t have to give up your herbalist card. You still get to be in the club. And you either can blend it with another herb that tastes really good to you, like tulsi or ginger or whatever your favorite is. Or take it as tincture ,or just do it. Just take it as capsule. And here’s the thing. It takes a minute to set up a nettle infusion. Okay. Literally, it doesn’t take that many minutes, but it does take a minute. And if the night before you forgot to do it. And now it’s this morning and you’re like, ah, I forgot it. And I’m just going to have to sneeze like a lumberjack all day. Just take some capsules, you know? Yes. I think that the infusion is better. Whatever. Just take the capsules. It’s fine. You still win. You still will sneeze less. And, it’s legit.
It’s also worth saying again, if your primary intention working with nettle is to reduce allergic symptoms, you can do a short infusion.
Yeah, that’s true.
We always prefer with nettle to do like overnight infusions or four hour infusions or something. But again, the kinds of activity that we’re looking for here, they’re going to jump right out. They’re going to come out early in the extraction process. We do those long infusions because we want to draw out all that mineral content. We want to allow that to have some time to extract. And honestly, even the chlorophyll. Like you can see the infusion getting darker and greener the longer you let it infuse. So there are definite benefits to doing that, and we advocate for it. But again, if you make a short steep of nettle, you’ll get some relief. People get nettle tea in tea bags or little like allergy blends that have nettle in them from your grocery store, your herb shop, and get some relief that way too. So this is like the good news about nettle for allergies. So you’ve got tons of options. You know, when we think about this herb for allergies, and why it’s helping, there are a few different things that we can point to there. So we can look at nettle, and we can look at some of its constituents like the chlorophyll. Yeah. That does help here through that anti-inflammatory effect. But more often we’ll pay some attention to quercetin, right, and a few other related compounds. Now quercetin is really widely distributed in plants. It occurs in lots and lots of green leafy things. But some are just, you know, of a greater concentration than others. And nettle for sure is a really strong purveyor of this substance.
Wherever fine quercetin is sold.
Yeah. Yeah. So this is an anti-inflammatory that seems to have a direct effect on histamine release in the body. When we think about histamine, we have to think about where does it come from? Like what are the cells that make it or release it? And what you’ve got is basically these things called mast cells. And their job is to be kind of like a monitoring system. And if they detect a potential threat, which is the way your body is responding to allergens, then they’ll burst open and they’ll release a bunch of histamine and spread that into the system. And that will, you know, accelerate the inflammatory process, and the leakiness of blood vessels and mucus membranes. That’s where the watery symptoms come from, the flowing of those fluids.
And before you’re over there saying, Arrgh. Those stinking mast cells. They are such a problem. We just need to note that this response in the body is very important, and it’s why you’re alive today actually. If we didn’t have the ability to do this, then we all would have succumbed to the very first pathogen that came our way. And none of us would be here. So, even though mast cells kind of are getting a bad rap these days. Like everybody’s really down on mast cells. I do just always like to point out like, listen. We need these. It’s really important. Yeah. Okay. In this moment, like it’s the middle of allergy season and I’m kind of annoyed that I sneeze so much, but that’s just a little recalibration that needs to happen. And it’s not about like, well let’s just get rid of mast cell responsiveness, or let’s shut down the mast cell process. It’s really just, oh, I just need to recalibrate my sensitivity levels.
Yeah. Yeah. So, nettle helps you to do that, you know? And then the effects of nettle are broader than just that one mechanism though. You know, nettle, like I said before, it has a kidney supportive quality to it, a diuretic effect, an anti-inflammatory action on the kidney itself. And that’s super important, right? The kidneys are part of our eliminative systems, right? They’re part of our, you can say detox system if you like. And when we think about allergic sensitivity, how likely are you to react on a given day, that’s not only determined by pollen count. That’s a factor for sure, and it can be a big one.
Wow. But in my life, it’s also determined on how much sugar did I eat today or yesterday or whatever. You know, like how much other stuff do I have going on in my body that may or may not be having its own calibration effect on my inflammatory response, right? Like the more sugar or junk food or whatever that I maybe gave into on a given day, the more sort of itchy trigger finger my mast cells are going to be. Because that’s an effect of sugar in the body. But it’s also an effect of not getting enough sleep, having too much stress going on. So like, even if I’m eating really good, and like all the vegetables and everything, but I’m having a really stressful day or, but I slept poorly last night because there was a great big thunderstorm and whatever. Then I still am having that sort of… I don’t want to call it miscalibration, because the mast cells are calibrating in the way that they need to calibrate to be responsive to what they need to respond to. If they’re super sensitive right now, that’s because they’re responding to an environment in my body that demands responsiveness. And so if I remove some of that demand by getting a better night’s sleep, or like backing off on sugary comfort food, or doing something to help lower my stress levels, whatever. Then that is going to have a direct impact, but a direct lessening impact, on the sensitivity level of my mast cells, which directly translates to the sensitivity level of my nose to all the pollen in the air. But all of that aside, I just want to be clear that if the mast cells are kind of like on high alert. And the inflammatory process in general is on high alert. That’s not for nothing. That’s not because you’re broken. That’s because your body has assessed the environment, the current environment and said, Ooh. There’s a lot to be responding to here. We do need to be at high alert.
Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, I also wanted to take a quick moment and say that when we talk about nettle, when we talk about it the effects that it can have on mast cells, on histamine release and that, there are lots of different ways to describe that. And I do personally tend to talk first about the quercetin and then about the kidney effect. There are a number of other like microscopic level actions that have been identified with nettle. There’s a cool study from 2009, that I’ll put into the show notes and you can read through it yourself, but this was looking at the effects of nettle on cell receptors and enzymes that cells release, and the way that that plays into the allergic response. And nettles got a lot going on, right? Directly reducing histamine receptors and kind of blockading them. Trying to reduce or inhibit the release of a bunch of pro-inflammatory signaling molecules in the body, including some you may have heard of. People use the acronym COX or C O X. Cyclooxygenase. That’s involved in a lot of different pieces of the inflammatory pathway. And with nettle, you know, the reason I bring up the complexity of its reaction is that that’s often the case with plants, right? It’s not like one chemical is doing all of the work that the plant does. There are a few different mechanisms that are at play at the same time. And that actually makes plants a lot more responsive, right? It makes them, in our opinion, more appropriate for most cases. Because rarely is a case of allergy in your body due to a single receptor site being overexpressed on your mast cells, or a single pro-inflammatory mediator molecule being overproduced in your system. It’s a system of effects. It’s a complex of effects working together. And so the nettle is going to touch that system in multiple different leverage points. Yeah.
In other words, diversity makes us stronger.
That’s what. That’s what’s up.
Yeah, yeah. All right. So anyway, nettle. And speaking of studies, I am remembering one. Wow, this is back from a while, like early two thousands, where they had done, or maybe it was like 2010 maybe. They had done a study comparing freeze dried nettle capsules to Claritin. And had determined that about 300 milligrams of freeze dried nettle was as effective as the dose of Claritin that they were studying. And of course nettle is not time-released, right? So if you’re accustomed to taking a time-released Claritin kind of thing, and you’re like, hmm, maybe I’ll try nettle, then you would need to take nettle more frequently than you took the Claritin. But it is interesting that when they studied it, like right up against head-to-head to that common over-the-counter allergy remedy, like allergy thing, pill, that they were getting fairly positive results.
Moving on to Eyebright
Yeah. Okay. All right. So that’s nettle. We talked about how to take it, some of its actions, what we understand about them at a micro level and a system wide level. All right. Shall we move on to eyebright?
We shall. We shall move on to eyebright. Eyebright, so in this case, I work with tincture. You can make tea of eyebright. And we have a student who does it. But I do have to tell you it’s not awesome. It does require a lot of flavoring, and that’s not just Katja who doesn’t like nettle saying that. That is also even from a dedicated allergy sufferer who drinks eyebright every single day is like, oh, no. I do need to flavor it, because it’s not actually delicious.
I feel like I haven’t had eyebright tea enough times to recall the flavor to mind right now.
So actually there’s a reason for that. Because we had some eyebright like some number of years ago.
That was a long time ago, yeah.
It was a long time ago, because for a long time you couldn’t purchase eyebright unless it was powdered, encapsulated, or made into tincture. And the reason was because it was considered an invasive species. And so they wouldn’t permit the sale of it in any form that might possibly contain a seed.
Right. Yeah, you know, you get a bag of chopped, dried leafy herb or whatever. There could be a seed floating around in there.
Yeah. Especially with this. Like, if it’s a fennel seed, like you would definitely see that. But like, it was a little tiny seed, you wouldn’t necessarily see it. So, I’m not sure if you can buy it dried. No, I think you can buy it dried now.
I think so.
But you must be able to, because otherwise she wouldn’t be drinking it as tea. But yeah, we haven’t had it. We had it for like a minute a long time ago. And since then we’ve only had it as tincture, which honestly suits me fine. The tincture works great. It tastes fine. It’s like, whatever. I’ll just have this tincture real quick. And whatever. I don’t mean to be like, Debbie downer about the flavor of herbs or whatever. And I don’t want to like pre-disposition someone to think like, well. I won’t even try that, because Katja said it doesn’t taste good. But on the other hand, I like to be realistic about the flavor of things. And before you say Katja loves eyebright for her allergies. I should try it. I’m going to buy a whole pound of it from Mountain Rose or wherever you get your herbs. I do want you to know that it isn’t delicious. So, you might just get a little bit and try it first. And then if you like it, you can be like, ha ha, Katja. I love it. And I’ll be like, oh, that’s so good. But at least that way you know what it tastes like before you buy a whole lot of it, and then don’t know what to do with it. Well, I guess you could just tincture it right in that case.
Anyway, eyebright tincture, ya’ll. It is so fast acting, and really just shuts off the waterworks, especially the watery eyes. You know it’s eyebright. It does really just tighten everything up in a nice way. Now I am not a person prone to dryness. If you have watery eyes as part of your allergies, and you are a person who runs dry almost all the time. Except during allergy season your eyes are watering all the time, but like your eyes are watering and the rest of your body is still dry. Then you might be careful with this, because it’s going to dry up that wateriness. But if you’re already a dry person, you might be right on the borderline of then becoming uncomfortable with dry eyes instead of uncomfortable with watery eyes.
Yeah. I don’t really take eyebright very often. I don’t really get allergic expressions too often these days. I think did a lot more before I figured out my food intolerances. That’s just a big piece of reducing allergic hypersensitivity, you know, is to identify and avoid your food allergens. It makes a huge, huge difference. So we won’t dwell on that today, but that made a big, big difference for me, for sure. And so I don’t really tend to be reaching for allergy response herbs too often. I know I’ve taken eyebright tincture a few times. But I think those were probably on days when I was like, you know, drinking linden and violet infusion, or just straight up marshmallow root, or marshmallow and fennel or something like that. And so that wouldn’t have been overwhelming to me. But also by the time I was working with eyebright, I was pretty well-informed about herbal energetics and been like oh. I’ve got a drying herb in here. Better watch out for that, so…
Yeah. So anyway, if you are a person who runs dry, and you want to take eyebright tincture, then maybe also consider having like a marshmallow root and cinnamon cold infusion that you just drink through the day to kind of balance out your dryness and your wateriness.
Yeah. But actually let me ask, because you take this more than me. Like in comparison to say golden seal…not as intense?
Actually, I find it equally effective.
And I was going to mention that, because golden seal is a plant that also it’s a mucous membrane, astringent, and it works super fast. And you really only need a couple of drops. But here’s the thing is that golden seal is a plant that’s at risk. And so whenever I have a substitute, like another plant who can do the same job, I prefer to do that. Because I don’t want to work with an at-risk plant, unless that’s really the only choice, like the only option for that. And I think also my seasonal allergies used to be way worse before I dealt with food intolerances and stuff like that too. And so now my seasonal allergies are kind of annoying. Like I sneeze, and it’s not lady like. And like I blow my nose too often, but honestly that’s really all it is. It’s not the end of the world. I could just sneeze. It would be fine. And for some people it’s way more than just, wow. You sound ridiculous, because you just keep sneezing. It can be really, really miserable. So I don’t want to say that it would never be appropriate to take golden seal for seasonal allergies. But it isn’t really necessary, because eyebright can do that work super, super effectively and super quickly. Like, you know, 10 minutes you take the tincture and you could…Well, your body may be different. But I could go from full on sneezing fit to where it’s just like sneeze. Blow your nose. Sneeze. Blow your nose, over and over and over again. Take some eyebright tincture, and like 10 minutes later I’m a normal person just sitting at my desk doing normal things. Yeah. So…
Yeah. When you take doses, what are your initial doses or each round these days? What does that look like?
Usually, like three droppers full. Which remember that my body is a little slow on the uptake. So I’m always taking a little bit more. Somebody else might only need one dropper full or maybe two. But my body’s a little sluggish. I always tend to take a little bit higher dose. Between Ryn and I, we’re kind of the extremes of that. Like I tend to take much higher doses of things, and you tend to take lower doses of things unless it’s the day that you want to try drinking an entire ounce of kava or whatever.
Yeah. If I was going to take eyebright, I’d just take a straight dropper. This is not one like golden seal where I’d be like, hmm. I better count out the number of drops to take, you know. I’d just be like eh, a dropper. Go ahead and take that and you should be fine. I don’t feel like eyebright has the depths of drying effect on mucosa, especially at the sinuses, that golden seal has. Like golden seal, you can dry out your sinuses so much that they crack, you know. With eyebright, I don’t know that I’ve… I’ve certainly never done that to my own self, and I haven’t had any complaints back from clients either with doses we’ve recommended.
I do agree with that. I think it is every bit as effective, but not quite as aggressive. And so I appreciate that. But definitely like you can give yourself a nosebleed with golden seal if you aren’t careful. And that’s just not the case with eyebright at least not in my experience. Which is super, like, I appreciate that a lot, because one other thing that’s really common with seasonal allergies, and definitely as part of my pattern, is that I get a lot of sinus congestion. And sometimes that’s very annoying, because it’s moving out of my nose at a fairly quick pace. But sometimes it’s the opposite kind of annoying where it starts to get stuck, and I start to feel like sinus pressure. And that is also very uncomfortable. So I appreciate that eyebright doesn’t seem to contribute to that. There is still a draining effect. There is something, but it doesn’t like just immediately turn all of my snot to paste.
Yeah. Cool. So, you know, in terms of interactivity in the body, eyebright is another one that’s famous for reducing histaminic expressions, stabilizing mast cells, addressing certain parts of that inflammatory cascade where the redness, the swelling, the leakiness, where all of that stuff is coming from. Yeah. All right. Well, let’s talk about ground ivy next.
Next Up: Ground Ivy
Yeah. Speaking of that sinus congestion, so that is where the ground ivy comes in. And I can remember when I was first learning herbalism a million years ago. I was a person, like all through my childhood this was true as well, but I was a person who really depended on Dimetapp a lot, which is an over the counter decongestant. And it’s like a food group in my childhood memory. Like seriously. It’s this like grape syrupy thing. Like I literally think back about things I ate as a kid, and like Dimetapp falls in that category.
Because you had so many ear infections and sinus infections and all that kind of stuff.
Look back…undiagnosed food allergy.
So bad. And so, you know, I remember as I was learning different things, I can remember a specific day that I thought, wow. Herbs can do everything. There’s an herb for everything except Dimetapp. I literally can remember thinking that. I can remember where I was sitting, like the whole nine yards. And that was before I met ground Ivy.
I wonder if you said that out loud to Rosemary, and how she would have responded to it?
I did not. I didn’t say it out loud, but I was at her house actually. But I did not say it out loud. And so yeah, I was like, whoa. Like the only thing that herbs don’t have is Dimetapp
And then you met ground ivy.
And then I met ground ivy. And we’ve now mentioned two over the counter medicines. And I don’t ever really want to say that ground ivy is the herbal Dimetapp. And I realize that I kind of just said that. And the same with like nettle is the herbal Claritin. And I also do not want to say that.
Well, because Claritin doesn’t support healthy kidney function, and neither does Dimetapp. But ground ivy actually can. Yeah, so they are really different substances.
Right. So, I really don’t want to, even though it kind of sounds like I’m saying it, I do not want the message to be: ground ivy. It’s herbal Dimetapp. But as a person who used to have that as a part of my life, like I needed something to fill that gap. I needed something to meet that need. And right, I mean, like whenever you have a job to do, there are often multiple ways to do it. And so for a large part of my young life, I had a job to do, and that was deal with congestion in my head. And we dealt with that with Dimetapp. But later in life, I discovered that I could deal with that with ground Ivy with much better effect. And ground Ivy is super helpful, not just for sinuses and sinus pressure. It really is just amazing at moving lymph and snot around in your head, like keeping it from getting stuck in one place. And that’s when the pressure happens. But the extra bonus, awesome thing about ground ivy is that it does this in the ears as well. And as a kid who took antibiotics for like 18 months straight because of chronic ear infections, even still now at 47, I struggle with ear infections so much less, because we figured out so many things that were exacerbating the problem. But like, listen. Even when you get your food allergies all set. And you try to sleep really great, and you think you’re doing all the things. Like you still have whatever body you have. And my body just has some weaknesses in some places, and every body does. It’s kind of like, you know, every different kind of car has some strengths and some weaknesses, right? If you have a minivan, and you need to cart a lot of people around, well the minivans really good at that. But if you need to go fast around a corner, that’s not like something that a minivan is awesome at. It’s got some challenges there. And if you have a tiny little sports car, and you need to go fast around a corner, you’re all set. But you can’t really carry around many people. So bodies are kind of the same way. There’s things that each individual body is really good at, and things that each individual body struggles with. And no matter how much broccoli you get into your diet, or how much sleep, or how much of the perfect herb or whatever, listen. If your body is a minivan, it’s still a minivan. Like you’re still not going to go fast around a corner. So, okay. So my ears, right? They’re better, but I still have to stay right on top of it. And so whenever I get sinus pressure buildup, then that tends to go very quickly into my ears, and become really, really uncomfortable.
Yeah. It shows up as earaches. It’s always a sign that you’ve got a cold coming on if your ears start to ache. It’s like, oh, wait a minute. And then if we like pause and say, well, how are your energy levels today? You have any other symptoms going on? And you’re like, oh wait. Yeah, I kind of feel… And then you’re like, oh right. I am starting to catch something here. I better respond. So, yeah. Being aware of your kind of, I don’t know, signaling symptoms, the things that come on first for you.
Being very clear at what make and model of vehicle you actually are.
Yeah. I mean, for me it’s like a sore throat, you know, is going to be my first indicator of a respiratory infection. But you know, for you it’s…
No, that’s your second indicator, babe.
Oh, is it?
Yeah. Your first indicator is your guts.
Oh, that one.
Yeah. But anyway, yeah. So, you know, when you, Katja have a cold coming on and you start to get that ear pain, we’ll respond with ground ivy. And if we get it early enough, then that can kind of prevent that nascent, you know, cold or whatever it was from really digging in deep and drawing it down.
It really does.
But in the case of seasonal allergies, it also really helps with preventing headaches. Because for me those headaches are coming from sinus congestion and pressure through the sinuses. And sort of like backing that all the way to the root cause is, oh. The fluids in my head are not moving appropriately. And so it isn’t… like you can’t Google anywhere – I don’t know, maybe you can – and find ground ivy for headache. You know, like maybe you can. I haven’t tried it. You can try it and find out. But if you don’t, if there’s no response to that, it wouldn’t surprise me at all. Because it isn’t that that ground ivy is solving the headache. Ground ivy is solving the sinus pressure that created the headache in the first place.
And this particular kind of headache, right? It’s not ground ivy for every kind of headache out there. You know, if you’re all dried out and inflamed and red and itchy and dusty and whatever, and you’ve got a headache, then not ground ivy time. Not really. It’s not going to generate fluids and then move them around. It’s going to take stuck, stagnant fluids and drain them and circulate them and move that through. So again, just make sure that the call it tissue state matches, and then this’ll be a good match. Yeah. So ground ivy, you can work with it in different ways. And it’s a common herb. It’s a common weedy kind of a plant. We see it all around town in Boston in parks and green spaces and the Arboretum and other areas.
Yards. Everybody’s yard. Yeah.
Yeah, for sure. So, it’s a good one to get to know by visual identification. You may know it under other names. Ground ivy is sometimes called creeping Charlie or gill-over-the-ground. Or if you’re in the UK you might know this herb as ale hoof. It probably has a bunch of other common names as well. But it’s botanical is Glechoma hederacea. And it’s pretty easy to identify. It has these round leaves that are very, very vaguely heart shaped, but they don’t come to a tight point, a tip.
You know, actually they’re more like kidney shaped.
Kidney bean shaped with kidney bean shaped teeth around the edges, like rounded fluffy teeth.
Very, very Valentine’s day doily except shaped like a kidney bean.
Yeah. And then it has little purple flowers that are your kind of typical mint family flower. Where it’s sort of like a tube, and then at the mouth of it there are two lobes up top. And then three lobes on the underside. One line of symmetry straight down the middle. So anyway, it’s a plant where once you start to get to know it and to see it, then you’ll see it everywhere. And if you find a spot where you know what it’s been like in terms of spraying or other kinds of treatments in that area. You know it’s pretty safe, relatively clean. Maybe it rained yesterday. And there probably haven’t been too many dogs to come by and pee on it today yet. Then you could wild gather this for sure. And when you did that, you could make a tea with it. If you’ve got a dehydrator, if you’re in New England you’re going to need one to dry it. If you’re in other states and they’re drier areas, then maybe, maybe you can just dehydrate it.
Listen, the tincture is the way to go.
It is good. And I think it’s possible that this is one of those cases where there’s some beneficial element in the fresh plant that we can capture in tincture and keep. But if we dry it, then that might break down or transform and become a little bit less helpful.
Yeah. That really is my opinion. This is one that you really do need to make a fresh plant tincture. And it’s not like the other two, nettle and eyebright you can buy. You can even find those at whole foods or like any health food store.
They’re popular in like a commercial sense.
Yeah. But ground ivy is hard to find in commerce. You can find it on Etsy. But the thing is that listen. If you have any neighbors with a garden or if you have a garden, it’s in the garden and they don’t want it there. They’re pulling it out. So, just get to know the gardeners in your neighborhood. And be like as long as you don’t put chemicals on your garden or like miracle grow or whatever, then I’ll just take all your ground ivy and tincture it. But yeah, first off, even if you did dry it you would need so much of it. Whereas tincture, like a couple of Mason jars full is easy to get. You can go out and harvest that in like 30 minutes. And now you have your tincture for the whole year.
Yeah. When we do that, we work with the whole aerial part of the plant, everything growing above the ground, you know? So the stems, the leaves, the flowers if they’re present, the whole thing. Chop it up roughly. Stuff it in a jar. Pour on some alcohol just enough to cover it. You don’t need high proof alcohol for this fresh tincture. Vodka, brandy, they’re going to do just fine.
You know, I always in vodka. But ground ivy sometimes I really like to tincture in brandy, because this is one that is super helpful for kids also. And they kind of appreciate the brandy flavor a little. It’s not quite as sharp as the vodka flavor.
Just a little sweetness is in there.
Yeah. I mean, you could always put a little honey in there too, but brandy is usually totally sufficient to make it palatable for kids.
Yeah. And then this one is really flexible on dosing. You can start with small doses if you know that you have a sensitive system or if we have a small individual, maybe a kid or just a small person that you want to give tincture to. You can start with like 10 or 20 drops and see how that goes. Bigger humans might want a few dropper fulls, you know, at a time.
Yeah. Sometimes I just take even like one dropper full, but take it every hour or something like that. Lately I have just been swigging from the bottle. I have like the big 16 ounce bottle. I just took it from the apothecary shelf, put it right on my desk. It’s like, ah, this is going to be gone in the next month.
Just take a little sip here and there.
Yeah, just a little sip now and then. Yeah. Whatever. I’m the only one using that, so. I wouldn’t do that if anybody else was.
This is not GMP compliant.
No, no. This is from the personal apothecary, and the only cooties are mine. Well, I guess yours, but you don’t really take ground ivy, so…
If I need it I won’t mind your cooties. That’s fine. All right. So there you go folks. Those are our three favorites, quick and easy herbal interventions, especially for the watery, runny, snotty presentations of allergic problems. And also again, fluidy on the inside too, right? Think about your ears. We didn’t even really mention, but ground ivy is moving lymphatic fluid in the ears and the throat, in the underlying structures there as well. And that’s a big part of how it accomplishes what it’s doing. So yeah, so those are some of our favorite specific herbs for these kinds of presentations. But wait, there’s more.
There’s so much more y’all.
There’s at least nine hours more of material.
There’s at least nine hours more. So we have a whole online video course that is dedicated just to seasonal environmental allergies. There’s nine hours of video. Actually, I think it’s a little more than that now. There’s downloadable audio files for every video, so you can listen on the go if you prefer, since you, dear podcast listener, do enjoy audio files.
Yeah. The course also has printable quick guides that go along with the material. There’s a printable materia medica with more than just three herbs in it.
Yes. Many, many herbs.
Yeah. So as you go through this course, you’re going to learn why allergic reactions are happening. You’re going to learn what role your hormones play in allergies, and maybe some hormones you didn’t think of as hormones, like vitamin D for instance.
Yes. There’s also a great big checklist of ways to deal with allergies, both to get rid of your symptoms right now, because you just cannot sneeze like a lumberjack in the next meeting that you have to go to. But also to build up your body and sort of recalibrate that immune response so that you don’t have to deal with allergies as much in the future. You can take the edge off them, drop them down a few notches. Yeah.
Yeah. So it’s a great course and it’s only $25. And for that, you not only get all of that course material, video content, the audio, the downloadables, but you also get access to our live Q and A sessions each week as well. So that’s twice a week where we just hang out and you can ask us anything, whether it’s about your allergies course or whether it’s about other herbal questions that arise for you.
I mean, I suppose you could ask us what our favorite cake is if you…you know, that’s not necessarily herbal. You could probably just ask us anything.
Spice cake. That’s a good cake. Yeah.
Yes. So anyway, you can find the herbs for seasonal and environmental allergies course at online.commonwealthherbs.com. And you just scroll down a little bit and that’s where you’ll see it.
Yeah. Or check the show notes. I’ll put a link right there for you. All right everybody, we’ll be back next time with some more Holistic Herbalism podcast for you. Until then take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. Drink some tea.
Drink some tea.
And, you know, sneeze ’em like you’ve got ’em. Bye.
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