An allergy is nothing more than a dysfunction of the immune system, in which it becomes intolerant to substances that are, on the face of it, harmless: pollen, cat or dog dander, dust mites, etc. (1)
More specifically, there are two types of mechanism at work in allergic reactions:
When these antibodies are presented with an allergen which they are ‘programmed’ to react against, the cells to which they are bound release inflammatory chemicals (histamine, prostaglandins, leukotriene, tryptase, etc.) which are responsible for the allergic symptoms: secretions, red blotches, etc. (4)
Hay fever is almost always due to what is termed an ‘immediate’ allergy, one caused by IgE antibodies, and normally linked to hereditary factors.
While scientists remain circumspect about the undeniable increase in allergy prevalence in Western populations, they all agree that two factors are behind allergies: (5)
Either way, there are five main types of allergen: (6)
Despite the fact that allergy prevalence in Western populations has been rising relentlessly over the last 30 years or so, reaching 25% to 30%, there are few natural methods that effectively combat seasonal allergies (7).
Hay fever (rhinitis and allergic conjunctivitis), in particular, which affects 15% to 20% of the population in the West, is directly linked to spring flowering and the resulting release of pollen which is carried by the wind and dispersed everywhere.
A number of strategies can be employed to at least reduce the effects of hay fever:
Besides these interventions, taking certain nutritional supplements can also help your body cope with seasonal allergies.
For example, as oligoproanthocyanidins (OPC) from maritime pine bark have been recognised for many years, especially by naturopaths, for supporting respiratory health, extracts of maritime pine (such as the supplement Pycnogenol®) may offer benefits in fighting the symptoms of hay fever (8).
Another strategy relies on immunomodulation, a method introduced into medical practice in the 1960s to help prevent rejection of transplants by reducing the body’s targeted immune response (9).
A similar approach can be used to combat allergies, the principle here being to reduce the response targeted at allergens, without damaging – and even stimulating – the body’s overall defences.
Astragalus would seem to be an excellent candidate for this approach. The high polysaccharide content of this plant, native to north-eastern China and used for millennia in their traditional pharmacopoeia, gives it immunomodulatory and immunostimulant properties (10).
So to help tackle seasonal allergies such as hay fever, it’s worth considering a course of astragalus supplements (such as the product Astragalus Extract).
According to several studies, other plant substances such as spirulina, bromelain and common butterbur all have anti-histamine properties(11-13). As we know, the body releases a molecule called histamine during an allergic reaction, which is responsible for sneezing, redness, etc. These plants can thus help prevent these unwelcome effects.
For greater efficacy and ease of use, you also have the choice of opting for the comprehensive supplement Aller Fight, a synergistic formulation that combines maritime pine, astragalus, spirulina, bromelain and common butterbur.
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