Spring is such a magical time of year; it can be so exciting and inspiring to witness the Earth bursting at the seams with color and smells. However, some of us can’t spend as much time outdoors as we would like this time of year – because of dreaded allergies. Who wants to go on a springtime hike when they can’t stop sneezing?
Luckily, many traditional herbal remedies and aromatic plants can help us walk through spring with a smile instead of all sniffles. This article will detail a few of our favorite springtime herbal hacks, including helpful plant allies to support you throughout the allergy season.
What Causes Allergies?
Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance, like pollen, dust mites, or pet dander. When you experience allergies, your immune system makes antibodies that identify the harmless allergen as dangerous. This results in common allergy symptoms like sneezing; itchy, runny or congested nose; itchy, red, watering eyes; wheezing; rash; chest tightness; shortness of breath; and a cough. While there is no known cure for most allergies, there are many natural treatments that can help relieve your allergy symptoms.
Natural Remedies for Allergies
incense / Essential oil diffuser
Using the aromatic plants listed below as incense or in an essential oil diffuser can help relieve some allergy symptoms. Many aromatic plants that are known for easing cold and flu symptoms are also supportive to the respiratory system during allergy season; a lot of these plants contain chemical constituents that can relieve inflammation, coughs, mucus, watery eyes, runny nose, and congested airways. Several aromatic plants that help address allergy symptoms include Citrus, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Mint, Rosemary, Thyme, and Tulsi. While most of these plants are traditionally used in incense, some (like Tulsi) are best utilized in an essential oil diffuser. If for some reason incense smoke is intense for you or making your symptoms worse, check out the 3 smokeless ways to burn incense here.
Herbal tea is a tasty tool to help soothe allergy symptoms. You can make tea with any of the aromatic herbs mentioned below, in addition to herbs that are known to help support the respiratory system, like Mullein, Elecampane, Licorice, and Marshmallow root. Stinging Nettle would also be a good addition to an herbal allergy tea, since it has naturally occurring antihistamines, as well as Yarrow, which is traditionally used to treat colds, flus, and fevers. Yarrow’s anti-microbial and expectorant actions make it an ideal herb for the respiratory system and allergies.
When making an herbal tea infusion, the general guideline is to steep 1 TBSP of herbs per 8 oz. of hot water in a cup or teapot for at least 15 minutes. Make sure to cover the container to help keep all the valuable volatile oils in your tea and to enjoy the maximum therapeutic benefits. You may also want to consider adding a spoonful of raw local honey to your tea, which can sometimes help with environmental allergies since it contains small amounts of pollens from various local plants, resulting in a sort of homeopathic microdose medicine that can help your immune system to tolerate exposure to larger amounts of pollen. The more often you ingest local honey, the more microdoses of pollen help build up your immunity to those irritants. Just be sure to get it as local as possible.
Herbal steaming is an age-old tradition you can practice right on your kitchen stovetop. Many aromatic plants can be used in an herbal steam to help open up the lungs, clear congestion, and ease allergy symptoms. It can also help remove irritating allergens from your eyes, nose, mouth, and lungs. For more information on how to safely and effectively practice this method, check out our article on herbal steaming.
Nasal washes using a neti pot can help to remove irritating pollen from your mucus membranes. To use a neti pot, tilt your head sideways over a sink and place the spout of the neti pot in your upper nostril. Gently pour the solution into your upper nostril, allowing the liquid to drain through your lower nostril. Make sure to only breathe through your mouth. Repeat on the other side. If you are really congested, you may want to do an herbal steam before trying a nasal wash.
The most common nasal wash solution is made by mixing 1 cup of warm, distilled water with ¼-½ teaspoon of salt. If you wish, you can choose from one of the herbs listed below to make a simple herbal tea to add to your solution. For a very runny nose, you may want to use astringent herbs like Rose or Yarrow. For sinuses that feel raw or dry, add a demulcent herb like Marshmallow root.
When making an herbal tea infusion for your nasal wash solution, steep 1 TBSP of herbs per 8 oz. of hot water in a cup (covered) for at least 15 minutes, then strain well. Mix in your salt, then wait for the liquid to cool to room temperature before using it in your nasal wash. Never use essential oils in a neti pot – they are too potent and can be irritating to your sensitive mucus membranes.
An herbal eye compress can bring soothing relief to irritated eyes. Prepare an herbal tea solution as described above in the “Herbal Tea” section, and when it’s ready, soak a clean washcloth in the herbal tea for several minutes. Gently squeeze out the excess liquid, then lay the cloth over your closed eyes for 5-10 minutes. You can repeat this several times per day, even reusing the same herbal tea.
Beneficial herbs for an herbal eye compress include gentle, soothing plants like Calendula, Chamomile, Lavender, and Plantain. Avoid using essential oils and highly aromatic plants, especially Mints, as they can be too strong and irritating to the eyes.
The relaxing warm waters of a bath, coupled with the therapeutic steam and aromatherapy of plants, can help ease allergy symptoms and any accompanying stress you might be feeling. If you don’t have a bathtub, you can make yourself a soothing herbal foot soak in a large bowl. If you’re using essential oils in your soaking water, make sure to check out this Essential Oil Dilution Guide for safe and effective dilution ratios.
7 Aromatic Plants for Allergies
The herbs listed below are just a few of many aromatic plants which can help soothe allergy symptoms. Every person is unique, and therefore can react differently to each plant, so it is important to experiment and find which plants work best for you.
Citrus peels (Bergamot, Lemon, Lime, Orange, and Grapefruit)
These fruity aromatics act as expectorants, which can help break up mucus and ease congestion. Scientific studies have shown that Lemon essential oil can reduce inflammation of the sinuses and help ease many allergy symptoms, including allergic rhinitis . Additionally, adding Citrus peel or juice to an herbal tea will increase its Vitamin C content, which can help support the respiratory system.
Widely used for providing respiratory and immune system support, Eucalyptus is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, an expectorant, and a decongestant. Backed by scientific research, its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties can help provide relief for respiratory issues like bronchitis, asthma, and sinusitis, and other issues that relate to congested airways.
This herb is a strong anti-inflammatory, helping to ease swelling and congestion. It is also a natural antihistamine, which can block the histamines your body releases that causes allergy symptoms. Lavender’s calming effects on the nervous system can also support relaxation, in turn helping relieve you from any stress caused by allergy symptoms.
Mint (Peppermint and Spearmint)
Mint is a decongestant, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory, helping to open the lungs so you can breathe deeper and easier. It's also a mild pain reliever, which can help with an itchy or scratchy throat, as well as headaches caused by allergy symptoms. Peppermint can be quite strong, so use Spearmint when looking for a more gentle approach.
An effective decongestant that’s great at opening the airways and supporting your respiratory system. It is commonly used to help relieve coughs and bronchitis. It also has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
Highly antibacterial, this plant is an expectorant and has been used for centuries for chest congestion and coughs. It is beneficial for chronic fatigue, shallow breathing, and bronchitis. It was traditionally used as a fumigant to disinfect the air and help reduce the spread of disease.
Tulsi (Holy Basil)
This aromatic plant is a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory, helping to soothe allergy symptoms. It can also help support your immune system and reduce stress and anxiety.
There are a wide-range of herbal remedies that can provide immediate and long-lasting allergy relief, from herbal steams and teas, to nasal washes and eye compresses. Hopefully this article has equipped you with helpful tips and tricks to feel confident stepping outside so that you are able to enjoy nature this allergy season. Being in the presence of plants and witnessing the natural beauty of the wild is such a gift that we should all be able to enjoy, without the sniffles and sneezes they can sometimes bring!
Article Written By Melissa Szaro
1. Kummer, R., Fachini-Queiroz, F.C., Estevão-Silva, C.F., Grespan, R., Silva, E.L., Bersani-Amado, C.A., and Nakamura Cuman, R.K. “Evaluation of Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Citrus latifolia Tanaka Essential Oil and Limonene in Experimental Mouse Models”. Evidence Based Complement Alternative Medicine, 2013.
© 2022 The Northwest School of Aromatic Medicine. All rights reserved.
*The statements above have not been evaluated by the FDA, and are for educational purposes only. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This article should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult your physician before you use this information for health purposes.