About this Episode
Millions of people worldwide struggle with food and environmental allergies, with one study reporting over 100 million Americans with allergies.1 In this episode of the Medicinal Herbs series, we talk with a returning guest, naturopath and herbalist Jo Boyd, about common allergies and herbs that may be helpful in protecting the body and relieving symptoms.
Why Are Allergies Becoming More Common?
The prevalence of allergies and sensitivities seems to be increasing, what Jo calls an “allergy explosion.” Environmental factors like pollution and toxic exposure may be part of this increase, as well as longer pollen seasons increasing both allergy rates and degrees of sensitivity. Additionally, changes in diet and gut microbiome composition across the population may influence the prevalence of allergies. Jo emphasizes the importance of “educating the immune system” early on to reduce the risk of allergies.
In our conversation with Jo, we focus on atopic allergy, which includes mostly type 1 hypersensitivity allergies such as eczema (atopic dermatitis), asthma, allergic rhinitis, and some food allergies. Atopic allergy may or may not result from a genetic predisposition. What Jo calls the “atopic march” describes the progression of an atopic allergy throughout life, from young childhood to adulthood. With atopic allergy, it’s important to support healthy skin barrier function from an early age.
Working with Patients with Allergies
When asked to reflect on what it’s like to work with patients struggling with allergies, Jo emphasizes that there is no “one size fits all scenario” where one herb or lifestyle change helps every single person address their allergies. In general, she recommends reducing toxic load at home, which may include dust mites, mold, and pet dander, as well as avoiding pollen and air pollution (as much as anyone can control these things).
Physiologically, supporting barrier function – lungs, skin, and intestinally – is an important aspect of addressing allergies. She also concentrates on addressing and reducing her patients’ allergy-related symptoms.
Go-to Herbs for Allergies
There is a wide variety of medicinal herbs that can address the root causes of allergies in the human body. Two of Jo’s favorites are Albizia and black cumin seed, particularly for stabilizing mast cells and reducing histamine levels. She also likes:
- Eyebright and goldenrod as mucous membrane tonic herbs
- Goldenseal as a mucous membrane trophorestorative herb
- Echinacea and astragalus for immune support
- Skullcap, nettle leaf
- Bitter herbs and foods, like gentian, wormwood, and feverfew
- Cleavers, sarsaparilla, burdock, and yellow dock to support elimination of toxins
- Gotu kola and grapeseed for healthy skin barrier function
- Ginkgo for circulation and capillary integrity
>> Audio bookmark: “Don’t underestimate – not only how effective [herbs] can be – but how quickly for many people they can provide relief as well.”
Learn more about a natural approach to seasonal allergies.