Allergies and Ayurveda:
Conventional seasonal allergies can be a result of an adverse reaction to food, medicine, your surrounding environment and cosmetics. Often doctors recommend anti-allergy and antihistamines for immediate relief to seasonal allergies and avoid the allergens that cause the reactions.
It is said in Ayurveda that allergies originate from an imbalance of the doshas (bio-energetic principles) which are responsible for the function of our body and mind. Rather than treating the symptom, treating the origin is the key to achieving long term benefits and relief. It is also essential to boost internal immunity through a healthier diet, lifestyle, some common herbs and certain rejuvenating treatments.
Balancing the Doshas
Your primary dosha type can often predict which allergy symptoms will manifest, so it’s important to understand your dosha type as well as your current imbalances. Dosha types include Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each of us has a combination of these three doshas within us and can, therefore, experience imbalances in any of the doshas. Different types of allergy symptoms represent imbalances in different doshas. By noticing this, we can more specifically guide the treatment of relieving seasonal allergies.
Kapha Allergy Symptoms
The accumulation of the Kapha Dosha in spring can lead to congestion, a runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing. This dosha is made up of earth and water elements. It creates a heavy feeling and excessive music in the head and sinuses. Some other symptoms include sluggishness and tiredness.
To relieve this, you can try the traditional yogic nasal cleansing system known as Jalneti. This self-practice involves clearing the nasal passages with saltwater with a Neti Pot, which looks like a miniature teapot with an elongated spout. This helps to regulate pressure in the head and although it may seem not easy or uncomfortable at first, with a little practice it’s easy to do, and highly effective.
The use of pungent and bitter (astringent) herbs and spices to reduce Kapha, including ginger, cayenne, pepper, basil, cumin, cardamom, sage, turmeric, and cinnamon may also be effective methods for reducing symptoms. An easy remedy is drinking hot honey water or ginger lemon tea. The herb trikatu, which can be taken daily, is also a herb that is considered effective. In addition, treatment should be geared toward lightening the body in other ways, such as daily exercise and use of a dry sauna.
Pita Allergy Symptoms
The underlying source of allergy symptoms in summer is often an imbalance in the Pitta dosha. Pitta is governed by the elements of water and fire, and in the summer, excess heat can produce inflammation in the respiratory tract or skin. These symptoms include rash, headache, burning or red eyes, and inflammation in the sinuses and airway (sinusitis, bronchitis).
Ayurveda recommends ingesting cooling herbs, such as coriander and cilantro to pacify Pitta and the resulting allergy symptoms. In addition, herbs such as Guduchi, Amalaki, and Neem may be helpful. Ingestion of clarified butter, or ghee, as well as aloe, can calm the inflammatory reaction that is typical of Pitta imbalance. From a biochemical perspective, these herbs contain healthy anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that support our immune system.
Vata Allergy Symptoms
When Vata is out of balance, the allergic symptoms one may face include headache, wheezing, sneezing, and generalized muscle aches. These are typically seen in the fall as the air generally becomes cold and dry. This is due to the accumulation of the lighter elements of space and air in the mind-body physiology. Other manifestations of this Vata imbalance include dry cough, restlessness, and dry eyes. It is important to stay hydrated and drink warm liquids, such as ginger tea with honey. To bring Vata back into balance, use calming herbs such as ashwagandha, which is also an immune modulator that calms the immune system’s response to allergens. Another useful tool in calming Vata is performing a self-massage or getting abhyanga treatment.
Natural Ways of Relieving Seasonal Allergies
One of the best ways to relieve seasonal allergies is to eat light, warm and cooked food. Warm, cooked vegetarian foods, made with a little bit of clarified butter (ghee) helps the body to bounce back. Eating warm, cooked foods gives the digestive fire a chance to rest. When the digestion is low (and hence the fire is low), it can’t access the nutrition stored in raw foods, and the poorly digested food creates toxins. When you know that your digestion is up to par (especially in summer), enjoy raw greens and salads.
Reduce or avoid dairy
To reduce the symptoms related to mucous and allow the body to get rid of the toxins naturally quickly, reducing or avoiding dairy is very effective.
Do gentle exercise and practice pranayama
Yoga poses along with the practice of pranayama, or breath techniques will help reduce most imbalances. These basic and easy practices can help not only on a physical level but also on a mental and spiritual level, bringing calmness and tranquillity into your life.
Herbal supplements and spices
To support the digestive fire use warming spices in cooking such as ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin seeds, coriander, garlic and black pepper.
When our Agni (fire) is restored we maintain the balance of our doshas and are hence less likely to experience ill health, such as seasonal allergies. Instead of seeing our environment as a threat, we can begin to calm the excitability of the immune system and, instead, experience our connection to the external world as nourishing. Ayurveda provides us with the tools required to experience this connection and move closer to our natural state of health and balance.
Nasya helps relieve congestion and allergies and is a unique nasal treatment that includes the face and neck. It involves a soothing pressure point face massage, a head and chest massage with a steam treatment. Drops of specially formulated rejuvenating herbal oils are applied to the nose and used to provide relief for sinus problem and congestion. These oil drops form a protective later on the nasal tissues and stop allergens from directly attaching themselves to nasal membranes.