by Sheyna Haisman-Holmes
We had such a big rain year, leading to a grand blossoming and blooming of so many plants and trees. It is the starting point of kapha season and the onset of allergy season. The kapha elements of earth and water are alive with the ground saturation from the rains and melting snow. The seat of kapha is in the lungs and upper stomach, so with the combination of springtime kapha and airborne allergens, the respiratory system can be a vulnerable place. There are many things we can do to welcome harmony in our systems during this influx of allergens.
Allergies can come from reactions to food, airborne particles and contact with irritating or toxic materials. When looking at the whole range of allergies, we follow the doshas to identify which one is aggravated. It is common that our personal prominent doshas match the doshic type of allergy symptoms. Vata symptoms to a food allergy can be bloating and stomach pain. Vata allergies can also be headache, sneezing, ringing in the ears, wheezing and insomnia. Pitta based symptoms are mostly irritations that show up on the skin. This could be a rash, hives, eczema or dermatitis from synthetic materials or chemicals. Kapha symptoms include hay fever, sinus infections, congestion and cough based allergies. Particles such as animal dander, dust, mold, pollen, cleaners, fumes and dust from building materials can all cause irritation in the mucosal membranes and stimulate an allergic response.
When we are in a state of stress, the body is in overdrive trying to come back into balance. This may cause a sensitivity to potential allergens that result in physical reactions. We can practice yoga, meditation and pranayama to calm the nervous system and lessen the likelihood of stress responses. Allergies are unique to each person and the right combination of practices can help calm the system and decrease symptoms.
Here are some recommendations for allergy symptoms:
~Licorice tea with ½ tsp. of ghee (antihistamine & anti-inflammatory)
~Ginger tea with ½ tsp. of ghee (anti-inflammatory & digestive stimulant)
~Fenugreek tea (soothes irritated membranes and cleanses congestion and mucus)
~Tulsi tea (counterbalances stress and enhances immune function)
~Black pepper (stimulates kapha and the sinuses)
~Triphala at night (1/2 tsp. or 1-2 capsules to detox)
~Eucalyptus oil in the shower (cleanse and open up the sinuses)
~Avoid sugar and cold dairy (these raise kapha dosha)
~Avoid incompatible food combinations (meat and fruit, fish and dairy, etc.)
~Nasya (applying oil to the nostrils and sinuses)
~Neti (Jala Neti pot- sinus cleansing with warm salt water)
~Nadi Shodhana (Pranayama technique of alternate nostril breathing- for stress relief and brings attention to the nasal passages)
Nasya and neti are probably the most targeted practices that can be done for airborne allergies. Nasya helps to soothe the mucosal membranes that line the sinuses and helps to protect them from further irritating particles. Oil can be rubbed in the nostrils for a quick application, or it can be administered more deeply by lying back with the head tilted back. There are multiple kinds of nasya oil that are infused with herbs to help the brain. Nasya is said to heal all ailments that reside from the neck up, which include memory, vision, headache and insomnia.
Neti helps to clear the sinuses of particles with warm water and salt. This can be done with a neti pot or teapot. The water should be filtered or tap water that’s boiled and cooled before using. It shouldn’t be too hot and a good way to test this is by dropping a few drops of water on the inside of your wrist. Make sure to use non-iodized salt that doesn’t have other minerals that could be irritating to the nasal passages. ¼ to ½ tsp. is a good amount of salt for a neti pot. Gargling this salt water solution can also help to clear the throat from allergens and irritants.
As far as other allergies that aren’t airborne, there are food allergies and skin allergies. We can avoid these symptoms by being careful about what we eat and noticing what we are sensitive to. We can be aware of the types of clothing we wear and the chemical cleaners we may be exposed to. It can be challenging to pinpoint the allergens and irritants and takes some time with trial and error.
If there is a skin allergy happening, look at the fiber content of your clothing, the ingredients of your laundry detergent & household cleaners. Pitta based skin allergies can correlate to heat in the blood that needs cleansing. Cilantro juice can be made by blending fresh cilantro with water. The juice can be consumed to cool and detoxify the blood and the leftover pulp can be used as a poultice on a rash, hives or irritated skin. Spraying rosewater on irritated skin can help to cool pitta dosha and drinking burdock tea can also help to cleanse the blood.
If there is an allergy or irritation to food happening, really minimize what you are eating and see if you can figure out what causes an internal imbalance. It is usually a good practice to eliminate dairy, wheat, sugar, caffeine, cruciferous vegetables, soy products and seed oils. These are common allergens and can be tested by taking them out of the diet to see how your body responds. This can be done on a trial basis at your own rhythm and may include adding things back in to really see their affects.
Airborne allergies at this time of year can be really challenging to cope with. May we all have the capacity to slow down and notice what may be causing us irritation and restore the balance within our systems :)