Tag Archives: allergies

  • Neti for Cold and Flu

    Going back to school and heading into cold and flu season means our bodies can use all the immunity-boosting help they can get. Don’t overlook the power of the neti pot for daily support of your nasal passages, one of the body’s first lines of defense.

    The neti pot is a centuries-old Ayurvedic tradition that utilizes a salt and water mixture that is poured through the nostril.  "Neti is one of six cleansing measures that are very old yogic practices," says Sunny Rose, an Ayurvedic practitioner formerly at our Albuquerque store, who adds that jala neti means 'water cleansing.' "Yogis would do it as part of their daily measures to strengthen body and mind, and that's basically how we use it too."

    Indeed, daily cleansing helps sweep allergens, bacteria and viruses from the nasal passages, thereby reducing the chances of infection or allergic reaction. “The saltwater will also help decrease inflammation in the nasal passages,” says Ashleigh Putnam, naturopathic doctor at our Monterey store. “When your mucosal membrane isn’t inflamed, it’s stronger and healthier.” Ashleigh adds that the less inflamed it is, the more likely it is to prevent fungal, bacterial or viral infections that can lead to cold and flu.

    But nasal rinsing can also be helpful when a cold or congestion does hit. According to a 2007 study in the Archives of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, nasal washing can be more effective than nasal sprays at clearing chronic congestion. Saline solution helps flush out excess mucous as well as pollen and other irritants. That's why experts recommend a daily wash—whether in the middle of pollen-producing spring or cold and flu season—as follows:

    1) Fill a clean neti pot or squeeze bottle with 1 cup of warm distilled or filtered water* mixed with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pure sea salt works best, or pick up pre-mixed solutions from Pharmaca. Just make sure the salt is free of iodine and other additives, which can harm the nasal passages.
    2) Tilt your head to one side, and place the spout in one nostril. Make clean up easy by leaning over the sink or standing in the shower.
    3) Slowly pour the saline solution through one nostril, allowing it to flow through your nasal cavity and out the other nostril.
    4) Repeat on the other side.

    Try out the power of neti with Pharmaca's offerings, including products from Himalayan Institute, Baraka Red Hot Ceramics or Neilmed Sinus Rinse Kits. And make sure you clean your neti pot regularly to reduce the risk of introducing bacteria to the sensitive nasal passages (try hot water and a plant-based soap, such as Pharmaca's Defense Formula Hand Soap, filled with essential oils that naturally fight bacteria).

    *The FDA recommends filtered water because of certain bacteria that can be present in tap water.

    If you want to learn more about proper neti pot use, come in and talk to a Pharmaca practitioner today.

  • More Ideas for Natural Allergy Relief

    If you're suffering from allergies, here's some natural advice to take to heart. Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, MD, offers her suggestions for lessening your body's histamine response and easing your allergy symptoms (including nettles!).

    This video is part of a series of educational videos we'll be posting from members of our Integrative Health Advisory Board.

  • Herbal Remedy: Nettle (Stinging Nettle)

    Hopefully you haven’t had many real life encounters with nettle (Urtica Dioica)—also called “stinging nettle,” it grows in temperate climates and its stinging hairs and leaves can cause nasty hives. The hives, formally called urticaria, produce pale red, itchy, raised bumps (in fact, the Latin root of Urtica is uro meaning, "I burn"). The upshot: Avoid the fresh leaves of this plant, and use it instead for its powerful medicinal qualities that can strengthen and support the whole body.

    Nettle is considered a nutritive; it provides the body with a multitude of minerals, vitamins, proteins and dietary fiber. Nettle can support the urinary tract and serve as a diurectic. Nettle is also readily known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine effects.

    Nettles help tonify [can be briefly say what this means?] mucous membranes in addition to helping stop bleeding (as a hemostatic) and supporting breast milk production. Nettle is a hypotensive, assisting the heart by decreasing blood pressure, and is considered an astringent as it helps to shrink or constrict body tissues.

    Talk to a practitioner about the potential uses of nettle for the following conditions:

    • Chronic inflammation in the body
    • Excessive mucus discharge (non-stop runny nose)
    • Burning or difficulty urinating
    • Allergies (runny nose and stinging eyes)
    • Hemorrhoids
    • Arthritis and gout
    • Profuse menstruation
    • Suppressed milk flow in breastfeeding
    • Skin conditions such as eczema (especially in children), psoriasis, chicken pox, poison   ivy, rashes and insect stings/bites
    • Benign prostatic hypertension (the nettle root is especially good for this)

    We carry the following nettle products at Pharmaca:

    Herb Pharm’s Nettle Blend
    Pharmaca Nettles Caps or Tincture
    Gaia Herbs’ Nettle Leaf Caps
    or Tincture
    Eclectic Institute (in stores only)

    Though nettle has a multitude of uses, one of its most common uses is for seasonal allergies. Try using nettle to combat your runny nose and itchy eyes thanks to its antihistamine and astringent properties, which is why, if you suffer from seasonal allergies, many practitioners recommend taking it throughout allergy season (including Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, a member of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board).

    As always, please consult with a practitioner before taking any herbal remedies.

    Kate Brainard earned her degree as a naturopathic doctor from Bastyr University. She currently manages Pharmaca’s La Jolla store.

  • Expert Advice: Allergy Relief

    Dr. Low Dog is an internationally recognized expert in the field of herbal medicine and integrative approaches to women's health. She is currently the Fellowship Director at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center. Find out more at drlowdog.com.

    Allergies--they can be debilitating for the approximately 50 million Americans that suffer from them. If you’re looking for relief from your symptoms, whether they’re caused by cat dander or tree pollen, take some advice from Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, MD, and member of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board.

    Avoid or remove the allergens. “There’s a way to monitor pollen levels,” says Dr. Low Dog, who recommends keeping track of your known allergens via the local news or on websites such as weather.com. When the pollen counts are high, “keep the doors and windows closed, and limit outdoor activity.” Dr. Low Dog says you might feel weird wearing a mask to do yardwork, but it’s vital if it means the difference between an allergy--or even an asthma--attack.

    In addition, Dr. Low Dog strongly urges allergy-sufferers to get rid of things that collect dust, dander and other allergens in your house, such as throw pillows, thick carpeting and drapes. “How often do you get drapes cleaned?” she asks. Invest in a vacuum with a HEPA filter and, of course, wash your hands frequently and take off pollen-filled clothes as soon as you get in the house.

    Indoor air filters can also be very useful, says Dr. Low Dog. “Houses with forced air heating and air conditioning can spread allergens throughout the house,” she says. “Putting a HEPA filter into that central unit can help remove a lot of those allergens.” You can also try a stand-alone air purifier in the allergy-sufferer’s bedroom, which Dr. Low Dog recommends running at least four hours per day. The highest-quality purifiers will have the UL seal and FDA approval, she says.

    Finally, Dr. Low Dog strongly recommends a saline nasal rinse. “It helps to keep the mucus thin and get rid of the pollen that’s in your nose,” she says. “It also relieves dryness, which is important--when you get cracks in the nasal mucosa it can increase the chance of infections.” Nasal rinses can be easy and inexpensive, too. Just add 1/8 tsp of iodine-free salt to 8 oz of warm water, along with a pinch of baking soda to neutralize the pH. She recommends using a neti pot, or a bulb syringe, to apply the rinse.

    Boost your allergy response with vitamins and supplements. Dr. Low Dog recommends getting several small doses of vitamin C each day, along with essential fatty acids from fish oil and flaxseed. “I also recommend freeze-dried stinging nettles. I like the Eclectic Institute brand, which was part of a clinical trial,” says Dr. Low Dog. “And I like butterbur, which has been shown in several trials to be as beneficial as a non-sedating antihistamine. Make sure you use a brand that is free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, compounds that can be toxic to the liver.” She recommends taking the nettles or butterbur at the beginning of hayfever season.

    Try over-the-counter or prescription solutions. “Non-sedating antihistamines like Zyrtec and Claritin can be useful,” says Dr. Low Dog. “I tell people that if they know they’re going to be outside on a high pollen day, take one a few hours before going out. You’ll get the short-acting effect without it making you sleepy.” Benadryl, on the other hand, should be reserved for quelling attacks, since it almost always induces drowsiness.

    Another option is a prescription nasal steroid, ideal for patients who with severe nasal allergy symptoms that do not respond to other measures. “They offer localized relief without necessitating a medication that affects the whole body,” says Dr. Low Dog.

    Boost digestive health. “I am a firm believer that reducing inflammation in the body is key,” says Dr. Low Dog. “Watch for food sensitivities and allergies, and do things to restore gut health.” She often recommends taking bitters (such as Angostura Bitters, one tbsp in 4 ounces water or Gallexier by Floradix) before a meal to help prime the digestive tract, along with a multi-strain probiotic. Together these help improve digestion and restore intestinal integrity, decreasing the risk of food-borne allergies and improving overall health.

    Ultimately, reducing allergy symptoms is as simple as reducing your exposure. But there are a variety of integrative approaches to quelling symptoms when exposure is inevitable. Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about other ways to find relief from your allergies.    

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