Ayurveda Tackles Allergies
Traditional Indian medicine brings the immune system back in balance.
The ranks of allergy sufferers in the US have exploded from 25million in 2007 to 40 million today. Researchers at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology warn that the unusually warm spring, and the excess pollen that it brings, will conspire to make this the worst summer in decades.
With such side effects as drowsiness, depleted energy, reduced libido, headaches, depression and insomnia, millions now seek alternatives to prescription and OTC allergy medications. What’s more, treating allergy symptoms with drugs ignores the unbalanced immune response that causes those symptoms in the first place.
India’s traditional medicine, called Ayurveda, is an alternative solution. The Ayurvedic approach brings the immune system back into balance, which gives allergic inflammation a chance to subside.
Allergies and the Immune Response
With bacteria, germs and other pathogens continually on the attack, the body needs effective defenses. That’s the immune system’s job; this exquisitely coordinated collection of cells and chemical messengers identifies, immobilizes and neutralizes invaders.
Problems ensue when the immune system overreacts and “defends” against things that don’t pose a health threat, such as spring and summertime pollen. Over-reactive immune cells in the nose, throat and eyes, called mast cells, mistake pollen as a threat and sound the alarm. They release a flood of chemical messengers such as histamines and leukotrienes, which inflame the lining of the nasal passages in an effort to immobilize the perceived pathogen.
The Ayurvedic solution to allergies starts, naturally enough, with detoxification through the consumption of organic produce, daily exercise such as walking and getting enough sleep. In addition, a number of herbs—traditionally used in combination—have been found to rectify what Western medicine knows as immune imbalance. These herbs include Indian gooseberry (Phyl¬lanthus emblica, which is loaded with vitamin C), haritaki (Terminalia chebula, known as a powerful detox agent), bedda nut (T. bellerica), Indian walnut (Albizia lebbeck), ginger (Zingiber officinale), Indian long pepper (Piper longum, an expectorant) and black pepper (P. nigrum).
This herbal blend—available in capsule form—is designed to stabilize mast cells, clear airway passages for better breathing and inhibit the inflammatory chemicals that cause allergic inflammation and discomfort. Studies suggest that this combination does indeed ease discomfort and reduced inflammation (IJCPR 2004, IJTR 2004). Other studies have found that quercetin and other bioflavonoids, which are abundant in fruits and vegetables, inhibit mast cell release of inflammatory messengers including histamines and leukotrienes. In fact, the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to suffer from seasonal allergies.
Modern research shows that supplementation with standardized botanicals may offer the greatest benefits—standardization provides precisely calibrated levels of each herb’s active ingredients so that you get reliable amounts of these substances in every capsule. Opt for products with standardized bioflavonoids, flavones, flavonols and chlorogenic acid for best results.
If spring and summer make you sneeze, and prescription or OTC drugs make you wince, you can still breathe a sigh of relief. Ancient Ayurvedic remedies can give your sinuses a well-deserved spring break, and give your itchy eyes the summer off.