Now is the perfect time to get a jump-start on your seasonal allergies! Stinging Nettle season will be soon upon us and we can make great use of this amazing herb and some honey from our own cupboards. First, some information on allergies, the herbs and nutritional supplements to aid allergy sufferers, tincture formulas and nettle soup recipes. For more information on Stinging Nettle please see our past Materia Medica blog – https://theginkgotree.ca/nettle-materia-medica/
The Gut and Allergy Connection
All of the symptoms associated with allergies are signs of inflammation: redness, swelling, and itching. To get rid of allergies, you have to get rid of inflammation and hyper-reactivity. The place to start is in your gut.
One of the major jobs of your digestive system is to provide an interface between the external world (foods, allergens, bacteria, etc.) and your bloodstream. It does this in the stomach by using natural digestive acids to break down potentially allergenic proteins and in the intestines via a layer of barrier cells that prevents these proteins from getting into your blood stream. You also have a whole host of special bacteria in your gut, as well as immune cells, whose job it is to break down and get rid of proteins and other molecules that can cause you to get sensitized to them, leading to gut – and systemic – inflammation. How to restore your gut:
- Clean Up Your Diet – Remember to eat lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, seed and nuts. Eliminate all sugar, soda, preservatives, additives, dyes and other non-food junk, and drastically decrease dairy intake (yes, if you want your allergies to go away forever, you will have to do this – sorry). Part of cleaning up your diet is to eat foods with as few chemicals and additives, highly recommend buying organic or visiting your local farmers market.
- Heal Your Gut –
- This is done with an Elimination Diet. An elimination diet is 2 weeks of eating a simple diet from which you have removed the most common food triggers including gluten, sugar, dairy, eggs, soy, coffee, soda, and artificial ingredients – as well as anything you typically crave (i.e., sugar, carbs, salty snacks).
- If you have constipation, you’ll want to deal with this now. Get plenty of fiber in your diet and drink ample water, too. Supplements such as flax seed, psyllium, and magnesium citrate are safe for most people to take daily. For kids, slippery elm, which tastes like maple syrup, may be used, 1-2 tsp daily in oatmeal or a smoothie. The goal is 1 healthy Bowel movement every day.
- After 2 weeks on the Elimination Diet, start taking a good quality digestive enzyme product (you can give these to kids over 4, too). This is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, too.
- After another week, add in a good quality probiotic. Also safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, and for kids.
- The following supplements can now be taken for about a month (up to 6 months) to help to heal the intestinal lining: Tumeric, Aloe Vera, and Marshmallow root; (these are fine for children) are some of the most effective herbs for healing the gut lining.
- Zinc: 5-10 mg/day for children 4-7 years, 10-20 mg/day for children to age 12, 25-40 mg/day for older children and adults
- An antioxidant supplement containing vitamins A and carotenoids, C, E, and selenium. These are often found in a multivitamin. Pregnant women should get these from their prenatal vitamin only.
- Fish oil: Personally, I have taken daily for years, love it! For kids you can put the oil into smoothies. Fish oil is important for general health in pregnancy and breastfeeding, too.
- Please visit your doctor when necessary!
Detox The Liver
The liver removes many of the body’s major toxins and affects allergies. Martin Healy says that key ways to boost your liver function include cutting out alcohol, smoking and caffeine and embarking on a detox programme.
A glass of water containing freshly squeezed lemon each morning will help. Antioxidants and vitamins found in fresh fruits and vegetables will reduce liver inflammation and boost immune function, while Brussels sprouts will increase the activity of important liver enzymes.
Herbs and Nutritional Supplements for Seasonal Allergies
These herbs and nutritional supplements are best taken on a daily basis. Taking them before allergy season even starts, can prevent symptoms altogether. They can also be used as needed.
Stinging Nettle: Nettles are used as spring tonics and general detoxifying remedy. In some cases of rheumatism and arthritis, nettles can be astoundingly successful. In childhood eczema nettles are a specific remedy and are beneficial in all the varieties of this condition especially in nervous eczema.
Nettles in high doses can have amazing results for allergy sufferers, it has been used for centuries to treat allergy symptoms, particularly hay fever which is the most common allergy problem. It contains biologically active compounds that reduce inflammation. Dr. Andrew Wiel M.D. author of Natural Health/ Natural Medicine says he knows of nothing more effective than nettle for allergy relief. This statement is backed up by studies at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon. Decongestants, antihistamines, allergy shots and even prescription medications such as Allegra and Claritin treat only the symptoms of allergies and tend to lose effectiveness over a period of time. They can also cause drowsiness, dry sinuses, insomnia and high blood pressure. Nettle has none of these side effects. It can be used on a regular basis and has an impressive number of other benefits most notably as a treatment for prostate enlargement. Nettle is easily available in tea and tincture form, and also can be eaten like spinach in the spring, made into soups and smoothies. Nettles are priced for being highly nutritional.
Raw Local Honey: Raw honey is great, but raw local honey is even better! Raw local honey contains pollen that is specific to your area and therefore can really help those local seasonal allergies. Taking a spoonful of raw honey once or twice a day is a great help. It is also advised to begin taking local honey a few months prior to the allergy season; this gets the pollen introduced into the body and gradually builds up the body’s tolerance to seasonal allergies. Honey is not recommended for babies under 12 months, due to infant botulism.
Vitamin C: To assist with a malfunctioning immune system try lemon water and orange water (not juice – no sugar), cultured vegetables and strawberries.
Quercetin: 500 mg daily (half that for kids). Quercetin is a plant pigment found in many common herbs and foods, and a very reliable anti-inflammatory nutritional supplement. It helps with gut repair, boosts the immunity in your mucus membranes reducing reactivity to seasonal allergens, and also helps reduce food allergies. There is conflicting data on whether it is safe in pregnancy, therefore do not take.
Zinc: Take an age appropriate dose daily.
Note: Please visit your doctor when necessary!
Traditional Allergy Tincture Blend
Nettle (Urtica dioica, spring tops) 0.30 ml
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus, root) 0.25 ml
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum, thallus) 0.14 ml
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis, fruit) 0.14 ml
Southern Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis, bark) 0.07 ml
Don’t Forget About The Power Of Essential Oils
- Lavender – dilute and add 1 drop to cheeks, forehead and sinuses
- Peppermint – dilute and add 1 drop to base of neck 2 x a day
- Lemon – put 3 drops into diffuser
- Eucalyptus – dilute and add 1 drop to neck, chest & feet
- Chamomile – dilute and add to affected areas of skin
Note: Please visit your doctor when necessary!
Recipes Using Stinging Nettle
1 lb Stinging Nettle
2 tsps. Salt
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, diced
¼ cup Basmati rice
4 Cups Vegetable broth (high quality)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop in the pound of Nettles and cook for 1 – 2 minutes, until they have softened. This will remove most of the sting. Drain in a Colander and rinse with cold water. Trim off tough stems and chop coarsely.
Heat olive oil in sauce pan over low – medium heat and stir in the diced onion. Cook until softened and translucent (about 5 minutes). Stir in the broth, rice and chopped nettles. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium – low, cover and simmer until rice is tender (about 15 minutes). Puree the soup with an immersion blender, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Nettle and Asparagus Soup
5 Tbsps. Olive oil
1 medium Onion
7 Garlic Cloves, diced
2 Tbsps. Curry powder, minced
1 tsp. Cumin powder
1 tsp. freshly ground Pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 bunch of Asparagus (~300 grams), cut into 1-inch pieces
1 (13.5 ounce) can of Coconut Milk
5 cups broth (bone broth, vegetable broth or even water)
Nettle tops (~150 grams of young fresh nettle leaves)
In a large saucepan heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add two more tablespoons of olive oil, wait a few moments for it to warm up. Add the garlic, curry powder, cumin powder, black pepper and salt. Sauté for one minute or until aromatic.
Add the asparagus and cook for 3-5 minutes or until it becomes bright green in color. Add the coconut milk and broth (or water) and bring to a boil. Add the fresh nettle leaves. Stir well. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the asparagus is fairly soft.
Optional mushroom topping: While the soup is cooking you can make the optional mushroom topping. Heat the butter in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the minced mushrooms and cook until thoroughly done and tender. Set aside. Once the asparagus is soft, turn off the heat on the soup. Add the lemon juice. Using an immersion blender (or an upright blender) blend on high until thoroughly creamed. (If using an upright blender be sure to allow steam to escape while blending to avoid a big hot mess.)
Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve asparagus and nettle soup in bowls with a dash of cream (optional) and a couple spoonfuls of mushrooms (optional).
Yield: Makes approximately 3 quarts, which serves 6-8 people.
Nettle and Spinach Soup
2 cups (packed) fresh Nettle leaves
1 Onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. butter or coconut oil
1 cup whole Milk or Nut milk (not soy milk)
1/3 cup Romano or Parmesan cheese, grated
2 cups Vegetable stock
4 small-medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 packed cups fresh spinach
Sour cream or yogurt optional
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Chopped chives and fresh parsley for garnish
Heat oil in sauce pan over low – medium heat and stir in the diced onion. Cook until softened and translucent (about 5 minutes). Stir in the broth, milk, nettles, potatoes, spinach; bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium – low, cover and simmer until cooked. Puree the soup with an immersion blender, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with cheese and sour cream.
My personal favourite! Simply substitue spinach in any of your favourite smoothie recipes, delicious!