Stinging Nettle Tea, For Allergy Relief and More
Many over-the-counter allergy medications have come under fire in recent months– both for being palliative measures that don’t really address the root of allergy symptoms (such as an underlying autoimmune issue) and for being inherently flawed long term treatments (because users can build up a “tolerance” to certain allergy medications, which eventually renders pills ineffective at blocking all histamine in the body).
Folk medicine suggests that using natural, plant-based tinctures, teas, and powders like bee pollen and raw honey can help ameliorate hay fever, but longstanding research also suggests that stinging nettles can also provide relief when over-the-counter medications fail to relieve symptoms like itchy, watery eyes, congestion, and sneezing.
Karin Pacheco, MD, an allergist at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, points out that allergy systems are becoming an increasingly ubiquitous public health issue, as climate shifts resultant from rising C02 levels are increasing the sheer volume of pollen in the air. “With global warming, ragweed and other allergenic plants are producing more pollen — especially in urban areas,” Pacheco told WebMD. “Also, there is some evidence that air pollution (especially diesel pollution) could cause more people to develop hay fever and other allergies.”
Much of the science surrounding how and why humans experience hay fever has to do with exposure– typically to environmental allergens like pollen, and often at a young age. According to a 2013 piece in the New York Times about why the Amish (a culture of farmers) tend to have children with fewer allergy symptoms, reporter Moises Velasquez-Manoff writes:
“This idea has some history. Since the late 1990s, European scientists have investigated what they call the ‘farm effect.’ The working hypothesis is that innocuous cowshed microbes, plant material and raw milk protect farming children by favorably stimulating their immune systems throughout life, particularly early on.”
In view of this environment-focused approach to understanding the allergen epidemic, home remedies like stinging nettle tea seem to offer some perspective on the solution, which may also rest in nature. Sting nettles are a typically invasive weed that only grow during the summer months– when pollen count is high. According to research conducted by the University of Maryland Medical Center, stinging nettle reduces the levels of inflammatory chemicals in the body while also ameliorating the effects of hay fever by subduing sneezing and itching– two corporeal responses often triggered by inflammation and histamine. (In one study, 57% of patients rated nettles as effective in relieving allergies, and 48% said that nettles were more effective than allergy medications they had used previously.) Nettle tea, which is made by adding boiling water to a small cup of stinging nettles, is a gentle entry point into the water of alternative cures. Though more research needs to be done to validate stinging nettles as a future proscription antihistamine, nettle tea is also rich in vitamins and minerals like pro-vitamin A, vitamin B complex, vitamin K1 and vitamin C– a healing tonic with loads of potential.