I never had allergies growing up. As soon as the weather was warm, I would throw off my jacket and practice log rolls down our backyard hill. I covered my nose with bright yellow pollen without so much as a sniffle. Things change. Two years ago after I filled my apartment with blossoming lilac branches, my eyes got so itchy I could hardly keep them open. When I finally admitted that I had allergies and not a pesky spring cold, I turned to herbal remedies for relief. Here's a miracle cure:
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Photographs by Erin Boyle.
I'm lucky to have an excellent herbal resource in my Brooklyn neighborhood. The Herb Shoppe is a delightful store with another brick and mortar outpost in Portland, OR as well as a comprehensive website. When I phoned the Brooklyn shop to see if they had nettle leaf—my go-to for allergy relief—in stock, Jacqui Daniels, the manager, said, "Yes, of course," but she also had something else. Jacqui blended a brightly colored allergy tea that's not only the prettiest thing you've ever seen, but also a powerhouse against seasonal allergies.
The ingredients include nettle, red clover, fennel, spearmint, peppermint, eyebright, yerba santa, calendula, lemongrass, lavender and stevia.
Each herb was added for its particular healing properties:
- Calendula, red clover, and fennel keep mucous membranes hydrated to help ward off infection.
- Nettle is a natural antihistamine.
- Spearmint and peppermint help open up airways.
- Lavender has antiseptic properties in case infection creeps in (calendula is great for this too).
- Eyebright is helpful for a whole slew of sinus issues and especially good for hay fever.
- Yerba santa acts as an expectorant, reducing mucous and phlegm.
- Lemongrass and a pinch of stevia are there to help make the tea tasty.
When you're brewing herbal tea for medicinal use, make sure that you prepare a strong decoction. For a single 8-ounce serving, use 2 to 3 tablespoons of herbs. If you'd like to make a larger amount to drink throughout the day, you can brew your tea in a large mason jar. In this case, The Herb Shoppe recommends 4-5 tablespoons of herbs for a quart of water.
If you're making a single serving, pour almost boiling water over your herbs and let steep for about ten minutes. I brewed my tea in a glass teapot made by Kinto. A similar Unitea Glass Tea Pot by Kinto is $38 from Emmo Home.
Keeping a lid on your pot as the herbs steep will make a more potent remedy. If you use a quart jar, you can prepare your tea in the evening and let your herbs steep overnight. Strain your tea in the morning and enjoy it all day long.
Any of the herbs in the allergy tea blend can also be used alone. If it's really an antihistamine that you're after, for instance, you crew brew nettle leaves all by themselves.
Another natural remedy we swear by is our own recipe for a DIY Bug Repellent Balm.
The taste of nettle tea is mild, though somewhat more vegetal than the allergy tea. I add a spoonful of honey to mine.
For the best results, drink about 32 ounces of tea daily. Starting ahead of allergy season is the best route to take as the herbs work best as a preventative. But if you've already had your first sniffles, its not too late to begin.
To order the tea blend, you can call The Herb Shoppe at (718) 422-7981 and they'll ship it to you directly.
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N.B.: This is an update of a post published April 8, 2013 during our Bring on the Spring week.