With Spring Comes Pollen

Staff | SantaFe.com - March 16, 2011

Juniper Flowers No. 2

Move to Santa Fe and it's not long before you hear of someone who's suffering from allergies-juniper, elm, and oak in the spring, chamisa in the fall. You sympathize and are grateful this is not you. You have never had allergy issues back in New York, and with your strong immune system (New Yorkers are immune to almost everything), it's doubtful you ever will. Flash forward a few years, and after a particularly long, wet winter, you suddenly wake one windy morning with tightness in your chest, your throat is filled with mucus, your sinus cavities are bloated, and your eyes won't stop itching. Soon, you're telling newcomers that it's not if but when they, too, will be struck by an airborne plague that makes your daily existence as much fun as a kidney stone.

What to do? You might choose to go to a doctor for allergy shots, but it can take years before your body builds up immunity to, say, juniper pollen. Also, cromolyn sodium nasal sprays, inhalers and eye drops are available by prescription, but these may not offer lasting relief. If you feel that you don't have years to wait for a cure, you scour stores like Herbs Etc, Whole Foods, Pharmaca, and the Vitamin Cottage for herbal and homeopathic remedies that promise faster relief.

A first step on the information curve is to search pollen.com, a terrific web site with "allergy maps" and, by simply inserting your Santa Fe zip code, you get a four day forecast of local pollen counts. You can also go "my pollen library" to learn more about the allergy scene. The juniper pollen, which seems to affect more Santa Feans than any other allergen, is a rather nasty looking particle under a mircroscope. It looks a like one of those floating mines, replete with spikes, that the Nazis scattered over the oceans to blow up large ships. It takes just a few of those pesky particles in your nasal cavity to create the impression that you too will explode. The best course of action is to stay inside as much as possible, particularly on intense pollen days. Every night you should also shampoo your hair, and leave your clothes outside, to minimize the spreading of pollen indoors.

For those of us who like or have to be outdoors, any helpful salesperson at the stores mentioned above can suggest various remedies. Herbs Etc. owner Danny Gagnon recommends a proprietary product called Allergy ReLeaf System, which his many allergy-afflicted customers swear by. Another product, Deep Sleep, helps you through the night, and Singer's Saving Grace is recommended for easing the pain of scratchy throats.

"Juniperus Communis" are homeopathic pellets, manufactured by a Santa Fe company, that promise to mitigate the effects of Juiper pollen, as does a homeopathic brand of eyedrops calls "Similasan." Simple saline and salt water sprays can be used to wash away pollen from the nose.

Pe Min Kan Wan are allergy pills for expelling toxins for what traditional Chinese herbalists call a "wind heat pattern", or obstruction, in your nasal passage. Pe Min Kan Wan is best used before the allergy season (or a common cold) sets in.

At Vitamin Cottage, you can pick up some quercitin, a bioflavonoid ( a type of nutrient found naturally in some fruits and green, leafy vegetables) that can be taken as a vitamin supplement. Quercitin blocks the release of histamines, which are a protein involved in many allergic reactions. Quercitin has also been shown to help improve the health of capillaries and connective tissues.

At Whole Foods, allergy-relief best sellers include Zone 6 Allergy Relief (Santa Fe is in the sixth of ten U.S. climate zones) and Allertonic.

The extract from the leaves of Butterbur, a normally toxic shrub once used by native Americans as a remedy for headaches, inflammation, and congestion, is favored by many allergy and hay fever sufferers. Grape seed extract, which can be found at Whole Foods and Pharmaca, is also effective in fighting allergy symptoms.

In some people, there are certain foods to avoid because they cross-react with tree pollen and promote allergy symptoms. These can include apples, pears, kiwi, cherries, peaches, nectarines, celery, carrots, parsley, peppers, hazlenuts, walnuts, and almonds. Since sugar weakens your immune system, avoid it whenever possible. Dairy products help form mucus, so these should be avoided as well.