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Allergies are hypersensitive responses by our immune system to certain environmental or dietary triggers.

Allergic Reaction

An allergy can be instigated by ‘allergens’ such as pollen, house dust and cosmetics for example. These allergens can trigger allergic reactions such as eczema, hayfever and digestive intolerances.

Understanding allergies

The word allergy is derived from the Greek allos meaning different and ergos meaning action. Allergy roughly refers to an altered reaction.

Allergies are hypersensitive (exaggerated) responses to certain environmental or dietary trigger. It has been thought that allergies originated as an evolutionary remnant of the immune system’s response to parasitic worms.

How do allergies work?

One aim of our immune system is to move to the site of any invasion and destroy the invader. This is achieved by creating protective proteins known as antibodies which specifically target foreign substances, known as antigens. These antibodies, also known as immunoglobulins (IgG, IgM, IgA, IgD) help destroy foreign substances by attaching to their surface and making it easier for other immune cells to destroy them.

Allergic reaction

In individuals with an allergy, they develop a specific type of antibody known as, immunoglobulin E, or IgE, in response to a normally harmless foreign substance such as tree pollen.

IgE attaches to mast cells within the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal (GIT) tract and skin. The mast cells release mediator chemicals known as histamine, leukotrienes and cytokines that produce rashes, inflammatory swellings, swelling and irritation of nasal and respiratory mucus membranes, bronchial constriction, hyper secretion of mucus, watering eyes and dark swellings under the eyes also known as allergic ‘shiners’.

An allergy can be instigated by ‘allergens’ such as pollen, house dust or mites, air pollution, industrial chemicals, foods, drugs, dander, latex, plants, dyes, metals (nickel) and cosmetics. These allergens can trigger allergic reactions such as eczema, contact dermatitis, asthma, hives, hayfever, perennial rhinitis and digestive intolerances.

Hayfever is often seen as a reflection of the change in seasons that occurs during the transition from winter through to spring. As the warmth of spring increases, it also warms the body influencing a ‘melting’ of congestion and toxic accumulation that has occurred over the winter period. A good way to think about it would be to think of spring floods and rivers bursting their banks causing excess fluids to rush out of the body – in this case, in the form of mucous. 

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen released primarily by grasses, but can also be triggered by pollen released from trees. Pollen particles contain a protein that cause inflammation, irritation and swelling of the nasal passages, but can also affect the eyes and the throat. The pollen (the allergen) causes the release of a substance known as an inflammatory mediator called histamine. It is the histamine that influences the symptoms of ‘hay fever’ in the body.  

Many herbs are suitable for self-care. However if a health condition does not resolve with home remedies we recommend using the information in Herbal Reality along with your health advisors, especially herbal practitioners from the professional associations listed in our Resources page (‘If you want to find a herbalist”). When buying any herbal products, you should choose responsible manufacturers with independently assured quality standards and sustainability practices. Check the label carefully for the appropriate safety and sustainability information.

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