Spring is nature’s New Year! In the US, Ayurveda considers it as the time when Agni is at its lowest. According to Ayurveda, the primary cause of allergies is accumulation of toxins (Ama) combined with lowered immunity. When the digestive and metabolic fire or Agni is weak, Doshas (energy principles) go out of balance and Ama accumulates. Ama acts as an antigen triggering an auto-immune reaction that can manifest as respiratory, skin or gut allergies and often, a combination of these.
The weather could be wet, dense and heavy and we are an extension of nature; this increases the same tendencies in our body and clogged channels and build-up of Ama. While the causes of allergies can include genetic factors, inappropriate diet, lifestyle, stress, trauma, seasonal changes or chronic ailments, they result in depleting Ojas (vital life force) and weaken the immune system. For me, the seasonal and dietary changes are the biggest trigger for allergy symptoms.
Whenever I begin suffering from seasonal allergies, I default back to two simplistic Ayurvedic principles, ‘like increases like’ and ‘opposites balance each other.’ For instance, to avoid heaviness, we eat light food and stay active. Similarly, to combat cold, we have warm food with warming spices—and bundle up!
Here are some tried and true ways of relieving allergy symptoms:
For Skin and Gut Relief try
- building up your Agni through incorporation of digestive teas such as Tulsi (Holy Basil) and Ginger
- relying on a Kapha (Earth and Water) pacifying diet by minimizing cold, heavy, fried, sour, salty, sweet foods including refined flour, sugar and dairy. Incorporate bitter, pungent and astringent tastes like legumes, whole grains and warming spices (cinnamon, cumin, etc.)
- using Ujjayi (ocean breath) breathing for daily meditation to strengthen agni. When we calm the mind and body, we are less likely to respond to foreign “invaders” aggressively. Ujjayi has a balancing influence on the entire cardiorespiratory system and releases feelings of irritation and frustration.
- Drinking turmeric milk with raw local honey (if your body is inclined to accept honey) to naturally build body’s ability to acclimate to new environmental changes.
For Respiratory Relief try:
- Incorporating an Ayurvedic technique known as nasya, which consists of applying a few drops of oil to the nasal passages. The oil forms a protective layer on the nasal tissues and prevents allergens from directly attaching themselves to nasal membranes. Apply a couple of drops of oil to the nostrils (Sesame oil, Ghee or Coconut oil).
- gargling with warm water, a pinch of turmeric and salt, or water boiled with Triphala and Yashtimadhu; this will instantly provide relief from allergy soar throats. Twice a day will allow for relief over a few days.
- Oil pulling. In the morning, take a teaspoon of sesame, coconut oil or Arimedadi oil, swish it about in the mouth for about three minutes and spit it out.
- steam inhalation with Ajwain (carom seeds) or mint, eucalyptus oil or tea tree oil. The cooling and soothing properties of these herbs are a great way to reduce the inflammation in the nasal passages.