Tag Archives: Natural Medicine

Herbs for Your Allergies

The long anticipated spring is on its way and many of us are eager to get outside and admire budding trees and blooming flowers. If you are one of the 20% of Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, however, you may feel apprehensive to venture outside for fear of the inevitable itching, sneezing, and runny nose [3]. Most sufferers receive marginal relief from pharmaceutical drugs but also may experience unwanted side effects [1]. Thankfully, some natural remedies are proven to be as effective for relieving allergy symptoms without the prevailing side effects [1, 2, 4, 5].

Currently, the most common treatment for seasonal allergies is antihistamines [6]. A wide range of other anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids, decongestants, and nasal mast cell stabilizers are also available and are used alone or in combination [3]. However, despite such advances in modern drug therapy, only 26% of allergy sufferers are satisfied with the results. User dissatisfaction may be because each drug targets a specific symptom or set of symptoms, resulting in only partial relief. Additionally, side effects ranging from impaired driving to cardiac arrhythmias are often considered an unsatisfactory trade-off [1].

Allergy symptoms are more than just uncomfortable, they can be quite debilitating. Affected individuals have impaired verbal learning, decision-making speed, psychomotor skills, concentration, and sleep resulting in increased work and school absences and decreased productivity. The growing prevalence of allergies is also a huge detriment to the health care system [1].

Fortunately, there are medically proven natural remedies for seasonal allergy relief without the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs. In fact, allergies have become one of the leading conditions for which patients seek alternative medicine [1].

The leaves of stinging nettle, or Urtica dioica, contain histamine, which is the primary anti-inflammatory marker for seasonal allergies. In fact, the herb acts similarly to antihistamine drugs but without the side effects [5]. Cultures around the world have used nettle for centuries to treat nasal and respiratory problems such as coughs, runny nose, chest congestion, asthma, and whooping cough. Taking 300-600 mg of freeze-dried nettle in capsule form daily is the recommended dosage; however, the effect only lasts a few hours. If symptoms persist, it can be taken twice daily [7]. Nettle also grows wild in much of the United States. It makes a wonderfully mild tea. Sautéed green, it can be added to nearly any dish. Please handle with care as the stinging hairs are quite painful until deactivated by a flash sauté. In rare cases, allergic reactions may occur [7].

Raw honey containing the pollen that is triggering an immune response has also been proven effective at treating seasonal allergies. In fact, one study found that the honey containing pollen was more effective than conventional medications at relieving patients of their symptoms [4]. So go ahead and add a spoonful of honey to your regimen; it certainly couldn’t hurt! Just be sure not to give it to infants under 12 months of age [7].

Butterbur, or Petasites hybridus, has been extensively studied and also proven effective at treating allergy symptoms. One study found butterbur as effective as the drug cetirizine, the active ingredient in Zyrtec, but without the drowsiness reported in patients taking cetirizine [2]. However, I consider butterbur a less favorable option since finding it in the wild is much rarer in comparison to its counterpart, stinging nettle, and its long-term effects are unknown. If you choose butterbur as your natural allergy remedy, do not use for longer than twelve weeks as you may develop side effects similar to many modern drug therapies. Short-term use of 32 milligrams taken four times per day has been proven very safe and effective. To ensure safety and efficacy, make sure the product is labeled hepatotoxic PA-free [7].

So please, breathe easy knowing there are remedies for your seasonal ailments that will enable you to venture outside without the added side effects. If you are a regular allergy sufferer, the greatest success is achieved by addressing your symptoms with a trained herbalist before the peak of allergy season.

Kristen McPhee, MS is a nutritionist and clinical herbalist practitioner in Marquette specializing in women’s health and Lyme disease. She graduated from Maryland University of Integrative Health, where she completed over 1,000 supervised clinical hours. For more information and to schedule a consultation, visit http://www.kristenmcphee.com.

Guo, R. & Pittler, M. (2007). Petasites hybridus (Butterbur) for Treating Allergic Rhinitis. Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies. 12(2): 81-84. doi: 10.1211/fact.12.2.0003.

Guo, R., Pittler, M., & Ernst, E. (2007). Herbal Medicines for the Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis: A Systematic Review. Annals of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 99(6). doi: 10.1016/S1081-1206(10)60375-4.

Putnam, G., Godfrey, S., et al. Executive Summary – Treatments of Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis. Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK153706/

Saarinen, K., Jantunen, J., Haahtela, T. (2011). Birch Pollen Honey for Birch Pollen Allergy – A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study. Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 155(2): 160-6. doi: 10.1159/000319821.

Sayin, I., Cingi, C., Oghan, F., Baykal, B., Ulusoy, S. (2013). Complementary Therapies in Allergic Rhinitis. ISRN Allergy. doi: 10.1155/2013/938751.

Thornhill, S. & Kelly, A. (2000). Natural Treatment for Perennial Allergic Rhinitis. 5(5). Retrieved from http://www.biomedsearch.com/article/Natural-Treatment-Perennial-Allergic-Rhinitis/

University of Maryland Medical System. (2015). Allergic Rhinitis. Retrieved April 8, 2015 from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/allergic-rhinitis

*Article reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2017 Issue, copyright 2017.

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Filed under Allergies, Herbalism, Uncategorized

How To. . . Make Your Own Natural First Aid Kit, by Dr. Jessica Nagelkirk

Our 2014 Summer Fun Issue – For Kids & the Kid In All of Us – is now out!

Enjoy the following article from this edition!

The weather has finally broken here in the Upper Peninsula and we’re able to take advantage of all the outdoor summer activities this beautiful area has to offer. With the warmer weather inevitably come bumps, bruises, insect bites, scrapes, and other minor injuries associated with living an active lifestyle. If you aren’t lucky enough to have Dr. Oz’s number on speed dial, the next best thing is to have a fully stocked natural first aid kit so you can address most minor accidents without having to run to the store.

Most pre-packaged first aid kits will need to be personalized and added to in order to be fully functional for your needs. When you’re setting up your kit, choose containers that are roomy, durable, easy to carry, and simple to open. Plastic tackle boxes are ideal since they are lightweight, have handles and offer plenty of storage space.

In addition to the basic first-aid kit contents (bandages, alcohol pads, tweezers, scissors, sterile saline solution, hydrogen peroxide, disposable gloves, ibuprofen, antibiotic cream, Benadryl, rehydration fluid, etc.), here is a list of my most-used natural first aid remedies.


Activated Charcoal: Coming down with food poisoning while traveling or camping is the pits. I’ve been there and it’s awful. Taking activated charcoal can help with upset stomach, especially if food poisoning is suspected. The charcoal absorbs the poison, which is then eliminated from the body. Activated charcoal comes in the form of powder, capsules, or tablets and the dosage varies depending on the form. The oral dosage is 1 tablespoon of powder stirred into water, 4 capsules, or 8 tablets.

Candied Ginger: Ginger is very soothing to stomach. Candied ginger is palatable and easily stored. It’s nice to have around for unexpected car sickness and general nausea.


All Purpose Salve: Made by Wise Woman Herbals, this salve contains herbs and nutrients that help your cuts and scrapes heal more quickly and with less scarring. Apply salve directly to cuts and cover with a bandage if needed. This salve is mildly anti-bacterial but will not replace Neosporin in treating an infected wound.

Antibacterial Tincture: This herbal combination contains echinacea, goldenseal, gotu kola, and calendula, and is a great alternative to Neosporin. These herbs are strongly anti-bacterial and help wounds heal more quickly. I usually apply this tincture to a cut or scrape three to five times a day until it is scabbed over.

Bentonite Clay: Bentonite clay is a fantastic drawing agent. A small bag of bentonite clay goes a long way. Mix with water to create a paste and apply to any bug bite with toxins or venom. This works great for spider bites, bee stings and the really nasty mosquito bites. It can help reduce itching on small children so they don’t rub themselves raw (if you can get them to leave the clay on for long enough). Leave the paste on until it dries if you can.

Apis, Homeopathic: This homeopathic is made from bee and this gives you a big clue as to how it’s used. Just think of the last time you had a bee sting. Use this homeopathic anytime you have a bug bite that is painful, red and swollen.


Rescue Remedy: Rescue remedy can be purchased at many natural food stores. It is a combination of flower essences that have been selected to help with general anxiety. It can be very useful to have around. Often people become anxious when they’ve injured themselves and this can go a long way toward calming their nerves. It also works great before a stressful test or pre-date jitters!


Traumeel: Traumeel is a topical cream that is a combination of the most common trauma-related homeopathics. It can be helpful for bumps and bruises but also for deeper injuries like sprains, strains and over-use injuries. This is a great substitute for tiger balm for all you weekend warriors! Apply the cream to the affected area as needed. This can be used in conjunction with internal homeopathics.

Arnica, Homeopathic: Homeopathic arnica is indicated in many acute traumas. Arnica can help reduce bruising and decrease healing time. Arnica is best indicated in cases of blunt trauma, such as any injury where bruising is the primary concern. In an acute situation, take three to five pellets of arnica 6C, 12C, or 30C under the tongue. Let the pellets dissolve and don’t eat or drink anything but water 15 minutes before or after taking the homeopathic. For a serious injury, homeopathic arnica can be taken every 30 minutes to 2 hours right after the injury and 1-3 times daily for a few days after. For a more minor injury, take arnica only once. Stop taking the homeopathic if the pain and bruising resolve.

These items are a great addition to a standard first aid kit. They will give you more flexibility when dealing with many common injuries and situations. These treatments don’t take the place of consulting a physician when needed. If you experience a serious injury or a wound which is not healing properly, please seek medical care. Enjoy your summer adventures and be safe!!

Dr. Jessica Nagelkirk is a licensed Naturopathic Physician (ND) specializing in integrative primary care medicine. She is a current faculty member at National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon and sees patients privately at Apis Integrative Health in Marquette, MI.


This article was reprinted with permission from the Summer 2014 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Jessica Nagelkirk, Naturopathy