Spring season is termed as the ‘Father of all diseases’ by Ayurveda and it surely lives up this title. The massive Kapha imbalance hat ensues with spring season creates flare-ups in seasonal respiratory allergies including the notorious Hay fever. Weak immune system, Kapha and other dosha imbalance, slow digestion etc. are believed to be the main contributors to most respiratory allergies in adults as well as children. Ayurvedic herbs that strengthen our immune system are an integral part of management of seasonal allergies. This article will clue you into five most effective Ayurvedic herbs that help in seasonal respiratory allergies-
Shirish (Albizia lebbeck)
Shirish is an excellent herb for managing seasonal flare –ups in asthma. It helps in reducing the bronchiospasm (swelling and narrowing of airways which leads to asthma attacks) that is triggered by allergens. By enhancing the local immunity of respiratory system, Shirish helps in minimizing the severity of allergies. In the course of time, it also reduces our sensitivity to allergens.1 Powder, as well as classical combinations (like Shrishavaleha) made form heart wood of Shirish are found to be more potent than those made from the bark.2 Shirish helps in balancing all three doshas– Vata, Pitta as well as Kapha, which is a rare quality among herbs. Also, it can be safely administered in children with asthma, respiratory allergies and recurrent respiratory infections.
Guduchi (Tinospora Cordifolia)
Guduchi is one of the crown jewels of Ayurvedic herbal remedies. It has numerous health benefits and is beneficial in almost every health condition ranging from flu to cancer. It is a powerful immunity booster and anti-allergic herb. It is especially beneficial for those who suffer from allergic rhinitis/hay fever. Like Shirish, it helps in lowering our sensitivity to common environmental pollutants like pollen. Also, Guduchi helps in reducing other factors like emotional stress, which play a major role in triggering and complicating respiratory allergies.3Guduchi helps in balancing all the three doshas and is greatly valued for this property. It can be taken in the form of Guduchi powder or guduchi fortified ghee. For those who have allergic skin rashes, guduchi fortified ghee and oil can provide more relief.4
Yashtimadhu/Licorice (Glyrrhiza glabra)
Many of us remember licorice as licorice wands or candies that we ate as kids! Just like its’ fantastic taste, licorice has a hoard of health benefits. It is a powerful anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory herb. Licorice helps in boosting our immunity and lowers our vulnerability to allergens. It pacifies Vata, pitta and increases Kapha. By improving the production of healthy Kapha in our airways, it strengthens our entire respiratory system. It is beneficial in asthma, allergic skin conditions and allergic rhinitis.5 Also; it is one of the rejuvenating and memory enhancing herbs (medhya rasayana). Taking Licorice in the form of powder is ideal. However, Licorice extract or tincture can also be used. Licorice gel6 or oil infused with licorice can be used externally in allergic skin conditions. Licorice is one of the best Ayurvedic herbs that is easy to administer and beneficial in children. What can be better than a sweet licorice candy that makes your child happy and boosts health at the same time!! If you are buying licorice candies, make sure that it does not have any added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives or colors.
Haridra/ Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric is the true iconic representation of Indian culture. Extensively used in Indian food, religious ceremonies and Ayurvedic medicine; turmeric is one of the most versatile herbs known to mankind. Taking a pinch of Turmeric with warm milk has been an age-old practice in India for warding off runny nose, sore throat, cough and chest congestion. Turmeric is a highly effective immune booster. It balances Kapha-the dominant dosha of the respiratory system. People with Vata and Pitta body types should use this herb in moderation or pair it with appropriate mediums like milk or ghee. Common seasonal allergies like hay fever and asthma can be managed just by including Turmeric in diet and as a supplement.7
Pippali (Piper Longum)
Pippali is featured in countless Ayurvedic classical preparations. Apart from having anti- allergic properties, pippali helps in increasing the bio-availability of other herbs and Ayurvedic medicines in our body. It improves appetite, enhances digestion, boosts immunity, rejuvenates tissues and strengthens the respiratory system.8 Pippali balances Vata, Kapha and aggravates Pitta. Pippali powder can be taken with honey (for Kapha), jaggery (for Vata) or milk (for Pitta) depending on the status of doshas and body type.
All these herbs are best taken early in the morning, preferably on empty stomach for maximum benefits. Also, depending on the season or time of year when you are most sensitive to allergies, it is advisable to start taking these herbs atleast a month in advance. The strength and vitality of our immune system depends on ‘Ojas’- an essence of the healthiest units of our body tissues. It takes almost one month for any type of nourishment/ healing/cleansing to reach all the seven body tissues or Dhatu. For any herb to reach all our tissues and enhance our Ojas and immunity, it takes a minimum period of one month. Hence, when it comes to getting rid of allergies and strengthening immunity, it is never too early to start!
- Venkatesh P, Mukherjee PK, Kumar NS, Bandyopadhyay A, Fukui H, Mizuguchi H, Islam N, Anti-allergic activity of standardized extract of Albizia lebbeck with reference to catechin as a phytomarker. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2010 Jun;32(2):272-6
- Shyamlal Singh Yadav, PhD (Scholar), Galib, P. K. Prajapati, B. K. Ashok,1 and B. Ravishankar, Evaluation of immunomodulatory activity of “Shirishavaleha”–An Ayurvedic compound formulation in albino rats, J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2011 Oct-Dec; 2(4): 192–196.
- Badar VA., Thawani VR.; Wakode PT., Shrivastava MP., Gharpure KJ., Hingorani L L., Khiyani RN.:Efficacy of Tinospora cordifolia in allergic rhinitis. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 96(3): 445-449(2005).
- Ranjita Vaghamshi, Mundeep Jaiswal, B. J. Patgiri, P. K. Prajapati, B. Ravishankar, and V. J. Shukla, A comparative pharmacological evaluation of Taila (oil) and Ghrita (ghee) prepared with Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) Ayu. 2010 Oct-Dec; 31(4): 504–508.
- Shin et al, In Vitro and In Vivo Antiallergic Effects of Glycyrrhiza glabra and Its Components, Planta Med 2007; 73(3): 257-261
- M Saeedi, K Morteza-Semnani and M-R Ghoreishi, The treatment of atopic dermatitis with licorice gel,Journal of Dermatological Treatment, 2003, Vol. 14, No. 3;153-157
- Suzuki et al, Elucidation of Anti-allergic Activities of Curcumin-Related Compounds with a Special Reference to Their Anti-oxidative Activities, Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, Vol. 28 (2005) , No. 8 1438
- Atal CK, Zutshi U, Rao PG.: Scientific evidence on the role of ayurvedic herbals on bioavailability of drugs. Ethnopharmacol. 4:229-32(1989)