When I moved from Minneapolis to Atlanta, my allergist told me I was going from the frying pan into the fire.  Atlanta lies at the very bottom of the Appalachians and all the pollen from the mountains blows down and just sits over the city as if in a bowl. I had never even heard of  “pollen counts” until moving but when I was living in the city, did I pay attention!  The “pollen count” measures the number of pollen particles per cubic foot of air, most of which are invisible to the naked eye (and it’s the ones you can’t see that get you). A count of 120 is considered extremely high for people with allergies.  Yesterday’s count in Atlanta was 5,733.  One of the local television stations caught it on camera.  While this may look like clouds or air pollution, it’s actually pollen.

Thankfully, my allergies are mild compared to many of my friends’. I get some itchy eyes and go through a few more tissues than normal but it’s not bad. Since moving out of the city, they’ve become even less of a nuisance because I’m not contending with pollution in addition to pollen each day. But here in the mountains, our seasons are about two weeks behind Atlanta and because I make a weekly trip into the city, my exposure is a bit prolonged.

There are some things I do to keep myself as comfortable as possible for about six weeks until the trees and grasses are done with their annual contribution to their procreation both in Atlanta and up here. First, I double my Garlic intake starting about the first of March to boost my immune system.  I continue this until the middle of May when I’m positive the local allergy season has come to an end. I know several people that go on a regime of Echinacea during the same period for the same reason. (Echinacea should never be taken for long periods of time. The longer you take it, the more it actually decreases in effectiveness.)

As soon as it gets nice outside, I refuse to stay indoors more than I have to. During the height of pollen season, I take a shower as soon as I come in from outdoors – this includes washing my hair.  Getting all the pollen off lessens the period of direct exposure.  Washing hands frequently and avoiding touching the nose & eye area also helps a great deal. To treat my symptoms, I wash my eyes several times a day with sterile saline solution (the same stuff contact lens wearers use).  Rarely does my nose get so stuffed I want an antihistamine but when it does, I add more fresh horseradish or ginger to my diet.  Both do a good job of clearing out mucous in a hurry. Dr. James Duke, author of The Green Pharmacy, recommends nettle Urtica dioica as well.

As I said, my symptoms are mild compared to many allergy sufferers. If you’ve got bad allergies, stay indoors as much as possible with the house shut up until allergy season has passed. If you must go outside, do it in the very early hours before the sun encourages the release of pollen.  Try a cup of nettle tea three times a day, and increase your intake of garlic, onions and Vitamin C. There are times, though, that herbs just won’t do the trick for someone.  In this case, a synthetic antihistamine is probably your best bet.

As I write, it’s raining, washing much of the pollen out of the air. I’ll get probably one day of respite tomorrow and then the pollen counts will rise dramatically again.  Achoo!  Sniff.


  • Mary Posted April 14, 2010 10:46 am

    how much dried nettle do you use to make tea? I made in infusion, and wound up using it as a hair rinse, I couldn’t get use to the taste. Tea may be better. 🙂 Good article. I actually suffer less from allergies now that I garden pretty actively.

    • DJ Posted April 14, 2010 8:33 pm

      Mary, generally 1 teaspoon dried herb to 1 cup just-boiled water (tea, infusion … same thing). Steep 10 minutes, strain. I know a lot of people that like the taste of nettle. I’m not one of them. You can buy freeze-dried nettle in capsules at many health food stores. That’s what I do if I feel I need to take it.

  • Mary Posted April 15, 2010 9:48 am

    Ah, my instructions had me use 1 ounce of herb (in quart jar) fill with boiled water, and let sit for 4 hours. It was really, really dark green! LOL I hope my nettle comes up under my porch again this year. I had pulled it up not knowing what it was (well, I figured it out when my hands started burning). I think it may come up, and I plan on eating it cooked like spinach. “They” say that’s what it tastes like. We’ll see. 😉

    • DJ Posted April 15, 2010 1:51 pm

      That explains it! Soooo strong – ugh!

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