Springtime Allergies and Ayurveda

Allergies are called pratyūrjatā in Ayurveda. Allergies are caused by a faulty response by the immune system to something in the environment. The immune system reacts as if the substance (pollen, food protein, chemical, etc) is a threat when it is not. This results in local inflammation as the immune system irritates the affected tissues. In the nose and sinuses, this causes sneezing and mucus to form. In the eyes, there is redness and itching. In the intestines, there is inflammation which causes loose stools, nausea, and vomiting. On the skin, there may be a rash. In addition to the inflammation which is due to pitta dosha, the condition may also mix with vata dosha and appear drier or kapha dosha and be more moist/oily/mucousy. When many people think of common spring respiratory allergies, these tend to be kapha dosha predominant.
A good Ayurvedic Doctor will look at how the allergy is affecting the patient and won’t simply prescribe one medicine or treatment program for everyone. The doctor must take a complete history and do a complete exam to understand the patient’s prakruti (constitution), vikruti (current state of the doshas), and how the disease (roga) is manifesting. Each piece affects the treatment plan as well as the state of agni (digestive power), ama (toxicity), and ojas (endurance, internal strength).
Allergies can be approached in several ways.
Ojas: One way is to focus on ojas. When ojas is depleted, the body becomes more sensitive and reactive. The Immune system becomes faulty. Allergies become worse as a result. This is why symptoms worsen when sleep is poor or there is an increase in stress in a patient’s life.
Normalize Digestion and Elimination: The digestive system is the root of all disease in Ayurveda. Ama (toxins) form here that interfere with physiological functions including those of the immune system. Digestion and elimination must be normalized and ama should be removed following the principles of langhana chikitsa (purifying therapies) which include panchakarma.
Spring Pollen allergies are kept at bay by pacifying kapha dosha as these allergies tend to be very moist. However, it is still wise to control inflammation. Allergies are mediated by histamines which are pitta-vitiating inflammatory molecules.
Reduce the Symptoms: The practice of neti helps with nasal congestion and irritation that results in sneezing. Eyewashes, especially with rose water help burning and itching eyes. Salves can be applied to control skin itching. Triphala in the form of Shita Kashaya (cool infusion) benefits symptoms in the digestive system.
In practice, a mix of the above therapies is utilized. Working with an excellent practitioner is essential.
Be well, Be kind, Be love.