A spike in seasonal allergies during the fall season is a common reality for many, causing the body to become inflamed and the immune system to experience an overly defensive reaction to external irritants. An overburdened “toxin bucket” that compromises the body’s ability to eliminate toxins can contribute to flare-ups, especially through the Lungs during the Autumn season, as we become exposed to certain pollens, the prevalence of mold in piles of fallen leaves, and perhaps even mycotoxins in the home as people begin to spend more time indoors. This highlights the inherent connection between our internal and external worlds.
The external pathogenic forces of Wind and Dampness often play a role in disrupting the body’s balance and therefore resilience during this time of year. When Wind invades, the body's defensive capabilities are weakened, including through compromised Wei Qi (the conceptual shield guarding our bodies). The Wei Qi is one of the body’s crucial and innate mechanisms for restoring balance and supporting adaptability – including through all seasonal transitions, and it is intimately connected to optimal Lung function. Dampness can invade from the external during rainy weather, which can cause greater exposure to mold and pollen, but it can also be cultivated internally through diet. This Dampness can lead to excess mucous in the respiratory tract and obstructions in the digestive system, blocking the flow of Qi and causing stagnation that makes it difficult for the body to maintain clear airways and expel allergens.
Modern understanding of the body’s histamine response is an important and complementary conversation to help explain the physiological phenomena behind allergic reactions. Histamine is a naturally occurring biochemical that is released by certain immune cells when the body encounters allergens, irritants, or pathogens (which can be delivered via Dampness or Wind). Excess histamine can cause hyperactive immune response, inflammation, itchiness and other allergy symptoms (e.g. runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes), respiratory muscle contractions (expressing as symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing, especially for those with asthma), and mast cell activation – another factor that can contribute to further oversensitivity and over-reactivity to triggers like stress or temperature changes.
Enter our preferred allies for fall allergies…
Reishi + Reishi Spore: Reishi’s unique spores have inflammation-taming and antihistamine properties, which are, of course, highly concentrated in this product. Reishi also contains immunomodulating polysaccharides, which have the power to tame excessive immune response and downregulate both histamine concentrations and inflammation. Indeed, research from Japan has shown that Reishi has an inhibitory effect on histamine release from most cells. Importantly, because of its modulating actions on the body, Reishi Spores help address both the aggravating symptoms and the deeper issue of compromised immunity that causes allergies.
With an affinity for the Spleen, Kidney, Heart, and Lungs, and Liver, it supports many of the elimination pathways that help reduce our toxic load. It has a strong affinity for the Liver, which is responsible for breaking down histamine. Finally, Reishi is rich in essential minerals like magnesium, shown to play a key role in one’s ability to tolerate and downregulate histamine, while also helping to relieve constricted airways.
Astragalus: This supertonic herb is deeply supportive of immunity, all metabolic functions, respiratory health, the musculature, and elimination pathways. It is also considered the most protective herb for robust Wei Qi, while also offering an immunomodulating action, capable of building overall immune health and suppressing excess immune activity. Astragalus has been shown to lower histamine levels and minimize allergic reactions. It also has a balancing effect on interleukins, another inflammatory cytokine that can be released from mast cells in conjunction with histamine.
With an affinity for the Lung and Spleen, it offers comprehensive support to two of the organs that can become most compromised during the fall season due to Wind and Dampness. Robust Spleen Qi is crucial to strong digestive function that minimizes Dampness, which otherwise tends to concentrate as mucous in the Lungs. Histamine can also contribute to leaky gut syndrome, which Astragalus can help repair, in turn helping to promote gut barrier integrity that then minimizes some of the invasions causing allergic reactions.
Schizandra: This “five-flavored berry” is considered one of the best allies for all seasonal transitions, as it’s an adaptogen that enhances the body’s capacity to cope with stress and change. Schizandra is another powerful immunomodulating herb, and further exhibits inflammation-taming and antihistamine properties. It’s also a perfectly balanced Yin and Yang tonic that nourishes all three treasures to support deep inner harmony and resilience. With an affinity for the Heart, Kidney, and Lungs, Schizandra is one of the best supporters of the Wei Qi, specifically protecting the body and the skin from the external elements and environmental irritants that can exacerbate allergic reactions.