How to treat seasonal allergies with wild herbs

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ground ivy

Last night I went to the grocery store to get some medicine for my daughter. She started experiencing symptoms of seasonal allergies last week, so I started giving her an over-the-counter antihistamine. More recently, she’s been experiencing sinus pressure, a runny nose and an upset stomach. My guess is she has a mild sinus infection. So I was in search of an expectorant and nasal decongestant without an antihistamine because we had already been using one and wanted to avoid using more than the recommended amount or an analgesic like acetaminophen because she had never had a fever. After about 20 minutes of scanning and comparing labels, I finally settled on a medication that worked as an expectorant, nasal decongestant and cough suppressant, knowing the medicine included to suppress coughs was a little unnecessary because she didn’t have a cough.

All this searching through the different concoctions that make up over-the-counter medicines got me thinking, are there other ways to treat allergies without taking medications you don’t need?

Incidentally, there are plenty of wild herbs that grow in the Midwest that can be used to relieve sinus pressure and other allergy symptoms. Learn how to find, harvest and use wild herbs to combat your seasonal allergies.

Wild herbs

Goldenrod

Goldenrod can be used to dry up leaky eyes and runny noses and help soothe postnasal drip that results from seasonal allergies, as well as, those caused by animal dander.

Where to find goldenrod

Goldenrod grows in open fields, along roads and streambanks in open sun.

How to harvest goldenrod

Goldenrod can be harvested throughout the summer and fall on warm, dry, sunny days. Cut down goldenrod stalks with flowers and leaves intact.

How to use goldenrod

Goldenrod tea. Pour boiling water over ¼ cup of dried goldenrod leaves and flowers in a tea infuser in a mug and steep for three to five minutes. Combines well with ground ivy and New England aster.

Goldenrod tincture. Combine one part fresh, chopped goldenrod leaves and flowers with two parts menstruum (composed of 50% alcohol and 50% distilled water) and soak in a sealed jar for several weeks. After soaking, take 10-15 drops as needed.

Ground Ivy

Ground ivy has aromatic and astringent properties that can alleviate head and chest congestion and dry up leaky sinuses.

Where to find ground ivy

You’ve probably seen it growing in your lawn, flower beds or garden. It likes to grow interspersed with dandelions and grass.

How to harvest ground ivy

Ground ivy likes to grow in thick and spread out, so once you’ve found some, you’ll likely find a lot of it. The best time to harvest it is in mid- to late spring. You can either pluck it with your hands or cut it using kitchen scissors. However, be careful not to harvest grass and other plants with it or you’ll be picking them out later. You should also only harvest it in areas with good soil quality as ground ivy takes up minerals into its stem and leaves and can become contaminated.

How to use ground ivy

Ground ivy’s aromatic properties are significantly diminished when it is dried or dehydrated, so using it fresh is ideal.

Ground ivy tea. Use 2 tsp of fresh ground ivy leaves per cup of water. Pour hot water over leaves, cover it and let it steep for 15 minutes.

Ground ivy tincture. Combine one part fresh, chopped ground ivy leaves, stems and flowers with two parts menstruum (composed of 50% alcohol and 50% distilled water) and soak in a sealed jar for several weeks. After soaking, take 10 drops as needed. Combines well with goldenrod and New England aster.

Hawkweed

Hawkweed can be used to alleviate damp sinus and chest congestion.

Where to find hawkweed

Look for hawkweed in disturbed land along the edges of woodlands in partial shade to full sun. Its bright red-orange and yellow blooms are easiest to spot in early to midsummer.

How to harvest hawkweed

Harvest the aerial portion of the plant, snipping the flower stalks, which grow 10-36 inches tall. Hawkweed can be used fresh or dried for later use.

How to use hawkweed

Hawkweed is most effective when prepared as a tincture, but can also be consumed as a tea.

Hawkweed tea. Use 2 tsp of fresh hawkweed leaves, flowers and stems per cup of water. Pour hot water over chopped hawkweed, cover it and let it steep for 15 minutes. Combines well with goldenrod, ground ivy and New England aster.

Hawkweed tincture. Combine one part fresh, chopped hawkweed leaves, stems and flowers with two parts menstruum (composed of 95% alcohol and 5% distilled water) and soak in a sealed jar for several weeks. After soaking, take 10 drops as needed.

New England Aster

New England aster is an aromatic and astringent plant that helps dry up leaky sinuses caused by hay fever and animal dander allergies.

Where to find New England aster

New England aster grows in sunny, open, moist fields and wetland areas, favoring ditches and stream beds.

How to harvest New England aster

New England aster can be harvested after it blooms in late summer and early fall. Cut down entire stalks and remove flowers and leaves to be used fresh or dried for later use. Another way to dry the plant is by bundling the stalks and covering them loosely with a paper bag. New England aster flowers become fluffy seed balls shortly after being harvested, so the bags will help contain them while they dry. Collect in moderation to avoid overharvesting. Pollinators rely on this plant.

How to use New England aster

New England aster tea. Use 2 tsp of fresh or dried leaves and flowers per cup of water. Pour hot water over leaves and flowers, cover it and let it steep for 15 minutes. Can also be combined with goldenrod and ground ivy.

New England aster tincture. Combine one part fresh, chopped New England aster leaves and flowers with two parts menstruum (composed of 95% alcohol and 5% distilled water) and soak in a sealed jar for several weeks. After soaking, take 10-15 drops as needed.

Ox-eye Daisy

Ox-eye daisy can be useful for seasonal allergy relief, soothing coughs and runny noses caused by early summer hay fever.

Where to find ox-eye daisy

Ox-eye daisies grow in meadows, pastures, fields and gardens with damp soil in full or partial sun.

How to harvest ox-eye daisy

Harvest small, tender leaves in the spring, but don’t strip an entire plant of its leaves. Flower heads can also be harvested when in full bloom during late summer. Blossoms should be dried completely on screens and then stored in an airtight container to preserve freshness.

How to use ox-eye daisy

Ox-eye daisy tea. Use 2 tsp of fresh or dried leaves and flowers per cup of water. Pour hot water over leaves and flowers, cover it and let it steep for 15 minutes. Combines well with ground ivy.

Other medicinal plants

Black Cherry Bark

Black cherry bark can be used to relax and open the lungs and respiratory system or to help soothe a spasmodic, barking dry cough.

Where to find black cherry bark

Black cherry trees are widespread in Midwestern hardwood forests growing near beeches and maples along streambanks.

How to harvest black cherry bark

The inner bark of black cherry trees should be processed in early spring and dried to make infusions for tea. Flowers and young twigs can be harvested in late spring to make tinctures. Fruits can be harvested in late summer. Black cherry trees produce pea-sized fruits that grow in clusters of up to two-dozen small cherries.

How to use black cherry bark

Cool infusion tea. You can use twigs and inner cherry bark to create a cool infusion black cherry bark tea. Soak ½ cup of young twigs and inner bark in a quart mason jar filled to the top with cold water. Put the cap on tight and steep for 8-10 hours.

Black cherry tincture. Combine one part fresh, chopped black cherry bark, flowers and twigs with two parts menstruum (composed of 95% alcohol and 5% distilled water) and soak in a sealed jar for several weeks. You can also combine one part dry, chopped bark, flowers and twigs with four parts menstruum to produce a tincture. After soaking, take 25-30 drops as needed.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Years ago, we had a gentleman rent a spot for his mobile home office, to manage a construction project nearby. He knew every plant by its common and botanical name, and what it could be used for. He visited one day, and I had a killer sore throat. We walked through our orchard, and he picked a few leaves from a weed, and said “chew these, don’t swallow.” Said it might burn a little. It sure did, but the sore throat disappeared! Sadly, I think he passed before he could write down his vast knowledge. But it was proof of what you say in your good article.

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