As we enter springtime, we encounter allergies that seem to follow the blossoming of nature. While over-the-counter medications are made to quell symptoms and suppress the body’s natural responses to allergens, Ayurveda has an altogether different approach based on time-tested holistic practices. Simply stated, Ayurvedic healers regard allergies as imbalances and rather than symptoms.
Ayurvedic practitioner Mike Dhaliwal explains that accumulated Kapha from late winter, which has solidified due to extreme cold, begins to liquefy the spring. This results in decreased Agni (digestive fire and resilience), along with other health conditions; e.g. cough, cold, congestion, and seasonal allergies.
Ayurvedic doctor Sheila Patel writes that there are several key factors determining whether, and to what degree, a person experiences allergies, as well as how severe the problem will be. Besides Agni, we also have to consider the quantity of the specific plant allergen that causes symptoms. And then there’s a person’s current state of vykruti (balance/imbalance) in the doshas (Pitta, Kapha, or Vata). Fortunately, notes Patel, there are techniques to strengthen Agni and ways to minimize exposure to allergens. Let’s take a look at a few practices that may ease you into spring this year.
1. Practice Serenity
Because Ayurveda is steeped in the mind-body-spirit approach to health, balance, and healing, meditation is an essential part of its many therapies. When it comes to Agni, regular meditation practice calms the mind and body, making it less likely to have a harsh response to plant pollen and dust. In addition, meditation harmonizes us with the environment so that we may live peacefully, instead of enduring an antagonistic relationship. Other mindfulness practices that strengthen Agni include yoga, eating for health, and conscious breathing.
2. Use a Neti Pot
Because the Ayurvedic approach to springtime allergies is to take a hands-on approach by flushing out your nasal passages. Ayurvedic practitioner and yoga instructor Sarajean Rudman suggests using a neti pot twice a day (or at least daily), with a weak solution of sea salt and distilled water, to loosen up Kapha energy in the sinuses. This also helps flush out allergens that may be adhering to mucous membranes.
3. Embrace a Wake-up Ritual
Upon arising, start your day by drinking a full glass of room temperature or warm water (you can add lemon). Next, twenty minutes or so of gentle yoga and stretching will begin to stimulate your muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs, respiration, cardiovascular, and lymphatic circulation. Making a habit of this routine will do wonders for your health and immune system throughout the year. Studies show that yoga is an excellent way to lower inflammation, a major source of discomfort with allergies.
4. Eat Well
During allergy season, try to avoid foods and drinks that perpetuate sluggishness. These include cold, heavy foods and drinks, dairy, wheat, refined breads and sugars, meat, processed foods, and artificial ingredients — all of which adversely affect digestion and dampen the Agni.
5. Spice it Up
Ayurveda recognizes that nature — humans, as well as the seasons and plants — have constitution types. Ayurveda relates the usual suspects in allergies (congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing) to the Kapha dosha, representing earth and water elements. In addition to the above remedies, it helps to eat spices such as ginger, cayenne, pepper, basil, cumin, cardamom, sage, turmeric, and cinnamon. One Ayurvedic herbal concoction stands out to tackle the Kapha allergy condition: Trikatu, made from Long Pepper, Black Pepper, and Ginger. This classic Ayurvedic formula supports and promotes digestive Agni, or fire, to fend off the springtime Kapha allergy blues!