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   John McMahon, N.D. & Deidre Williams, N.D. | The Summertime Blues

Naturopathic Remedies for the Summertime Blues
by John McMahon, N.D. & Deidre Williams, N.D.


Spring is here and summer's en route. In addition to their beautiful rites of renewal, warm breezes, beach holidays and picnics, these seasons bring pollens.

Diet and lifestyle can dramatically alter your tendency to allergy. An organic vegan diet, spring water, moderate exercise and meditation has been successfully employed to treat even steroid-dependent asthma (Lindahl, Journal of Asthma, 1985;22(1):44-55). Fresh icy fruit smoothies, garden-grown vegetables, barbecued lima beans and a daily run, bike or swim may be the best care for minimizing allergic symptoms. They are also more fun than a barrel of decongestant medications.

If you're doing all this and still have symptoms of allergy, do not despair. Mother Nature has provided other options for relief.


Naturopaths use pycnogenols (oligomeric procyanidins, referred to as "OPCs") derived from grape seeds to successfully treat allergy. OPCs are histamine decarboxylase inhibitors, providing very effective and gentle relief of allergy. The adult dose that we rely upon is 300 mg. 4-5 times daily. Pediatric dose is 100 mg. 4-5 times daily. You needn't use pycnogenols when not exposed to allergens. The summertime berry fruits including organic cherries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are rich in OPCs. If you eat 4-5 cups of a mix of these fruit daily you'll get close to a therapeutic dose. As is sometimes the case, nature provides a remedy at the same time she creates a malady.

To treat allergic conjunctivitis, the botanical medicine Euphrasia (common name: Eyebright) should be prepared as a tea and diluted 50% with saline solution. Used hourly as an eyewash, this preparation of Euphrasia reliably relieves allergic conjunctivitis. The herb Nettle (Urtica dioica) is very helpful for allergic sinus congestion. Nettle is also a great summer salad green. To treat sinusitis we recommend 1500 mg of organic Nettle leaf three times daily. You can also make a refreshing summertime tea with equal parts Nettle, Peppermint, Eyebright and Elder flowers to help drink away allergic congestion.

The traditional chinese medicine Pe Min Kan Wan has been very reliable care for inhalant allergy in our clinical experience. Most oriental markets will carry it and it is available over-the-counter in Chinese apothecaries. Pe Min Kan Wan does not contain any ephedra; instead it employs Magnolia to "clear wind" and "expel dampness". Magnolia is a decongestant herb. Dose is 5 tablets once daily for children and 5 tablets 3 times daily for adults.


Poison ivy, poison oak and related species possess an irritant essential oil (called urushiol in poison ivy). Prolonged contact with this oil, for those sensitive to it, results in a severe inflammatory dermatitis. The most effective care is recognition and avoidance of the plant. On those occasions when a sensitive individual has come in contact with it, rinsing the affected skin with rubbing alcohol within the first hour after contact is the best care. The skin should not be washed with soap nor should the rubbing alcohol be scrubbed into the > skin. The use of soaps and the act of scrubbing will spread the oil, which will widen the area of skin involved and worsen the intensity of the resulting rash. Repeated rinses with 91% isopropyl alcohol ("rubbing alcohol") will bind the urushiol and carry it out of the skin, preventing or minimizing rash. The herb jewelweed is considered a specific antidote for the rash of these plants by herbalists but, like the rubbing alcohol remedy, needs to be applied soon after exposure for effectiveness. Jewelweed usually grows very near to poison ivy; they thrive in the same soil climate.


Sunburn is another feature of the spring & summer months. Nothing is as reliable as pure aloe vera gel for healing a bad sunburn. Apply aloe vera gel straight from the herb or, as we do in our home, keep aloe vera gel in the refrigerator and use it when needed to cool and heal burns. Do not apply oils to a sunburn. Vitamin E or any herb in an oil base will trap the heat of the burn within the skin and worsen it.


Lastly, summer insects can be a troublesome guest at your summer soiree. Brewer's yeast and garlic, eaten the day before, will change the flavor of your sweat and can make you less appealing to insects such as mosquitoes and June bugs. Ointments, salves, or oils, which include the essential oils lavender, lemongrass, mandarin orange or peppermint, are more people-friendly than the garlic & brewer's yeast treatment and may be more effective than the popular citronella.

We hope these tips help you enjoy the spring & summer months. There still ain't no cure for the summertime blues but you can learn how to adapt.

John & Deirdre


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