It’s the season to be sneezin’ and your practice may soon be filled with clients attacked by pollen. Here’s how to help them cope, naturally.
It’s the season we long for when snow blankets us from above and the outside temps require dressing in enough layers to look like the Michelin man. But spring, which magnetizes people of all ages outdoors to frolic with family, friends and pets, has a dark side: according to Pollen.com, more than 67 million Americans deal with allergies, and more than 80 percent of those react to pollen—defined as a greenish-yellow fine, powdery grain released from the male part of a flower or from a male cone.
Technically, pollen grains are known as male microgametophytes; each grain contains a male gamete that fertilizes the female plant’s ovule, and thus, plant and other herbaceous growth occurs. It is transported between flora by weather, insects, foraging animals and birds. And a new study busts a myth that rainy days are “safer” for the pollen sensitive.
University of Iowa researchers reported that tree pollen fragments remain in the air for as many as 11 hours after heavy rains, and those granules can make their way deep into the lungs, potentially exacerbating allergies. The researchers base their findings on first-time direct measurements of pollen fragment concentrations during and after spring rains occurring in 2019.
“Our results show that while pollen grains decrease substantially during rain, peak concentrations of submicron pollen fragments occur during rain events and then persist for several hours,” related Elizabeth Stone, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and corresponding author of the study.
Intact pollen grains are larger, at 20 to 100 microns, and settle to the ground. Pollen fragments, at less than 2.5 microns in size, do not settle readily and often remain aloft. The researchers found that pollen fragment concentrations remain elevated from 2.5 to 11 hours after a rain, the longer times associated with the heaviest rains. The highest concentration of pollen fragments measured during one storm was 1.3 million pollen fragments per cubic meter of air; the second highest measured concentration was 960,000 pollen fragments per cubic meter of air. (Hughes, Env. Sci & Tech Let 2020).
A 2016 study (Lake, Env. Health Persp), suggested that due to climate change, the number of people who suffer from ragweed pollen-induced hay fever can double in only 35 years. “It is also important to add that climate change consequences will not be restricted to ragweed—and a range of other pollen-producing species are likely to be affected,” commented Iain Lake, lead author. “Our methods provide a framework for other studies investigating the impacts of climate change on pollen allergy for other species.”
Currently, said Christopher Shade, PhD, founder & CEO of Quicksilver Scientific, Colorado, tree allergies are most common in spring, then, as you get into late spring and early summer, it’s grasses that cause the same symptoms.
The ubiquitous pandemic in the case of pollen sensitivities has no real impact other than your patients may be much more skittish in confusing some symptoms.
There are many products that you can recommend to your patients/clients who are sensitive to pollen.
Allergic reactions to free-floating pollens does reduce quality of life when symptoms flourish. There are two ways to help your patients/clients enjoy the outdoors: help build a sustainably hard-working immune system, and reduce intensity of the pollen reactions. A third tool is, of course, better lifestyle habits such as drinking more water and exercising regularly, as well as ensuring the diet is high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric and Andrographis paniculata.
Colloidal silver is a supplement many consumers are aware of but may not know that it can be a potent protector against pollen. Liz Smith, RN, president of the Tennessee-based Natural Path Silver Wings, described colloidal silver as a dietary liquid mineral supplement blend of “pharmaceutical-grade ultra-fine silver particles with pharmaceutical grade ultra-pure water.”
According to the Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, Smith cited, a true colloidal silver is achieved when the “size” of the silver colloid is 1-100 nanometers, making it safe for adults and children to use for immune support.
Natural Path Silver Wings manufactures a 50 PPM colloidal silver liquid supplement in a 1-oz. vertical spray providing immune support, and that, said Smith, is independent lab tested and verified safe to take daily. “The higher the PPM, the stronger the immune formula,” she asserted. “Silver engages the immune system for more efficient response time. Silver reduces the burden on a taxed immune system (by pollen). Silver provides a powerful form of immune support that is safe to take daily, with mechanisms that are different and complimentary to other herbal immune products.”
Practitioners may recommend colloidal silver liquid supplements in either oral spray, dropper or vertical spray bottles, according to Smith. They may also advise that patients/clients take 50 PPM daily for immune support, and 250 to 500 PPM daily for stronger immune support through challenges (eg, high pollen counts, stress).
Children who are sensitive to pollen also have the same discomforts as adults. And although they may go to pediatricians, if your parent-patient/client mentions that their child is having a rough time thanks to the flora courting season, California-based ChildLife Essentials’ products may be recommended.
Katherine Cole, R&D manager for ChildLife Essentials, explained that ChildLife Clinicals Lung Health is a liquid herbal supplement that contains a combination of vitamin C, vitamin B6, and a proprietary herbal blend of fresh osha root, ivy leaf extract, nettle leaf, peppermint leaf, licorice root, sophora root, fresh yerba santa leaf and reishi mushroom fruiting body to support respiratory system health. Each of these ingredients has been included for their specific role in supporting lung health including through means of supporting the immune system, through their antioxidant properties, and through supporting healthy functions of the bronchi.
“Practitioners can recommend this product as a natural option for lung support. This product contains yerba santa, stinging nettle and peppermint, which have immune supporting properties, making them great for seasonal support products,” she advised, adding that a serving size is just 1 milliliter to be taken twice daily.
Gaia Herbs’ (North Carolina) new line of three plant-based respiratory health-supportive products, Mighty Lungs, Sinus Comfort and Black Seed Oil, may be recommended to provide year-round support to help your patient/clients maintain lung health and function, according to Susan Hirsch, MS, CNS, Gaia Herbs’ formulation manager.
With healthy lung function (respiration) being more important than ever, she said, “Mighty Lungs offers extra daily support all year long. This powerful blend combines adaptogenic and respiratory-supporting herbs to support healthy lung function and to help maintain long-term lung health.” Mighty Lungs contains mullein, plantain, schisandra and elecampane, which have been traditionally used as lung and respiratory tonics.
For patients/clients who tend to feel discomfort more in their sinuses, Gaia Herbs’ Sinus contains a blend of respiratory and sinus supportive herbs including, yarrow, plantain, bayberry and Gaia-grown nettle. Hirsch said, “This blend of traditional herbs helps to maintain sinus health so that people can keep breathing comfortably.” Also known as nigella, black seed oil has been used for centuries in ayurvedic medicine for its ability to support lung health and to help maintain the respiratory system, according to Hirsch. “This single herb extract helps to keep lungs working optimally and efficiently.”
According to Hirsch, at Gaia, when formulating herbal supplements for the respiratory system, the team starts with the goal of the formula—“are we looking to support a specific acute condition such as seasonal sinus challenges, or are we looking to create a complex multi-herbal blend for respiratory support and long-term foundational wellness? In most cases, the acute short-term condition will also benefit from the herbal formula created to provide long-term support,” she said.
Some herbs and formulas are designed to work more quickly to address acute concerns (such as Gaia Herbs’ new Sinus Comfort), while other herbs need time to restore balance in the body before your patient/client is able to feel a change, eg., Gaia Herbs’ Mighty Lungs and Black Seed Oil formulas.
Iowa-based Cargill Health Technologies’ EpiCor postbiotic is relevant for pollen-induced symptoms; it is made through a natural, proprietary fermentation process that creates a unique fingerprint of metabolites, according to Justin Green, PhD, director of scientific affairs. EpiCor is a whole-food fermentate, “meaning nothing is extracted or purified; instead, the entire fermentation broth is simply dried to become EpiCor postbiotic,” he explained.
For patients/clients who are curious to know about origins, Dr. Green noted that EpiCor postbiotic was inspired by a real-life health discovery story. Factory employees at Cargill’s animal feed manufacturing facility were taking fewer sick days than their office-bound colleagues. To understand why, the company commissioned pilot studies and learned that its fermented feed product supported the immune health of the factory workers exposed to the product. The company embarked on years of clinical research to show the safety and efficacy of this postbiotic ingredient for people, culminating in the launch of EpiCor postbiotic.
“To date, more than a dozen published studies demonstrate the health benefits of EpiCor postbiotic, which include supporting the immune system, positively modulating the gut microbiota and supporting nasal comfort,” he asserted. This body of research includes a study that examined the effect of EpiCor postbiotic on supporting immune health by looking at seasonal challenges.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with adults who tested positive for grass allergies, EpiCor postbiotic supported immune health by maintaining nasal comfort. Two other human studies published together in a single article examined EpiCor’s effects on specific antibodies associated with seasonal challenges and overall immune support. “This research suggests that during times of elevated pollen counts, EpiCor postbiotic may help support nasal health and a healthy immune system. Further, we recommend a daily dosage of 500 mg for adults,” he added.
Mushrooms, which are researched more in-depth, are also indicated for respiratory support during times of seasonal stress. For example, pointed out Jerry Angelini, head of education for Host Defense (Washington), the company’s Breathe formula, which supports healthy breathing and a balanced immune response in the upper respiratory system, contains equal amounts of three mushrooms: reishi, chaga and cordyceps, key mushrooms for respiratory support during spring.
Angelini explained that reishi is one of the mushroom world’s strongest immune modulators, and there are multiple studies indicating that reishi can reduce mast cell degranulation, increase IL-10, and pacify overactive immune responses. At the same time, reishi supports appropriate macrophage and lymphocyte function, allowing for a strong yet balanced upper respiratory response. An added benefit here is that reishi also reduces sympathetic nervous system hyperarousal, which can often accompany dysregulated breathing. Reishi helps to quiet the nervous system, yet supports day long endurance, reinforcing its activity as an adaptogen.
Chaga supports epithelial cell responses, Angelini said. There are studies supporting the down regulation of IgE, IL-4 and Il-5, specifically in epithelial cells of the intestinal tract, the lungs and the skin. Chaga appears to decrease Th2 immune cell activity, allowing a more balanced response to environmental triggers. Furthermore, research on both reishi and chaga indicate that they may both regulate TNF alpha, beneficially impacting systemic immune functioning.
The research supporting cordyceps use is also extensive, according to Angelini. Cordyceps may reduce bronchial hyperreactivity; cordyceps research indicates a reduction of mast cell degranulation and decreased IL-4, IL-5 and IgE signaling. Similar to reishi, cordyceps also supports lymphocyte and macrophage activity, and combined with the impact upon Th2 cells, also supports a modulated immune response. “Many people who struggle with full breathing often report reduced levels of energy and vitality,” he commented. “Cordyceps can increase energy supporting the objective and subjective experiences of restoring vitality.”
Host Defense Breathe formula is available in liquid extract and capsules. The alcohol base in the liquid extract allows for rapid absorption supporting immediate immune modulatory activity, according to Angelini. “It is important to remember that cordyceps can be energizing for most people, therefore, when recommending Breathe liquid extract, advise that it is best used during the day so that the energizing response does not cause problems falling asleep,” he said, adding that the same caution should be for the capsules.
Dr. Shade said he highly recommends compounds quercetin and luteolin for supplementation as they are direct stabilizers of the mast cells. Additionally, diindolylmethane helps reduce immune reactivity (and thus, allergic response). Quicksilver Scientific’s Hista-Aid, he described, is a fast-acting blend of DIM, flavonoids and Vitamin C.
The body’s allergic response increases when glutathione levels are depleted, Dr. Shade added. “All of this can be due to age or high toxic load or other inflammatory stressors. So, detoxifying and supplementing with glutathione will take the antigens out of the system and help stabilize the body’s immune response,” he said.
Pennsylvania-based Vinco’s Hist-Resist contains vitamin C and quercitin dihydrate which, according to Vincent Nudi, vice president of special projects, have been shown to deactivate and/or lower the body’s release of histamine. These ingredients are also excellent sources of support for immune health and balance,” he pointed out. The plant enzyme bromelain was included to help enhance the absorption of the quercitin. Additionally, stinging nettle leaf, ashwaganda and turmeric were added to the formula to help reduce inflammation. Finally, n-acetyl-l-cysteine was included as it has been shown to promote normal mucus viscosity, as well as clear sinus and nasal passages.
Nudi said that naturopaths should recommend that adults and children over the age of 12 start taking Vinco’s Hist-Resist through a loading dose, two capsules, three times a day for 10 days. Following the loading dose, natural practitioners should recommend a maintenance schedule of two capsules daily.
Mindful maintenance during spring when the pollen counts are high is good advice for your patients/clients who are highly susceptible to having adverse reactions to pollen. Everyone should be able to enjoy the new life that is spring—especially this year.
Healthy Take Aways
• More than 67 million Americans deal with allergies, and more than 80 percent of those react to pollen.
• Tree pollen fragments remain in the air for as many as 11 hours after heavy rains.
• The number of people who suffer from ragweed pollen-induced hayfever can double in only 35 years.
• Black seed oil has been used for centuries in ayurvedic medicine for its ability to support lung health.
• The body’s allergic response increases when glutathione levels are depleted.
For More Information:
Cargill Health Technologies, www.epicorhealth.com
ChildLife Essentials, www.childlifeclinicals.com
Gaia Herbs, www.gaiaherbs.com
Host Defense, www.hostdefense.com
Natural Path Silver Wings, www.npswsilver.com
Quicksilver Scientific, www.quicksilverscientific.com
Vinco Inc., www.vincoinc.com