Published October 2, 2023 More than 1 in 4 adults in the US suffer from seasonal allergies, affecting over 50 million people each year. And 75% of people who are allergic to pollen from spring plants also experience allergic reactions in the fall. Not to mention it’s not always easy to interpret fall sniffles – is it your annual fall cold or is it allergies?! If you find yourself getting sick at the exact same time each fall it’s possible you may actually have seasonal allergies. Additionally, if you have itchy and/or watery eyes or itchy, irritated sinus cavities, you likely are dealing with allergies. But perhaps the most noteworthy distinction between a cold and allergies is how long your symptoms are persisting – anything over ten days is usually allergies. Now just because you’re one of the unlucky ones who experiences fall allergies doesn’t mean you have to live with the all-consuming symptoms! Let’s get into why you might feel like a hot mess and what you can do to kick those allergy symptoms to the curb. WHAT CAUSES FALL ALLERGIES? While spring allergies are caused by pollen from a myriad of trees, grasses and weeds, fall allergies stem from two pesky culprits – ragweed pollen and mold spores. Ragweed – This flowering plant is in the genus Ambrosia and in the aster family, Asteraceae. It grows all over the United States (except Alaska) but is abundant in the eastern and midwestern regions of the country. There are two main types of ragweed: common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) and giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida). You can identify common ragweed by its characteristic lacy, fern-like leaves and flower spike containing teeny tiny, almost undetectable yellow flowers. Giant ragweed plants, on the other hand, have leaves that resemble a human palm and furry stems. They also have cylindrical flower spikes with yellow flowers that look more like little bumps. Both varieties of ragweed produce 1 billion grains of pollen per plant (yep, you read that right) throughout their flowering season from August through November. So you can easily see why these weeds are notorious for causing allergies! Leaf Mold – Just when ragweed season winds down and you think you’re in the clear, mold season ramps up! With shorter days and colder temperatures, deciduous trees start dropping their leaves. And when these leaves just sit around in your yard, parks, medians, etc moisture accumulates and mold spores go buckwild. Similarly (I’m talking to all you master gardener girlies out there!), if you let your summer vegetable and flower gardens decompose, you’ll end up with a mold hot spot. And those microscopic mold spores wind up in your nasal passages, causing the same symptoms as other seasonal irritants, like pollen. For people with asthma, mold spores can exacerbate symptoms. HERBS THAT CAN HELP Nettle leaf is always the first thing that comes to mind when I think of herbs for allergic reactions. It has been widely studied for its antihistamine properties and some research shows that it can also inhibit some of the inflammatory events that cause allergic rhinitis (1). Eyebright is a cooling, astringent herb high in tannins that tones your mucous membranes. It also contains histamine-inhibiting flavonoids like quercetin and luteolin that are anti-inflammatory, especially to your eyes (hence its name!). Yerba Santa is a fantastic decongestant and a well known expectorant, meaning it can help loosen your phlegm and bring it up and out of your respiratory tract. Turmeric contains curcumin, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Additionally, it supports healthy liver detoxification pathways to maintain normal histamine metabolism. Lobelia is indicated for asthma and other respiratory ailments as it dilates your lung passageways and relaxes your bronchial tubes. Like yerba santa, it is also an expectorant that loosens your phlegm, making it easier to breathe. Ambrosia (aka ragweed!) can be used as hair of the dog, if you will. By taking a small dose of ragweed leaf, your body gets introduced to the plant slowly and intentionally, so that when it encounters its pollen out in the wild, it doesn’t sound the alarm bells and cause a histamine reaction. How cool is that? All of these potent herbs are found in our Spring Defense Tonic, so that you don’t have to spend another fall season closing the windows and staying inside! This particular blend of botanicals works hard to keep your nasal passageways feeling open and clear by supporting a normal, healthy response to pollen and environmental irritants. So throw on your favorite flannel, grab a cozy fall drink and enjoy crunching those orange and red leaves under your feet.