If you’re suffering from the stuffy head of sinusitis or the runny nose and streaming eyes of hay fever, don’t despair. These herbs and nutrients might be just what you need to help you breathe easy. The naturopathic approach to treating upper airway congestion focuses on addressing the cause of the condition (commonly an infection or allergy), and reducing the accumulation of mucus in order to reduce the likelihood of secondary infection setting in.
At the same time, herbs and nutrients that support the immune system and affected tissues are employed to boost the body’s own healing mechanisms.
Horseradish is regarded as a natural decongestant and may temporarily relieve the symptoms of nasal congestion associated with hayfever and sinusitis. It has been hypothesised that a pungent volatile oil is formed during the metabolism of compounds called mustard oil glycosides. This volatile oil is thought to open the nasal passages and increase blood flow to the respiratory mucous membranes, helping mucous and congestion to clear.
Garlic has been used as both a food and a traditional medicine for centuries, and is popularly taken for respiratory complaints such as colds, catarrh (excess mucus) and hayfever. It contains natural sulphur compounds that are responsible for its potent effects.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant needed for healthy immune system function and for maintaining healthy mucous membranes. Extra intake is recommended for those who are prone to allergies as it may have antihistamine properties and is excreted in increased amounts during times of exposure to an allergen. Taking vitamin C supplements also reduces the duration and severity of cold symptoms.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin, important for maintaining the health of the mucous membranes that line the respiratory tract and act as barrier defences against invading microorganisms. Vitamin A is mainly found in animal foods such as liver, red meat, dairy products and eggs (cod liver oil being one especially rich source), but it can also be produced in the body from betacarotene, which is found in vegetables.