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Independent health store advice on hay fever

Looking for advice on natural health and wellbeing? Your local independent health store can offer a wealth of expertise. This month we talk to Monica McSherry, the owner of Healthmatters Health Store in East Dulwich

Between late January and early February we have noticed customers reporting hay fever symptoms. This has been on the increase over the last few years, excluding the period during Covid when we were in lockdown and the environment was a lot less polluted. Hay fever symptoms traditionally start with reactions to tree pollen, followed by grass pollen then flower pollen. There has been a steady increase in natural remedies for hay fever over the last couple of years.

What is hay fever?

Hay fever is characterised by an inflammation of the lining of the nose, causing nasal congestion, nasal discharge, sneezing and itching. Also known as allergic rhinitis, hay fever is triggered by inhaled allergens and may be perennial or seasonal. The acute allergic response in hay fever results from the interaction of an inhaled allergen with a specific IgE antibody on the surface of mast cells and basophils. This leads to the release of histamine, increased cortisol and other factors that cause the acute symptoms. Hypersensitivity begins when IgE antibodies from B lymphocytes are exposed to specific allergens (pollen). The IgE antibodies then attach to the mast cells in specific locations in the immune system, creating sensitised mast cells.

Mast cells are connective tissue cells that are present in large numbers in the mucosa of the respiratory and digestive tracts. On continual exposure to the same allergen, the allergen attaches to the IgE antibody on the mast cell stimulating the release of chemical mediators such as histamine from granules within the mast cells.

Lifestyle changes for treating the symptoms of hay fever include dietary exclusions, such as refined carbohydrates, dairy products and wheat. In some extreme cases, following a low histamine diet helps reduce overall histamine levels.

Natural hay fever remedies

Quercetin is a member of the class of flavonoids called flavanols. Rich dietary sources of quercetin include onions, red wine and green tea. In vitro and animal studies have shown quercetin inhibits degranulation of mast cells, basophils and neutrophils. Such activity could account, in part, for quercetin’s anti-inflammatory, anti-allergy and immunomodulating activity.

Pycnogenol, made from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, inhibits the release of histamine, from mast cells, which is aggravated by irritants (pollen).

Vitamin B5, also known as pantothenic acid, supports adrenal health by regulating the release of cortisol, a steroid released by the adrenal glands, during an allergic reaction. Cortisol is one of the primary steroids used in preventing the release of histamine. Dietary sources of B5 include organ meats, fatty fish, shellfish, yeast, egg yolks, avocado, spinach, broccoli and mushrooms.

Herbal remedies for hay fever include immune-enhancing herbs such as echinacea root and astragalus. Upper respiratory anti-catarrhal herbs such as euphrasia (eyebright) hydrastis (goldenseal) and plantago lanceolata (plantain) can also help. Reishi mushroom is rich in triterpenoid compounds like lanostan, which has anti-inflammatory and antihistamine activity. This helps to stabilise the mast cells which release histamine.

Reishi also contains immune-modulating polysaccharides which reduce the over-reactiveness of the immune response and down-regulate histamine levels and inflammation. It addresses both the symptoms and the root cause of imbalanced immunity which are responsible for hay fever and other allergies.

In-store recommendations

Our favourite hay fever remedies include A.Vogel’s Luffa Complex, which has a desensitising action on the nasal membranes and is therefore a very useful remedy in combatting the symptoms. It remains a very popular hay fever remedy for the relief of symptoms of hay fever including runny eyes, itchy eyes and nasal congestion.

We also recommend Viridian’s Quercetin B5 Plus Complex. This helps to reduce increased cortisol and histamine which can contribute to the symptoms of hay fever. Finally, local honey can help to desensitise the immune system. Look for honey that has been made by bees within a three-mile radius of where you live

Healthmatters Health Store

Healthmatters Health Store is based at 47 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich, London SE22 8EP. It is a family-run integrated health store and clinic founded in 2000. Monica graduated with a BSc in Nutritional Medicine and MSc in Nutritional therapy. She is currently undertaking a PhD in the Nutritional Management of Thyroid Disorders.

To find out more, visit or call 0208 299 6040.

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