First Nations and Native American people used the herb stinging nettles for thousands of years to treat many health conditions, including allergies. Now, science has proven what these wise people knew from experience: nettles are an effective allergy treatment. In a 2009 study published in "Phytotherapy Research," Drs. Roschek, Fink, McMichael and Alberte at HerbalScience Group LLC, found that nettles worked on multiple levels to reduce inflammation linked to allergies.
In another recent double-blind study, the leaves of the stinging nettle were investigated for their ability to assist with sinus problems due to allergies. Participants taking nettles had noticeably higher rates of symptom improvement from allergic rhinitis than those taking the placebo.
Don’t be alarmed by the name. This plant’s survival mechanism is found in fine hairs on its leaves, which are relatively harmless unless you try to pick the plant without wearing gloves. Most gardeners can attest to the aptness of the plant’s name.
Unlike pharmaceuticals which cause heart problems or drowsiness, nettles does neither. Nettles are actually a nutritional powerhouse. If you eat the fresh ones, be sure to wear thick gloves. And, they are best cooked or made into an alcohol extract—called a tincture—to nullify their stinging effects. They can be added to soups and stews. However, they are also conveniently available in the dried form for making tea, liquid tinctures to take as drops, or in capsule form.
Of course, if you're absolutely sure you've identified nettles correctly, you can quickly and easily make your own allergy remedy. (If you're not sure, Mountain Rose Herbs sells dried nettle leaf you can use or nettle seeds if you want to grow your own nettle in your yard. They also sell the extracts pre-made). Simply add a couple of handfuls of nettle leaves (washed, of course) to a half cup of water and a half cup of vodka. Blend in a blender and strain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer, allowing the liquid to fall into a pitcher below to collect the liquid. Squeeze any remaining liquid out of the cheesecloth. Pour the liquid into a bottle with a cap. The typical dose is one teaspoon three times daily for a couple weeks prior to and throughout allergy season.
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