Reishi (and More!) for Allergies

Just less than two weeks ago, the sky was tinged with a yellow mist that rode upon the wind, and the leaves, cars, and roads were dusted yellow.

Some of you could hardly revel in the beauty of spring through swollen eyes, nor smell the glorious singing fragrance bursting forth from locust blossoms, wild California rose, honeysuckle, hawthorn blossoms, and peonies.

A histamine response was going on—too much snot and too much pollen! Even in the aftermath, many of you are still suffering from POLLENOSIS, or allergies.

Nature contains microbes that human beings have co-existed with for thousands of years; our war against it is only harming ourselves. As a general rule, we are in a constant state of war with ourselves, and with our environment with antiseptics, antibiotics, and air fresheners. In fact, I just visited a local public school that had air fresheners in every room!

If we aren’t waging war, we have a desire to control our world to make it more predictable. When change does occur—like the revolving seasons, or the vacillations in the economy—we have difficulty adapting. Some of us try our darnedest to protect ourselves from nature’s “nastiness.”

We fight against change. Our standards of living become increasingly urban. Our food becomes more sterile, processed, and modified. And, we suffer from seasonal allergies, food allergies, autoimmune diseases, and emotional instability.

Our immune system is our protection, called “Wei Qi” in traditional Chinese medicine. Wei Qi is like a semi-permeable membrane that lets in what we need and protects us from what may harm us. It includes our white blood cells, our natural killer cells, and our immune response to the world.

The strength of our Wei Qi is determined and generated by our digestion, how well we “process” our world. It originates from a healthy gut. If we can digest our lives with relative ease, we can make all the qi we need, from deep nourishing Yuan source qi, to superficial protective Wei Qi. And our gut needs microbes for good health!

The more we fight microbes, the worse off we are. No one ever wins when war is constant. I propose a movement towards making harmony with our surroundings and integrating ourselves on a daily basis with Nature.

Possible Causes of a Weak Gut and Seasonal Allergies

  • History of frequent antibiotic use
  • Eating too much sugar, white flour, and processed foods.
  • Food allergens like corn, soy, wheat, and for some, dairy
  • Not enough bitter foods and veggies
  • Sterile environments
  • Lack of sunshine
  • A congenital weakness, meaning you came into the world with a physiological challenge.

When the gut is weak, it cannot efficiently process food into useable qi. The unprocessed food turns into damp, interstitial “goo,” and over a long term, into phlegm.

The spleen’s function is to transform food into useable qi and transport it. If it is bogged down with damp/phlegm, then it cannot transport clear qi, but instead transports damp/phlegm to the lungs and the sinuses, which are the flower of the lung. So now we have a weak gooey spleen and weak phlegmy lungs.

Healthy Gut, Clear Head

Here are some ways to support your healthy gut and to relieve allergies in the long run:

  • Reduce consumption of sugar and processed foods
  • Regular intake of bitter greens and bitter roots (ideally with every meal, especially if your allergies are bad and chronic). They act as “prebiotics,” making for a strong digestive response and a decreased sweet craving.
  • Reishi mushrooms!
  • Probiotics, which can come in many forms: soil, fermented foods, beverages, and supplements
  • Vitamin D
  • Bitters
  • Other herbs/foods

Reishi

Reishi, Ganoderma lucidum, is another magical, mystical mushroom.

Its medicine offers us immune support, clarity and calm to our spirit. It also provides Qi tonification, and is an antihistamine.

Ganoderma lucidum. Just look at the name “LUCID”—it’s the clarity mushroom! It wasn’t named after the person that found it, but for its properties. It is considered to have the ability to bring clear qi to the head, which may be in a fog from the body’s inability to raise clear qi.

Reishi is thought to be a deep immune-modulator, meaning it may adjust to the body’s needs, increasing or decreasing an immune response, as needed. It may affect IgE levels, the body’s response to allergens. It may also rebalance liver function.

Reishi Recipe for Allergies

Take 1 ounce sliced dried reishi, red or black, and place in your crockpot. Fill crock with water and set on high for the first day, and on warm for the second day. Yes, you read right, cook your reishi mushroom for two days. Keep your water level high throughout the cooking process. If you want to start drinking it, you may after four hours of cooking.

Drink 1/2 cup per day for 2–3 months. And you will notice a difference, so much so that you will need less reishi.

Probiotics and Prebiotics

Preferably this will be through food, though sometimes this is not enough if the allergies have been long term and severe. Regarding probiotic foods, it has been noted that fermented sauerkraut contains triple the amount of vitamin C than does regular cabbage, cooked or raw.

The fermentation process develops byproducts of various lacto bacteria that can repopulate the intestines and lungs with healthy flora. Fermented beverages like kombucha, kefir, water kefir, kvass, and even ginger bug beverages also contain lactobacilli and other beneficial bacteria. Fermented dairy like plain yogurt and dairy kefir are also beneficial.

Prebiotics are fructooligosaccharide (FOS), found in roots, that are not digested by the intestines. Instead, they provide an inulin-type prebiotic substance that acts as a “fertilizer” for the bacteria in your colon.

FOS are thought to stimulate the growth of friendly bacteria, like the bifidobacteria species. Roots such as Jerusalem artichoke, burdock root, gentian root, dandelion root, and yellow dock root are all FOS stimulators that may also balance and regulate blood sugar.

If you do decide to take a probiotic supplement, I strongly recommend one that has a high FOS content. Another way to incorporate FOS into your diet is a bitters supplement. We have a great bitters liquid herbal extract at HAALo.

Dirt

Yes, you can eat a bit of dirt now and then! If you grow your own veggies, or know who does, don’t wash so thoroughly. There is a condition called Pica, often found in women and especially in pregnant women, where individuals have strong urges to eat dirt. I had these urges myself postpartum, and I still like to taste the soil of new areas.

Children start their dirt tasting around the same time they start eating solid food—no coincidence here, since they are likely seeking digestive assistance. There are minerals and microbes in the dirt that we do not get from our food, which nourish the blood and the immune system.

Go on a tasting spree! Make sure the dirt you are tasting hasn’t been treated with pesticides or fertilizers, and that it is clean.

Vitamin D3 and Sunshine

The type of suns rays necessary for vitamin D production are UVB, and they only radiate between spring blossoms and fall colors. This season from April to August marks the vitamin D season.

As the leaves fall so do the vitamin D levels. Allergies may come with springtime as we are coming out of a vitamin D deficient winter; the severity of asthma and allergies may be related to low vitamin D levels.

It is suggested that 50% skin exposure or more is necessary for 3–5 sun exposures a week or more for sunlight to normalize vitamin D levels in the summer. Supplementation is also recommended, a lower dose depending on your health. Consult your healthcare practitioner. I usually suggest 2000 IUs of vitamin D3 in the sunny months; vitamin D drops are convenient for the whole family. But relative health will determine differing doses.

Other Foods and Herbs

Onions

Onions can promote an anti-histamine response in the body. The high sulfur and quercetin content in onions has been found to alleviate allergic responses.

Quercetin has been reported to be of use in alleviating symptoms of pollinosis affecting the eyes more than the sinuses. Quercetin may prevent immune cells from releasing histamines, chemicals that cause allergic reactions. On that basis, researchers think that quercetin may help reduce symptoms of allergies, including runny nose, watery eyes, hives, and swelling of the face and lips. However, there is no evidence yet that it works in humans.

Other quercetin-rich foods include apples, capers, chamomile, green and black tea, and red grapes.

Onion Recipe

Chop a half dozen yellow onions, sauté them in olive oil, butter or ghee on low for one hour. Use 2 Tbsp daily on toast, in soups, salads. Freeze in small bunches to have handy and easy to use.

Allergy Tea

This tea will help with congestion of the eyes and nasal sinuses, as well as strengthen the lungs and kidneys with the addition of nettle.

Use 3 Tbsp of each of the following: Nettle, Eyebright and Goldenrod. Put in a quart jar and infuse for a minimum of 30 minutes, maximum overnight.

Pollen

You can use local bee pollen, cattail pollen, pine pollen. All are highly nutritious and help your body make harmony with its environment. Start with a tiny amount and daily increase up to one teaspoon per day. Local is key, for that is what is wafting up your nose and into your eyes.

Honey

One teaspoon of local raw honey daily for one year has greatly helped many of my clients with allergies.

Seeking Harmony with Nature

The bottom line is this: find ways to create harmony with your surroundings. If you have a 9–5 desk job, make sure you get out in nature. You can acknowledge the dissonance we have created between ourselves and nature. Think about how you are spending time with the natural world. Try to cultivate harmony between humans and nature.

If you are digging in the dirt on a daily basis, make sure your digestion is optimal, and that your body is processing your surroundings optimally.

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