Goldenseal and Myrrh for Allergies
Answered by: Susan Eagles
Question from: Libby Daigle
Posted on: October 1, 2003

I have year-round allergies (just developed this last year). Doctor put me on Zyrtek. The drainage always seems in end up in a respiratory condition for which I have to take an antibiotic. My energy level stays low and I’m always fighting off an infection. I’ve noticed that Golden Seal seems to help. I’m concerned about drug/herbal interaction and also would just like to use herbal treatments if possible, but I don’t know what to take. I’ve heard that Myrrh is good but I have no idea what combination to use these in. I would also like something that would replace the Zyrtek. I am 53 years old and in reasonably good health.

Currently, I take: Zyrtek, multivitamin, calcium, Soy, Green Tea, Fish Oil.

Zyrtek can cause sedation, so sedative herbs should not be taken with this drug. Zyrtec works by antagonizing the effect of histamine. Most herbs used for allergies work by supporting the body i.e. by improving digestion, toning the blood vessels and healing the digestive tract for the purpose of decreasing the inflammation that produces the histamine. Zyrtec should not combine unfavourably with these herbs.

Allergies that develop suddenly are often caused by digestive problems or food allergies. With food allergies, your food is not properly absorbed. This results in low energy levels and susceptibility to infection. Poor digestive functioning promotes internal toxins and limits the effectiveness of food nutrients. Improving digestion so that food is completely digested often eliminates the allergic reaction. Digestive juices decrease with age, so inefficient digestion with associated health problems often appear starting in middle age. Bitter herbs, like dandelion root, taken before meals, stimulate digestive juices.

Stress, emotion and attitude are factors in lowered immunity, allowing a susceptibility to allergies. Sleep and relaxation promote the release of immune factors.

In the diet, include: protein, essential for optimum immune functioning (fish, meat or a combination of beans and grains); essential fatty acids, especially freshly ground flax seed, flax oil or fish oil, which are anti-inflammatory and reduce the severity of allergies; fruit and vegetables to provide flavonoids and antioxidants to reduce the allergic reaction. Avoid: mucus forming foods like dairy products and bananas; avoid sugar, which decreases immunity.

Soy, which you have indicated that you take as a supplement, is a common food allergen. It is very difficult to digest. Dairy products and gluten are the most common food allergens, and oranges, chocolate, food colourings, flavourings and preservatives are fairly common. You can test for allergies by eliminating each suspect food completely for 3 weeks to see what effect this has on your health.

Golden Seal is used to improve the mucous membranes of the intestines. Goldenseal is not well absorbed by the digestive tract, so does not act as a systemic antibiotic. It does act as a bitter tonic to the stomach. Because it is an endangered herb, in the interests of conservation it is usually used only during an acute phase of an illness. In chronic illnesses, other herbs with the same actions are used. As a substitute, Plantain (Plantago lanceolata or Plantago major) has a beneficial effect on the mucous membranes, supports the lymphatic system, is anti-bacterial and a blood tonic. The dose for goldenseal is 2 to 4 ml tincture or 1/2 to 1 gram of powder, three times daily. Note that high doses of goldenseal can irritate the mucus membranes.

Myrrh (Commiphora molmol) is antiseptic, astringent, expectorant and anti-inflammatory. The dose is 5 to 15 drops of the tincture, or one capsule of powdered myrrh, three times daily.

Myrrh combines well with goldenseal for acute infections of the mucus membranes. When combining herbs, take the dose in the low end of the dosage range.

In herbal medicine, we work first to correct underlying causes of a health problem. I suggest that you look at your diet and lifestyle for contributing factors, using the herbs to speed healing while the changes you make take effect.

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