Satmya or tolerance and Asatmya or intolerance are concepts often used in Ayurveda.
“Aushadha anna viharanam upayogam sukhavaham sahi satmyam” is a phrase in the Ayurveda Classics which means Satmya is a state when a person’s Doshas or current state, accept and adjust to medicines, dietary and environmental changes. Asatmya or intolerance is when changes are not accepted and therefore cause a reaction, often as an allergy. An allergic reaction is due to hypersensitivity of one or more Doshas to a causative factor – in the case of Hay Fever to pollen.
Agni – the root of all
The root cause is imbalanced Agni or digestive fire.
In fact in all my blogs you will see a common thread – the importance of Agni, our digestion and its role in maintaining good health. The same applies to seasonal allergies and hay fever.
The basic principle being that indigestion is the basis of all physical diseases. Our inability to digest any physical, mental or emotional input can lead to an imbalance of the Doshas of the mind and the body.
In clinic I have seen that although Hay Fever is predominantly a Kapha/Pitta condition, it seems to affect people of a Vata constitution the most, due to their hypersensitivity of the nervous system and lowered immunity.
Affected Doshas and Symptoms
Hay Fever affects mainly the respiratory system – the chest, sinuses and mucus membranes – areas where Kapha is dominant, usually producing sinus congestion, watery eyes, catarrh, phlegm, a cold, coughing (with mucus) and sneezing.
Kapha allergies are usually caused by dampness and mould and usually dominant in spring, due to airborne tree pollen such as Willow, Birch, Elm, Ash, Alder. In clinic I have observed that clients who suffer mostly from spring time pollen also have a low digestive fire (mandagni) where they experience lack of appetite, heaviness after eating, usually accompanied with sleepiness and dullness.
Pitta allergies or hay fever are caused by heat and sunlight and manifest more in summer, usually due to grass pollen and allergens such as Sorrel, hay, house dust and Ragweed. Pitta symptoms are burning eyes with redness, excessive thirst, yellow nasal discharge, inflammation of upper respiratory lining with sharp throbbing headaches. Usually they also suffer with skin conditions such as eczema, heat rashes or allergic dermatitis.
When Pitta affects Agni, there is strong appetite but poor digestion, causing acid-reflux, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea and sometimes vomiting.
Treating with Nutrition:
If you suffer mainly around Spring its likely to be more Kapha dominant. To balance Kapha its best to keep warm and dry, follow a Kapha pacifying diet. It is best to avoid cold, heavy and stagnant foods like cheese, yogurt, milk, cream, wheat and red meat, as well as excess of sweet, sour and salty tastes. Choose foods that are bitter, spicy and astringent in taste. Drink clarifying teas made with cinnamon, cardamom, clove and ginger which not just improve Kapha digestion but help liquefy, dry and eliminate Kapha. Use small amounts of local honey which helps digest Kapha but also build resilience to local pollen.
For Pitta type of allergies its best to stay cool, avoid exercising during the daytime when it’s hot and follow a Pitta pacifying diet. Avoid spicy, salty sour foods, and concentrate on bitter and astringent tastes like green vegetable and salads. Pitta aggravating foods are peanuts, strawberries, bananas, citrus fruits, eggs, onions, pork, hard cheeses and yogurt, fermented foods, potatoes and aubergine. Make sure cooked food is eaten at all times and avoid raw foods such as salads.
Your Herbal Allies
Both types of Hay Fever require specific Ayurvedic herbs to clear the sinuses, open the airways, dispel the phlegm and strengthen the immune system. BUT the most important is to improve the Agni. The herbs I tend to use a lot in my clinic for improving digestion are:
Ginger and Long Pepper which are two of the 3 ingredients found in the formulation Trikatu, together with black pepper is excellent to improve digestion, burn toxins as well as dry up the Kapha type of phlegm. Another single herb I like to use is Agnimantha which is good if you also suffer from bloating, together with the lack of appetite, heaviness and lethargy after eating.
To improve Pitta type of digestion cooling herbs are better such as Kama Dudha or the CCF tea (cumin-coriander-fennel). Pitta cleansing formulation TriCleanse works well to as it has Triphala and Liquorice. Because Pitta has such an affinity for the blood, purifying the blood is often tremendously helpful; taking Sariva during this time can be very helpful especially if there is any associated skin condition.
Guduchi is an excellent tonic for the immune system and one of the best herbs for poor immune function. It is one of my favourite Ayurvedic herbs and most widely used in my clinic because of its multiple uses from fever, hyperacidity, diabetes, skin conditions to Gout and allergies.
Other herbs useful for Hay Fever are Tulsi, Vaca, Punarnava, Talisadi and Sitopaladi, based on the symptoms and other associated conditions.
Nasya or Nasal application of herbs and medicated oils is very effective not just for Hay Fever and Sinusitis but also for all ENT ailments. A 5 day cleansing Nasya therapy done during the transition of winter and spring can help reduce hay fever symptoms and is best done under the guidance of an Ayurvedic Practitioner. In clinic we combine a course of 5 Nasya treatments with a Spring Cleanse. Alternatively adding a few drops every day of our Anu Tailam Nasya Oil helps protect the mucus membranes and gently cleanses the senses. Nasya combined with Neti Pot can work wonders as it opens up the nasal passages, cleanses and clears mucus and congestion, at the same times lubricates and protects mucus membranes from allergens.
For treating the root cause and long term out comes, I always recommend my Hay Fever clients to undergo a Spring Cleanse in the transition from winter to spring as an effective way to help to clear toxins, balance the doshas, and kindle a stronger digestive fire—all of which will support digestive health, proper immune function, and fewer allergies
Not only does this reduces the symptoms but also prevents the re-occurrence of hay fever. You can find more information on our Ayurvedic Home Cleanse here.
By improving digestion, removing toxins from the system and balancing the Doshas within the body, Ayurveda not only provides symptomatic relief but also builds the immune system with the view to change our response from Asatmya to Satyma to those antigens in the following season.