Natural Ways to Conquer It This Season
by Sheila Julson
With the start of cedar fever season looming, Austin residents are bracing for yet another winter of sneezing, sinus congestion, itchy watery eyes and other symptoms. The main culprit of cedar fever is the high-pollinating male species of the juniper tree (juniperus ashei) that has become pervasive throughout Central Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma, and emits hazy and sometimes green-tinted clouds of pollen. Summer’s mild temperatures that extended well into autumn, coupled with August’s high rainfall, has created very favorable conditions for cedar pollen this year.
Cedar fever is not actually a fever, but an allergy. David Jones, an acupuncturist and founder of Austin-based Herbalogic natural herb products, notes that because of the juniper tree’s intense pollen production, even people that have no other allergies can be affected by cedar fever. “Some people new to Austin find that come January, all of a sudden they get smacked with this cedar allergy, which they don’t understand because they aren’t allergic to anything else,” he says. “The allergy itself, and also the severity of it, really takes people by surprise.”
Jones says it is also easy to confuse allergy symptoms with the common cold. “A way to differentiate allergies from colds is that if all of the symptoms are above the neck, it’s probably an allergy. If you have symptoms like fever or aches throughout the entire body, you’re probably dealing with a cold,” he explains.
Cedar fever season starts around mid-December, peaks in January and usually trails off in February. While it is challenging to avoid cedar pollen, there are ways to lessen the impact of cedar fever by limiting pollen exposure and keeping the immune system healthy.
“Start with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your house,” Jones recommends, “or have a quality filter on your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, and then run the HVAC fan to trap as much as pollen as possible to clean the air. That’s a low-cost way to go.”
Those suffering from cedar fever symptoms have found relief from neti pots, designed to rinse debris and mucous from the nasal cavity. Eye irritation, another common symptom of cedar fever, can be helped with liquid eyewash. “Have separate clothes for indoors and outdoors,” Jones affirms. “If you will be outside for a period of time, when you come in, take off your jacket and other garments that collect pollen, and change into clothes that haven’t been worn outside to keep pollen out of the house. Pets that go outdoors and roll in the grass will also track pollen inside, especially when dogs shake themselves off after being outside.”
Immune-boosting herbs may also help protect the body against cedar fever. Jones took herbs used at his acupuncture clinic to formulate Easy Breather, an herbal formula designed for cedar fever that moderates the immune system. The formula contains an unusual, yet effective immune-boosting ingredient used for centuries in Chinese Medicine: cicada shells, collected after the insect molts.
“Cicada shells are made up of chitin, which has interesting effect on histamine, the body’s response of the immune system reacting to the pollen. They act in a way similar to an antihistamine,” he explains. Easy Breather also contains properties that balance moisture within the membranes and tissues. The herbal formula comes in capsules or liquid form.
Jones notes that people have also found relief through conventional methods such as shots administered by an allergy specialist, but that involves preplanning because by the time the body is actually reacting to cedar fever, it’s often too late for shots to be effective. Shots can also be costly for people with no health insurance. Over-the-counter allergy products can provide relief but may also have side effects such as grogginess.
For more information about Herbalogic, call 512-658-6088 or visit Herbalogic.com.
Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.