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Independent health store advice on sinus and hay fever

Looking for advice on natural wellbeing? Your local independent health stores can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This issue we speak to Martha Brennan from health store Harvest Fare in Blessington, Co Wicklow

It’s a pain in the face – isn’t it? Sinusitis. Whether from an infection or an allergy, inflammation of the sinuses can make life very miserable and often goes on for weeks and often returns regularly.

Our sinuses are hollow cavities in our forehead, between our eyes and extending from our nose across our cheeks. They are lined with a thin layer of mucus in their healthy state, but can swell and produce all sorts and colours of mucus when challenged by viruses, bacteria or allergens.

The common cold can very often develop into a sinus infection, either viral or bacterial (and rarely fungal). In this case mucus is thick, not flowing and will be anything from white to yellow to green to orange when you see it in the tissue.

Firstly, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids to help thin the mucus. Hot apple cider vinegar drinks or broth with turmeric, ginger, cayenne and garlic added for their powerful anti-inflammatory effect are soothing. A good hot curry for dinner is a practical suggestion too.

Vitamin C and zinc should be taken in frequent doses throughout an infection. Oregano, olive leaf extract and propolis will help a viral or bacterial sinus infection as will echinacea.

Nasal rinses using salt and a neti pot (or a kit sold for this purpose) can move things along. A regular home treatment of putting your head under a towel over a bowl of steaming water with apple cider vinegar or eucalyptus, tea tree or peppermint essential oils can help (don't use peppermint at night though). If the nose is very blocked a natural nasal spray containing essential oils amongst other ingredients, can give relief.

Often people aren’t clear what the cause of their problem is as the symptoms of infected and allergic sinusitis are so similar. Itching is a clue that there is some allergy behind it and then the nasal discharge will be clear. With allergies they often appear in childhood but can start later in life.

Aside from pollen, dust and animal dander, perfumes and other environmental triggers are also common causes. Reducing or cutting out dairy for a while is something we would generally recommend as dairy foods are thought to thicken mucus. Reducing sugar and refined food is important too.

When someone comes in to us in the throes of a hay fever or another allergy we tend to recommend a good quercetin complex for quick relief. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid found in apples and red onions and is a natural antihistamine. We always suggest that people look at year-round ways of building up their system like taking a teaspoon of a local honey daily for hay fever and taking a tincture of the herb plantago along with 1000mg of vitamin C. Plantago acts on the mucus membranes lining the sinuses. It helps dry up excessive mucus, but also over time strengthens this lining. It has an antiseptic effect, so we also recommend it in sinus infections.

Homeopathic complexes, tissue salts and herbal tinctures formulated for hay fever can be very helpful. A barrier balm or coconut oil applied around the nostrils can be very effective in trapping pollen.

Finally, stress of course may be linked to sinusitis. It doesn’t directly cause it, but it can cause the release of the stress hormone cortisol, leading to a lowered immune system. This can cause histamine to be released as well. Double trouble! There's lots of advice available on how to deal with stress – the thing is to find something that works for you. One thing I would say is, just to look at today. See what you can do now to make today less stressful and do it – no matter how small it might be.

What’s What and Who’s Who at Harvest Fare

Harvest Fare didn’t get a chance to celebrate 21 years trading in 2020, but owner-manager Martha Brennan is hoping that there may be an opportunity in the future.

“We are a very well stocked old-fashioned kind of health store,” says Martha. “When new customers walk in the door they are often surprised by the range of products on sale in such a small shop. An Aladdin's Cave is how it's usually described. I would call us a very person-oriented store – we know most of our customers by name and make every effort to find out what they like and order it in specially if needed. The past year has been interesting – with more people working at home we are meeting more new customers from our locality which is good.

“Food-wise we sell everything from various flours, grains, flakes, dried fruits to nuts and seeds. Our fridges hold dairy-free and vegan products along with various fermented foods and drinks and organic cheeses. Our freezer has meat-free foods, tempeh and dairy-free ice-cream. We sell organic fruit and vegetables. Our dried prepacks section includes dried fruits, beans, lentils, grains, nuts, seeds, flours, herbs and spices. We have a good range of pastas, sauces, condiments, nut butters and plant milks. We have plenty of different herbal, as well as black/green teas and coffees plus there’s local honey when it’s in season. We have a great selection of organic chocolate too!

“We sell a whole range of everything you might need to keep your home clean. Our natural beauty section is popular with shampoo bars, palm free soaps, eco-sanitary products and natural hair colours as well as face care ranges. We stock a broad range of supplements and all the essential oils. Another popular section is our Fair Trade gifts and our Yoko Wool slippers are very popular, as is our wide range of Incense.”

VISIT: Harvest Fare, Main St, Haylands, Blessington, Co. Wicklow
SPEAK TO: owner-manager Martha Brennan and Paula White who has extensive experience and a herbalism degree
CONTACT: (045) 891 636
OPENING HOURS: Current lockdown hours Monday to Friday 10am-4pm, Saturday 10am-2pm

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