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nasal & eyewashes I've known and loved...

A lot of people have allergies, the kind that leak and drip out of your eyes and nose, and down the back of your throat, causing irritation and sometime, as well, a cough (you're not coughing to expectorate, but to scratch that "itch" back there...). And there are a slew of teas and tinctures and chews that can be quite helpful. There are even things like freeze dried nettle capsules, though not having a freeze dryer, these aren't a part of my repertoire. If we were working with someone (or egad, it's us!) we'd look at issues like exposure, diet, food sensitivities or allergies, and many other factors to create a protocol to assuage the afflicted. In addition to all the stuff to eat, drink or take (or not to eat, drink or take), it's also important to give some direct, herb-to-mucosa relief to those afflicted tissues. So, let's run down how to throw together a good eyewash or nasal rinse...

Basically, this is as easy as:

*  making a cup of tea (this usually doesn't need to be a strong, overnight infusion or
      concentrated decoction)
*  straining it well through a coffee filter (floating bits of plant material are fine for your sippin'
      tea, but not really appropriate if you might pour it onto your eyeball or into your nose)
*  adding 1/4 rounded teaspoon salt per 8 fluid ounce cup of strained tea (this creates a
      saline solution that makes the tea more gratefully accepted by your tissues)

Another option is to add a bit of tincture to a straight water and salt saline solution (using the proportions given above). But I like teas best; they really bathe the tissues better.

I like making a pot of said tea and freeze the excess as ice cubes.

But what should I put in this tea, you ask?

I often think in properties. When someone has leaky, drippy allergies with congestion the qualities in herbs I think of are:

On the whole, if a tissue is swollen, inflamed and leaking fluids, it's telling you it needs an astringent. Some of my favorite astringents to use in nasal washes are goldenrod, ox eye daisy and ragweed. I've also used weeping willow tincture added to a saline solution for sinus swelling with intense inflammation and pain. For eyewashes, astringents address swelling, inflammation and mucus discharge. I use very mild astringents: strawberry leaf and purple loosestrife are commonly in my mixes. Yes, eyebright is great here too, but it's by no means the only or "best" eye herb available to us. Whether for the eyes of nasal cavity, don't make or use very strongly astringent preparations, as you can overshoot the mark and dry the tissues out too much, This is especially true for eyewashes.

Aromatics disperse congestion, are often antimicrobials, and like astringents also act as topical anti-inflammatories. If we look at the list of astringents mentioned above, we'll see that most of the ones mentioned for nasal washes are both astringent and aromatic (we might also think here about yarrow). That's no coincidence: congestion and leakage are both common in upper respiratory allergies. An aromatic I've used that's not as strongly astringent is wild bee balm, monarda fistulosa. It's quite fiery and should be made as a very mild tea for sinus inflammation and congestion, lest it irritate. I use fewer aromatics for eye issues, as congestion is less of an issue, but chamomile is a spectacular soothing aromatic anti-inflammatory.

These herbs help to heal damage to tissues; sometimes I refer to the simply as "tissue healers" (don't know if you've noticed, but vulnerary isn't a commonly understood word nowadays). My favorite here, by far, is plantain leaf (broad or narrow). All by itself, it can do tremendous good, and it's the base of the majority of washes I put together. We can also think of calendula, though I personally don't use this one as much for eyes and nasal cavities. Comfrey might be considered as well, though I'm less inclined to use it when I have plantain around. If I did, I'd probably just add a smidge and not make it the base of a mix.

A combination of an astringent, a demulcent and a vulnerary, with proportions chosen depending on how much swelling and leaking there is (astringents), how much congestion there is (aromatics) and how irritated or perhaps damaged the tissues themselves seem (vulneraries) make up the brunt of my blends. Truthfully, I almost always start out thinking, "what am I gonna add to plantain?" Additionally, and especially for eye issues, I'll frequently add some demulcent, since a bit of lubrication lessens the irritation cause by blinking. Mallow or sassafras leaf, violet, and purple loosestrife flowers are my most common choices, but you can also use common demulcents like slippery elm and marshmallow, just don't make the tea so thick and mucilaginous you can pick it up with tongs: you just need a little bit of slimy lubrication. I might also think about herbs possessed of a specifically anti-histamine nature... both eyebright and ragweed come to mind here.

Nasal washes can be administered by neti pot or nasal spray bottles (I get saline nasal sprays at the drug store, pull the spout off, rinse them profusely and use those). Be aware, especially if using nasal spray bottles that this mixture isn't preserved, and will spoil just like tea will, so use it in a day, two max. That's why I like having ice cubes already made up in the freezer. Whatever you do, don't spray rotting tea up your nose. And if a batch of tea goes bad in a nasal spray bottle, recycle it and get a new one; I don't trust the soft plastic not to contain leftovers that could recolonize your next batch of fresh tea more rapidly than is usual. For eyewashes, you can apply with a dropper, pour over the eye as a rinse, or use an eyecup (7Song has an excellent and entertaining demonstration on using eyecups here.

jim mcdonald

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