"All plants, just like all people, are not created equal. The very best treatment for allergy is to avoid the offending substance." Allergist David A Stadtner, MD, Stockton, California
Choose a tip and you'll be directed toward it.
Valentine Day Flowers, Allergy-Free Flowers, Pollen-Free Flowers
Flowers make a perfect gift on Valentine’s Day for someone you care about, but none of us want to give a gift that might cause allergies.
Below are a few tips for an allergy-free Valentine’s Day flower bouquet.
- Roses: if using roses, choose roses that are tight buds, flowers with many petals. You don’t want to be able to see the open center of any rose in the bouquet.
- Lilies: ask the florist to remove any anthers from the open flowers. The anthers are the pollen parts, on the tips of each stamen. Each open lily flower will have six stamens and six anthers. The anthers can easily be pulled off the stamen and discarded in the trash. This will make the flower pollen-free. In addition, there are now some new kinds of lilies that make no pollen. Use them if you can find them.
- Tulips will also have six stamens and six anthers and can be made pollen-free with the same process. In addition there are now some double-flowered tulips sold that do not make any pollen.
- Mums: Only use chrysanthemums that are fully-double flowers. These will have a great many petals in each flower, and the centers will be deeply hidden. Most of these will be pollen-free.
- Daisies: Only use daisies that are fully-double. Do not use open-type daisies where you can see the center of the flower, as that’s where the pollen will be.
- Filler plants: Use foliage only, do not use sprays with many tiny-flowered clusters. Avoid anything that looks like baby’s breath or goldenrod.
- Do not use flowers where they have added fragrance to the bouquet. Ask the florist not to sprinkle any perfume on the bouquet.
- Small pots of miniature roses or red, pink or white cyclamens also make good allergy-free Valentine’s Day presents.
For more information on allergy-free plants and flowers, see: http://www.allergyfree-gardening.com
Asthma & Tylenol Don't Mix
From the Journal of Pediatrics:
The association of acetaminophen and asthma prevalence and severity
Pediatrics. 2011; 128(6):1181-5 (ISSN: 1098-4275)
Department of Pediatrics, Akron Children's Hospital, 2 Perkins Square, Akron, OH 44308.
The epidemiologic association between acetaminophen use and asthma prevalence and severity in children and adults is well established. A variety of observations suggest that acetaminophen use has contributed to the recent increase in asthma prevalence in children: (1) the strength of the association; (2) the consistency of the association across age, geography, and culture; (3) the dose-response relationship; (4) the timing of increased acetaminophen use and the asthma epidemic; (5) the relationship between per-capita sales of acetaminophen and asthma prevalence across countries; (6) the results of a double-blind trial of ibuprofen and acetaminophen for treatment of fever in asthmatic children; and (7) the biologically plausible mechanism of glutathione depletion in airway mucosa. Until future studies document the safety of this drug, children with asthma or at risk for asthma should avoid the use of acetaminophen. * Note from the Allergy Free Gardening Team: The thinking here is: if it might trigger asthma in kids, it can’t be very good for adults either. Avoid using acetaminophen (Tylenol) if you have asthma. If you do not have asthma, but you do have allergies and it is in the middle of the allergy pollen season, it would make good sense for you also to avoid using acetaminophen.
* Note: there has also been considerable new data showing that Vitamin D is helpful for those with allergies or asthma. The best form of Vitamin D comes from sunlight, but in winter months, or certainly for those who work swing shifts or night shifts, it would be an excellent idea to supplement with Vitamin D. The best form of D as a supplement is Vitamin D3; known as cholecalciferol. Avoid using D2. Recommended dose of D is between 1,000 to 2,000 IU daily. Anyone living very far from the equator should also consider supplementing with D, especially during the winter months.
Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac (Mangoes, Cashews, Pepper Trees, and Pistachio nuts)
The Family of plants called Anacardiaceae, (the Cashew Family) is notorious for triggering allergy, skin rash, itching, and all manner of unpleasant symptoms. Smoke from burning the dried wood of these plants can trigger allergy or asthma. Direct skin contact with any of them will often trigger an allergic response. Pollen from the male plants of these species will also cause inhalant allergies and skin itch and rash.
There’s a marvelous little book on Anacardiaceae, called The Poison Oak & Poison Ivy Survival Guide…written by Sandra J. Baker that’s well worth checking out. Poison Oak and Poison Ivy, and all their relatives (Poison Varnish Tree, Poison Tree. Mango and others) have a delayed, type-4 reaction. This means when you come in contact with it, nothing happens immediately. The itch and rash erupts hours, or even days later. The allergy is triggered by a toxic substance (called Urushiol) in the leaves, stems, roots, flowers, berries, and pollen from these plants.
Each person has a different tolerance level for these plants. Many can touch them over and over with immunity for years, but then one day suddenly, the magic number of contacts is established and the allergy kicks in. Anyone who has never had this allergy would be wise to avoid touching these plants so as not to trigger that first reaction. Once the first episode of allergy has occurred, it will then happen again every time contact happens.
People who become allergic to Poison Oak or Poison Ivy (they look quite similar; “leaves of three…let them be!”) can then become allergic to all members of the family. Allergy from eating mangoes is very common; less common is allergy from eating cashews…but it does happen, especially if you’re already allergic to Poison Ivy.
If you have an existing rash from any of these plants, it is a very good idea NOT to eat anything related to them (such as mangoes, cashews, and pistachio nuts) until the rash has been gone several weeks. Eating these related foods will cause the rash to last much longer.
Pepper trees (California Pepper Trees and Brazilian Pepper Trees) are also in this same allergenic cashew family. All the plants in this group are dioecious (separate-sexed) and the males all produce allergenic pollen. This pollen doesn’t travel too far in the air, but if you have a large male pepper tree in your own yard, you may well come down with what looks to be Poison Oak rash. The male pepper trees are easy to identify, as they are the ones that never make any of the small, red berries.
Sometimes these red pepper berries are dried and added to black pepper mixes, occasionally they’re added to mixes of white and black pepper. The advice here is to NOT use this pepper mix. The berries from these pepper trees is not true pepper at all (that comes from a vine, and it is in a totally unrelated family of plants, Piper). These pepper tree berries are actually not edible at all, and should be avoided…certainly as food.
Sometimes it seems that the only thing that cleans up a persistent rash from Poison Oak or Poison Ivy is the prescription steroid drug Prednisone. I have also seen (on myself) that a large prophylactic dose of Prednisone taken before you go into bad Poison Oak areas…that it works. It will keep you from getting the rash.
Dogs can get an allergy from Poison Oak or Poison Ivy just like we can….and dogs will run in it, and then when you pet the dog…you get it. You can also easily enough get it on your hands when you untie the laces on your hiking boots. Something to think about.
There are many home remedies for getting the rash under control. The old standby is calamine lotion, but it doesn’t work worth a hoot. Supposedly your own urine will clear up the rash, but this also doesn’t work well…and who wants to do that anyhow?
Now, and here’s the BEST TIP in this article….iodine. Buy a small bottle of 2% iodine and keep it handy. If you get into any of these plants and later on you start to see some small pimple-like eruptions on your skin….hit them immediately with some iodine. Continue to put iodine on these, 6-7 times a day….and they will just go away. Works like a charm. I never go traveling (or hiking far) anymore that I don’t have some iodine with me.
By the way, female pepper trees (the ones that do make the red berries) they shed no pollen, but even with them, do be careful not to handle the leaves or wood too much. If you have to prune them, wear gloves and long sleeves. And never keep any pepper tree wood for firewood. It will smoke and smoke no matter how dry, and the nasty-smelling smoke will make you wish you’d never tried to burn it.
Skin Rash, itchy skin, dermatitis and eczema
"Feeling Your Oats?"
Recently I have been treating people with severe, persistent atopic dermatitis with a simple soupy paste made from cooking oats and warm water. Now, in no way did I come up with this treatment; it has been around for many years, but I, like most involved with allergies, until recently had never actually tried it.
I mix 1/4 of a cup of Quaker Oats in a cup with several ounces of warm water, mix it well with a spoon, and then coat (using the tips of my fingers) the red, itchy skin of the dermatitis sufferer with this soupy oat-water. What is so amazing to me is that it almost always works almost instantly to stop the itch, and as you do this you can literally see the redness subsiding, and you can feel the skin smoothing out under your fingertips. In many cases this simple oatmeal mix (applied once or twice a day) quickly clears up skin that has not been helped by any other type of over-the-counter or prescription lotion or cream.
Many types of creams and lotions recommended for eczema have a base of either lanolin or some type of oil. Individuals with sensitive skin may often react badly to oily lotions, and lanolin (which is made from sheep) can irritate the skin of anyone who is at all sensitive to wool products.
This oatmeal soup appears to be so effective (and so low in cost and remarkably fast and easy to concoct) that more skin rash sufferers should be encouraged to at least give it a try. Even if someone simply has itchy or dry skin, and not a full-blown rash, the oatmeal mix will often bring quick relief.
Onion allergies, Lily Rash
Onion allergies, Lily Rash
I'm often asked about onion allergies and actually I do see quite a few cases of onion allergy -- it isn't at all rare. I'd like to caution those with an allergy from eating onions to watch out for all the onion relatives when gardening. These would include all the alliums, plants such as gardener's garlic, and all of the Lily family members. Anyone with allergy to onion is at increased risk to also be allergic to the sap of any kind of lily, daffodils, narcissus, iris, tulip, tiger lily, day lily, lily of the valley, agapanthus, Alstromeria, and so on.
The sap can cause what's called lily rash, and it can be a persistent and terrible rash. Direct contact with sap is not always needed to get the rash, as sometimes it can happen from mere casual contact with lily leaves, or from bulbs.
Perhaps of all the dermatitis type conditions I come across triggered by contact with Lily Family members (Liliaceae) the most serious is the itch or itchy rash caused by contact with sap from Agave americana, the Century Plant. This particular itch is very long lasting, will come and go and then suddenly return again, often many years later. One last thought here: I'm also seeing more and more skin rash from aloe vera products. Aloe is also a lily relative (onion relative), so keep that in mind, too.
Allergic reactions from eating celery are fairly common, especially in those people who already are allergic to a number of different pollens, or who are allergic to shrimp and shellfish. What is less well known is that celery is an umbel, a member of the large group of plants, Umbellifera, and that cross-reactive allergic responses are common in this group.
Umbels produce thousands of tiny white or greenish colored flowers that are grouped together in flat-topped clusters, or umbels. Many Umbellifera Family members are biennial plants and do not flower until their second year of growth. Carrots are also umbels and people who have experienced allergic reactions from eating celery would be wise to watch their own physical reactions carefully after eating carrots. Most typical from eating celery is an itchy throat. Typical allergic reaction to carrots is red, blotch, itchy skin. Keep in mind that an itch is often your first clue that you are allergic to something. If you touch or eat something and it seems to have made you itch, that's your clue. Pay attention to the signals from your own body.
Pollen allergies from certain umbels are not uncommon, especially to the very tall, very common weed (and occasionally cultivated as a garden ornamental) Queen Ann's Lace. A growing concern is with the noxious non-native weed, Giant Hogweed (Apiaceae) which is rapidly extending its range in the US and in Europe. Hogweed, which is also an umbel, looks much like a giant version of Queen Ann's Lace and contact with it often triggers some very serious allergic reactions, especially severe dermatitis. For a good photo of Giant Hogweed, take a look at this.
Allergy to some of the other Umbellifera family members such as parsley, dill, and coriander (cilantro) are less commonly encountered. However, anyone who knows that they are already allergic to either celery or carrots, might well be smart not to eat too much of any of these at any one time. Also, after eating parsley, dill or cilantro, do pay attention to any signals that your body might then send you. While allergic response to celery is often immediate, reaction to its relatives may be delayed by as much as several hours.
Hibiscus as a source of allergies?
Hibiscus out here in the sunny West are common landscape plants...the red ones are usually less winter hardy than the other colors for some odd reason.... I've seen this many a time too. In San Luis Obispo where I live, and especially in Los Angeles and San Diego, they are preyed on by the silverleaf whitefly (Bemisia argentifolii); almost every single hibiscus in some areas.... and it is triggering some bad allergy problems too. This whitefly has also invaded large parts of Florida. Because so many whiteflies get on the hibiscus plant, millions of them, they secrete loads of "honeydew" (a sticky excretory waste that is mostly plant sugars) and then sooty mold grows all over this. The end result is a sick shrub that is daily producing an incredible amount of mold spores and insect dander, both of which are highly allergenic. (As the whiteflies die or simply undergo metamorphosis, lots of insect dander is produced.)
By the way, hibiscus (sometimes with the same whitefly problems) are often used as houseplants, and an infested plant like this inside your house is a surefire way to get sick.
I usually advise people to hose down their buggy landscape hibiscus hard, very hard, to knock off as many of the pests as possible, and then to prune the entire plants back hard, to about two feet or less in height. Words of warning though for those with allergies, wear a facemask when you hose down one of these! Insect dander and mold spores will be thick in the air as you do this.
They should then start spraying what's left of the shrub with fungicide and insecticide. This species of whitefly has developed considerable resistance to most chemical insecticides. Instead, use a soap, vegetable oil and water spray with several tablespoons of baking soda added per gallon for a safe insecticide/fungicide. (For each gallon of spray use up to 5 tablespoonfuls of dish soap and 3 spoonfuls of any kind of vegetable oil.) If this doesn't do the trick after repeated sprayings (and often it doesn't) then the advice from here is to shovel prune the offending hibiscus.
A friend of mine, a nice guy but not a very good gardener, asked me recently what I meant by shovel pruning roses. We were in my back yard, working in a bed of roses. I picked out a rose bush that had always been quick to get rust and mildew and slow to flower, put the shovel to it, dug it up and tossed it in the trash can. "That," I told him, "is what the rosarians call shovel pruning."
"Oh," he said, and seemed impressed, "now I get it."
Allergies to Echinacea, Goldenrod, and Chamomile
Thomas Leo Ogren
June 29, 2009
Allergies to Echinacea are neither particularly common, nor especially rare. Since Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a composite Family member, and is related to ragweed, cross-reactive allergic reactions are to be expected (especially in those already allergic to ragweed). In a similar vein, some 20% of people already allergic to ragweed, will also test positive for allergy to Goldenrod (Solidago spp.), which is also another composite. Goldenrod allergy is almost entirely found only among those who have goldenrod growing in their own gardens.
Allergic response to Chamomile has for many years been well documented, and in some unusual cases a single cup of chamomile tea has put the drinker into serious anaphylactic shock. Chamomile is yet another ragweed relative, and is also a member of the much larger (and often implicated in allergy studies) group of plants called composites, the Compositae Family of plants.
Allergies from Goldenrod are often misunderstood and underestimated, since it has been widely claimed and published that Goldenrod is insect-pollinated and does not cause allergies. In fact, Goldenrod is amphiphilous, and is pollinated by BOTH insects and the wind. Strictly insect-pollinated plants (Zoophilous plants) are not often implicated in allergies and asthma, but amphiphilous plants (a prime example would be Acacia species) often are.
None of this is to suggest that one ought not to grow Goldenrod or ever drink chamomile tea. However, if one already is especially sensitized to ragweed pollen, then all ragweed relatives ought to be treated with extra respect and careâ€¦and it would not make good sense to use Goldenrod flowers as cut flowers, because once they are brought into the warm, dry environment of a house, the allergenic pollen will indeed shed.
Food Allergy to legumes & cross-reactivity to pollen
Food allergy to peanuts, beans, peas, lentils, chick peas, lupine, and soy
Food allergy caused by eating legumes is not rare, and is increasing. Easily the most famous of these legume allergies is peanut allergy. Peanut allergy can be very dangerous, deadly, and some 80% or more of people (often children) with an allergy to peanuts, will also test allergic to different kinds of pollen.
Cross reactive with peanut allergy:
Cross-reactivity occurs when the immune system mistakes a similar protein or chemical composition for an allergen, causing an adverse reaction. The immune system may react to foods or to pollen from plants in the same botanical family.
Since peanuts are in the legume family, anyone with peanut allergy would be much more susceptible to pollen from peanuts or other legume plants. In the garden or landscape these would include: flowers of sweet peas, flowers from vines like wisteria, and from the pollen and flowers of shrubs and trees such as acacia, honeylocust, locust, catalpa, carob, mesquite, redbud, and jacaranda. None of these would be good choices for planting in the yards of anyone who had allergy to peanut…or for that matter, in the yard of anyone with any serious food allergies to any legumes.
In addition, there is considerable food allergy cross-reactivity within the legumes themselves. Someone who is allergic to any legume food, be it peas, lentils, beans, peanuts, soy, etc. will be almost 80% more likely to already be allergic to at least one other legume food….and one out of three with a known food allergy to any legume, will turn out to be allergic to all of them.
Often the reaction from a food or pollen allergy to legumes will exhibit itself as atopic dermatitis, as an itchy skin rash. Skin rash caused by soy or soy products is more likely to cause this dermatitis than is allergy to peanut.
In some areas the most common food allergy is one caused by lentils, and this is always an area where lentils make up a large part of the diet due to local customs. Likewise, in certain other areas, the most common food allergy to legumes is caused by eating chick peas (also known as garbanzo beans), and this too occurs in areas where they are a frequent part of the common diet.
In certain parts of northern Europe lupine seed is ground up, made into flour and eaten; sometimes lupine seeds are eaten whole. Cross-reactivity between peanut allergy and lupine allergy is quite common, and in areas where lupines are consumed, as many as half of all those with a food allergy to peanuts, will also become allergic to eating lupine seed or flour.
With the above in mind, all those who have a legume allergy of any kind, would be wise not to grow lupines in their own gardens.
Hormones & Legumes:
There is another possible health consideration with legumes that might be worth considering for some, hormones. Certain foods tend to be either estrogenic (female) or androgenic (male). Because of over-use of estrogenic compounds in agriculture (to get hens to lay more eggs, to get animals to fatten up quicker, to get cows to give more milk, etc.) there has been considerable contamination of our food products, our water, soil and air with these estrogenic compounds. When you read about male fish developing ovaries, for example, that is an example of excess estrogen. Furthermore, pollutants from pesticides and plastics leach out hormone mimicking substances that are often estrogenic…these are called xanoestrogens, and they are very powerful.
With this above to consider, it can be helpful to know that legumes as a whole are estrogenic. Too much estrogen is thought to trigger many diseases, including prostate and breast cancers. This is not to say that we shouldn’t eat legumes, they are often high in protein and contain useful vitamins, nonetheless, it could be wise not to eat them too often.
One last tip here: Allergies, food allergy or pollen allergy, or any other kind of allergy, “allergy most often occurs because of continued over-exposure to a possible allergen over an extended period of time.”
Knowing this, it always makes good sense not to eat the same foods over and over again, day after day. With legumes this would include such things as peanut butter, tofu, soy sauce, lima beans, pinto beans, white beans, red beans, green beans, lentils, and chick peas. This kind of constant repetition can result in over-exposure, and thus help trigger an initial allergic reaction. Once an allergy to food or pollen has been triggered, then, in the future every time one is again re-exposed, the symptoms become worse, and in the case of legume allergies, more dangerous. It always makes sense to avoid triggering an allergy in the first place.
MD Ibáñez - “In our study, 82 % of the children allergic to legumes had a sensitization to pollen. “
Legume cross-reactivity: Ibáñez MD, Martínez M, Sánchez JJ, Fernández-Caldas E.
Servicio de Alergia del Hospital Niño Jesús, Madrid. Spain.