Rethinking the Mountain Cedar, a.k.a. Juniperus ashei
Soils in the Hill Country of Texas have been subjected to numerous severe disturbances over the last 150 years. If Mountain Cedars hadn't morphed from trees in forests and woodlands into pioneering thickets of bushy-cedars, our soils would be much more degraded today.
Copyright © 2021 Elizabeth McGreevy
Managing Cedar Fever
Every winter, cedar feverish desperados scavenge doctor offices and drug stores for over the counter drugs and prescriptions. All they want to know is how can they stop their agony short of fleeing the Hill Country? Changing how we manage ourselves and manage our lands will decrease our cedar fever suffering. There are three approaches you can discuss with your doctor to alleviate, avoid, or adapt to cedar fever:
Alleviating means making your symptoms more manageable. It can provide instantaneous but temporary results. Most people go to their pharmacy to get over the counter drugs to alleviate their symptoms. Others use home-based remedies.
One home-based remedy is taking honey. This doesn’t really work. Taking honey assumes the honey was made using Mountain Cedar pollen, and that by taking the honey over time, one will become immune to cedar fever. However, honey doesn't contain Mountain Cedar pollen since the wind, not bees and butterflies, disperses the pollen. A more effective way to alleviate your symptoms is to drink special juice blends that target hay fever allergies. For example, I drink the following whenever hay fever gets me down: 1 cucumber, 1 apple, 1/2 bunch of parsley, the juice from two lemons, fresh mint, and a knob of ginger. Juice blends aside. The company Herbalogic in Austin sells a product at Whole Foods, People’s Pharmacy, and HEB that’s become popular with those who suffer from cedar fever. Called Easy Breather, it contains herbs such as astragalus root and mint leaves to open your passageways and pamper your nasal passages. The next alternative uses the leaves of the Mountain Cedar. This treatment supports the old saying that remedies can be found near that which caused the ailment. Besides containing camphor, Mountain Cedar leaves also contain vitamin C.1 Steep a handful of leaves from a female Mountain Cedars (since they do not produce pollen). Then inhale the steam to open your sinuses and soothe itchy eyes.
When cedar fever season was recognized in the 1920s doctors told patients to go to the Gulf Coast to avoid cedar fever. This alternative became so popular not just with cedar fever, but with all hay fevers, that several hotels along the coast began advertising as hay fever retreats. If you can’t leave the Hill Country, then stay indoors and use HEPA air filters when the pollen is smoking. If you have to go outside, shower immediately when you return and put your clothes in the laundry. Better yet, plan your outdoor activities on days after rains, when humidity is high and winds are low. When you do venture outdoors, consider wearing a mask. After going through covid-19, wearing a mask may seem less unusual. Since Mountain Cedar pollen grains are especially tiny at 19-22 microns, this means you need a mask that will filter out particles up to 15 microns in diameter.2 A N-95 mask would more than suffice. If you don’t want to wear a mask, then you’ll need to flush the inside of your nose before you go to bed. For thousands of years, people in India have used neti pots to flush pollen, bacteria, and other unwanted particles from their nasal cavities. Pour water in one nostril and it comes out the other using gravity. It is an odd sensation and your will children laugh at you. But, it works. A modern, less awkward, alternative to the neti pot is nasal saline irrigation. This process uses more force than gravity to flush your sinuses. Whichever device you choose, it is important, according to the Food and Drug Administration, to only use boiled or distilled water to avoid introducing nasty microbes that could harm your brain.
Adapting to the pollen provides the longest and best results. This approach has traditionally been made with allergy shots prescribed by your doctor. An alternative to shots is allergy drops, such as Allergena Zone 5.3 The concept of shots and drops is based on Dr. Samuel Hahnemann's early 1800s definition of homeopathy as a concept that ‘like cures like’. Physicians call this sublingual immunotherapy. Both allergy shots and drops teach the body to adapt to the pollen during cedar fever season to no longer be viewed as such a threat. More recent but effective remedies teach your body to adapt to the pollen by becoming less reactive. The first remedy uses acupuncture. Several acupuncture specialists in the Austin area have reported great results. Another less known technique, developed by Victor Frank in the 1970s, is called Total Body Modification (TBM).4 Chiropractors use it to teach your body to stop reacting to the pollen. The effects last a few weeks and should be repeated two to three times each cedar fever season.
Another way to adapt is to reduce the negative effect of inhaling chlorines and chloramines when you take a hot shower. Most city water contains chlorine or chloramine. These chemicals will irritate your lungs when inhaled. If you’re living in a larger city, your lungs will already be irritated from the constant exposure to air pollution.5 So it’s best to reduce chlorine and chloramine from your shower water. The expensive route is a whole house filtration system. The low-cost way is to add a filter to your shower head if your city uses chlorine. But if your city uses chloramine, you’ll need to use a vitamin C filter to neutralize it. To achieve the longer-lasting results you will need to improve your gut health. An unhealthy gut can get tiny holes that allow things like cedar pollen to enter your bloodstream. Nobody wants that. Foods that are heavy in saturated fats can directly degrade your gut lining. Other foods, such as processed sugars, indirectly cause the same degradation since they feed the bad gut microbes. Sugars can also lead to glycation that causes a break down in your body’s collagen, which is the glue that holds us together.6 When harmful microbes gain control of your digestive system and sometimes your lungs, this is called dysbiosis.7 If the bad microbes end up damaging your gut lining, this is called Leaky Gut Syndrome. To find out if you have a Leaky Gut that’s making your cedar ever symptoms worse, the best route would be to contact a gastroenterologist with training in nutrition.8
Disclaimer: This information is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. The reader should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to his/her health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.