Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of life, compares the body to a field and allergens to seeds: If the land is not fertile, then any seeds that are sown will not sprout. The fertilizer is a toxic residue called ama—a sticky substance formed in the digestive system from food that has been incompletely processed—which lowers your natural immunity and increases receptivity to allergens. This toxic by-product migrates to the body's points of weakness, creating a vicious cycle by lowering resistance even more.
Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D., medical director of the Raj Maharishi Ayur-Ved Health Center in Fairfield, Iowa, adds that allergies to pollen and other plant materials also involve an imbalance of the kaphadosha, which controls the lungs, sinuses, and fluid balance in the body. When kapha is out of balance, exposure to allergens stimulates symptoms like watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, and fatigue.
Kapha's strongest influence is during peak allergy season, March-June. The presence of ama can weaken the thymus gland or spleen—both of which contribute to the body's immune system—and trigger allergic reactions. But eating more of certain foods and herbs can help remove ama, bring balance to kapha, and thus hold allergies at bay.
Rama Kant Mishra, director of research for Maharishi Ay-ur-Ved Products International, says the first step is to minimize chilled foods and high-fat dishes (such as cheese, yogurt, and meat) and replace with warm, freshly cooked foods, including plenty of asparagus and broccoli, both of which support the immune system. Then integrate the herbs turmeric and tulsi (or holy basil) into your diet.
Turmeric activates the liver and strengthens the blood to help remove ama, and research shows that turmeric's active ingredient, curcumin, has an anti-allergic effect. Mishra recommends sprinkling a mixture of ground turmeric, cumin, coriander, bay leaf, and cinnamon in your food. You can also bring a cup of milk to a boil, remove it from the heat, add a bay leaf and a pinch each of turmeric and cinnamon, then drink it warm.
Holy basil strengthens the immune system, reduces ama, and helps remove environmental pollution from the body. For an effective anti-allergy tea, bring a pint of water to a boil, remove from the heat, and for five minutes steep five holy basil leaves, two pinches licorice, one bay leaf, a pinch of cinnamon, and a pinch of cardamom.