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Warnings and Interactions: The Safest Herb? Not for Hayfever Sufferers

Warnings and Interactions

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The Safest Herb? Not for Hayfever Sufferers.

Chamomile is mild, safe, and useful - but may trigger pollen allergies

Many people assume that if a medicinal remedy is natural, mild, even used in over-the-counter products or non-medicinal teas, it must be completely safe for everyone to use. This is almost never the case - any effect that can be beneficial if needed, can cause problems if not needed, or exacerbate existing problems if it acts in an opposite way to what's needed.

Just as garlic's clot-preventing blood-thinning properties can cause problems for hæmophiliacs, surgical patients, and people being treated with other anticoagulants, and basil can trigger contractions, even miscarriage, so too, many other common foods and herbs can cause problems for susceptible individuals, or for those on incompatible medications (including other herbs), or when taken inappropriately.

One of the risks that is less well-known than it should be, all things considered, is the risk chamomile poses to people with hayfever. Although otherwise a very safe herb, known for its mildness, and safe enough that it is commonly given to babies for colic, chamomile is used at the height of its blossoming, when the stamens are thickly covered with golden pollen. This pollen can irritate allergic individuals, causing a full-blown hayfever reaction.

Since one of the most common uses for chamomile is to settle the stomach in the case of mild-to-moderate gastro-intestinal symptoms, which are often associated with mild-to-moderate respiratory conditions, it is important to make sure to check whether the user has pollen allergies before administering chamomile, to avoid making a mild respiratory problem much worse.

I would advise everyone to inquire about allergies before offering food or drink, much less medicinal herbs, as many otherwise safe substances can be deadly to someone who is allergic to them. When as innocuous an object as a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich can kill (peanut allergies can often cause fatal reactions), it's always better to be safe than sorry, and exercise common sense. Any herb harvested in the blossom stage may offer a pollen risk, not just chamomile - but this simply proves that even this otherwise safe and mild herb can pose a threat when used in ignorance, or unwisely.

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