Mark Twain once (supposedly) said that "if you don't like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes." Here in western North Carolina, the saying could be that if you don't like the weather, just drive for a few minutes. The mountains and valleys around the Gaia Farm experience their own little micro-climates. This time of year, it might be cloudy and drizzling at the Gaia greenhouse, pouring rain at the farm but sunny and warm in nearby Asheville. No matter where you go in our fertile region during spring, one thing is certain: pollen. It's everywhere!
We have a 350-acre Certified Organic farm, so we understand and respect the role that pollen plays - and we have the utmost reverence for pollinators like honeybees, birds and butterflies. But sometimes that "gold dust" really gets us down.
As an active person, you have to learn how to power through the pollen if you don't want to be stuck indoors for the first warm weeks of the year. Here are a few tips to help you power through and keep the pollen (and other seasonal irritants) from interfering with your life too much.
Use a Neti Pot
I have used this saline irrigation device to keep my sinuses happy for years, but I tend to only use it during the winter, when I want to support my immune system. I seem to forget that I can (and should) also use it when I notice the pollen count rise. A neti pot can help keep sinuses moist and healthy while gently washing away pollen. Reach for it each morning and after extended periods of time outside. (Also consider washing your face and gargling with salt water after spending time in pollen-heavy areas. The idea is to get rid of the pollen before it hits your nose and throat.)
Green your Cleaning
The very products we use to clean our homes can actually be as annoying to our bodies as the stuff we're trying to wash away! Steer clear of artificial fragrances (choose essential oils or fragrant herbs and spices), and save big bucks by making your own products at home. You can DIY cleaning products with stuff you already have around the house, like baking soda, vinegar, borax, hydrogen peroxide, castile soap and salt. (Note: I avoid using essential oils on surfaces where cats will walk, as they can be harmful to their health.)
My favorite simple recipe has just four ingredients!
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 3 cups water
- 5 drops tea tree oil
- 5 drops essential oil of choice
Combine all ingredients in a large bottle with a spray-type lid. Shake before using.
Diffuse the Situation
The essential oils in plants give off lovely aromas that can also be used to support health. (That's why we use them in so many of our Herbal Teas, like Bronchial Wellness.*) Their soothing vapors can help support upper respiratory health, invigorate your sinuses and cool your throat.* During the spring, consider diffusing essential oils, such as refreshing Lemon with potent Peppermint and calming Lavender.
Change Your Filters
Vacuum cleaners, HVAC systems and air purifiers all have filters. When was the last time you changed yours? (I plead the Fifth on that one.) Can't remember? Spring is a good time to swap in new ones, so you can easily let out a sigh of relief.
Use Natural Air Filters
We spend most of our time indoors, so give your lungs and natural detox systems a break by spring cleaning the air you breathe. Houseplants are the original air filtration systems, and they're a green way to clean the air (literally!). Common plants like spider plants, aloe vera (bonus: it can also be used to soothe your skin), peace lilies and Boston ferns are known to remove environmental toxins and are easy to maintain, even if you're not a gifted gardener.
Give Your Pets a Good Brushing
Forget crocuses and daffodils. In my house, it's the cat hair tumbleweeds that are the true harbinger of spring. Your pets shed their thick winter coats as the weather warms, but it's not a quick process. Help your fur babies by giving them a good brushing to prevent that hair (and dander) from ending up in your carpet and on your furniture.
Working room by room, from ceiling to floor, dust everything in sight. Think: ceiling fan blades, tops of bookshelves, slats of blinds. If you're sensitive to dust, wear a mask and protective eyewear. Working from the top down will help prevent the need to clean things twice.
Flip Your Mattresses
Airing out mattresses can help reduce irritants, so strip the sheets, give yours a flip and let it breathe. To deodorize and clean naturally, sprinkle on baking soda and a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Let sit for an hour, then vacuum thoroughly. Repeat on the other side.
Watch the Weather
Rain can help keep pollen down, but wind will stir it up. Pollination tends to happen in the mornings, so consider moving your time to commune with nature to later in the day. When the pollen starts to get you down, let it be a reminder of who's really in charge (Nature!).