Just when you thought it was safe to put away the tissues, you find yourself reaching for them again. February and March are the peak months of spring-allergies in Japan. Sugi (Japanese cedar), hinoki (Japanese cypress) and butakusa (ragweed) are the main culprits throughout the archipelago except in sugi-free Hokkaido where many suffer from shirakaba (birch) pollen. An increase in concrete structures and fewer green patches in the city means that pollen isn’t naturally absorbed into the ground and instead flies around bringing misery to those who suffer from allergies.
Oba-chan’s Home Remedies
Every culture has its grannies who have a treasure trove of hints and tips for daily life. Japan has it’s oba-chans who have lots of natural remedies for spring allergies. Here are just a few. Disclaimer: We can’t guarantee that these will work, but they might bring you temporary relief.
* Ao shiso-shu (green perilla liquor)
The α-linolic acids in the shiso (perilla) help suppress allergies. It’s hard to consume enough in raw form, so try making a juice or liquor.
-> Directions: Wash and dry 200g of green shiso leaves. Soak in 1.8 liters of shochu + 0.5kg of rock sugar for one to two months. Dilute a little with hot water or ice water and drink daily.
* Ocha furikake (green tea leaf seasoning for rice)
The catechins in green tea are said to suppress histamines that trigger the symptoms of spring allergies. Eating tea leaves is an effective to get a high dose of this antioxidant . Here’s a simple seasoning for your rice or salads:
-> Directions: Spread out used tea leaves onto a dish lined with parchment paper, and mix in a little bit of salt. Microwave for two to three minutes, mixing it once or twice to evaporate all of the moisture. When it’s almost dry add some dried shrimp and sesame seeds and microwave for another 30 seconds. Sprinkle on rice or salads.
* Shio bancha (salted bancha tea)
When your nose starts to get itchy, make a solution of hot bancha tea and salt (about 1% of the bancha) and boil once. Let the solution cool down completely and then use it to clean your nostrils with a neti pot.
* Negi miso yu (Hot water with green onions and miso)
Directions -> Make a mixture of 1 Tbsp of finely chopped green onion (negi), half a tsp. of grated ginger juice, 1 Tbsp each of miso and sugar. Blend well, add hot water and mix well before drinking. This is said to warm your lungs and help relieve symptoms.
* Sesame oil
Put a little sesame oil on a cotton swab and apply it in the back of your nostrils. This is said to protect your mucus membrane.
* Green tea eye wipes
Wet a piece of cotton with green tea and gently wipe your eye lids. The catechins in the green tea will remove the irritants and disinfect the area. This is good not only for kafun-sho, but also helps relieved tired or bloodshot eyes.
Fish with high levels of DHA such as aji (horse mackerel) and saba (mackerel), as well as fermented foods with high levels of unsaturated fatty acids including natto, miso and are all said to help protect your eye and nose mucus, and improve your immune levels.
Tips around the house:
* Pollen levels are highest between noon and 3 in the afternoon, and again immediately after sunset. The levels also increase as the temperature rises, so get your cleaning and airing done early in the morning. Don’t forget places where dust and pollen gather such as the curtains and behind the tv! Using a mop and dust-sheets may be more effective since vacuum cleaners can cause the dust to rise up.
* Laundry detergent containing enzymes may be effective against allergens. For places you can’t launder easily such as furniture, curtains or even school uniforms, try using a fabric spray to get rid of the pollen.
Pollen levels tend to be high on warm sunny or cloudy days, days when the wind is strong, the day after a rain, and dry days. Plan your outings to avoid these.
Japan also has neat products to help ease your symptoms.
Check some of these out!
Nose Mask Pit Double – A mask just for your nose! The non-textile filters prevent pollen from getting in, and the sponge filter stops your runny nose!
Air Mask Quick Shield – Just suspend from your neck to keep away pollen and viruses.
Mask for people who wear glasses – These masks have a special breath release sheet so your glasses won’t cloud up!
All of these products are available from amazon.jp
Sarah is a long-time resident born and raised in Japan. She spends her time trying to raise her children, translating and making soy candles on the side. She loves the beach, paddle boarding, mountain lakes and Japanese beer :)