I've always had pretty gnarly allergies, but this year has been killer—I sneeze far more often than my co-workers and my easily startled cat would like and am constantly reminding myself not to screw up my mascara by rubbing my eyes (apparently, it's not just me, as climate change is making allergies worse for everyone).
While I've dabbled in the world of over-the-counter allergy medications, I prefer to veer to more natural remedies—I'm all about pain relief for, say, a one-off headache, but allergies are a daily problem! Because I'm the tea equivalent of a pack-a-day smoker (a box a day? Ten bags a day? I don't know; I have a problem), tea seemed like the perfect solution. A bit of research led to me nettle tea, which has been proven in multiple studies to reduce the symptoms of allergies.
Otherwise known as "that plant that attacks your legs when you try to go hiking," nettle (or stinging nettle, as it's affectionately known) is an anti-inflammatory powerhouse, allowing it to attack allergies at their root (i.e., inflammation) and letting you get on with your life.
As a very important bonus, when it's dried and made into a tea, it loses its pain-inducing properties, which is fairly vital for having a relaxing cuppa.
The only problem? Nettle is grassy, and not in a pleasant, I'm-frolicking-in-a-meadow way. I bought a bunch of loose-leaf tea from a local herb shop and had to almost hold my nose as I drank it. I got it down (see above note about my tea addiction; it's very, very real) but I didn't enjoy it. The only upside? My allergies got noticeably better. In about a week of drinking a cup or two a day, my eyes stopped itching and I went from blowing my nose upward of 10 times a day to blowing it once or twice.
And then I found The Republic of Tea's Peppermint Vanilla Nettle blend. You guys. This tea. The subtle grassiness of the nettle is still there but it's brought to life by the fragrant vanilla (vanilla is actually one of the flavors your brain perceives as sweetness, so including it in anything is a great way to impart that treat quality without adding any sugar) and the fresh peppermint. It is, quite simply, the best tea I've ever tasted (and smelled!). Everyone who's ever tried it is obsessed (I can't keep it stocked on my desk at the office)—and, after I switched from my local nettle tea to this one, the allergy-calming benefits kept right on going. This is the smoothest I've ever sailed through spring.
Bottom line: Get thyself Peppermint Vanilla Nettle Tea. If you can't get that, get thyself some plain nettle tea (and maybe steep it with a peppermint tea bag, and a pinch of vanilla powder or dash of vanilla extract). If you can't stomach that, use turmeric (also massively anti-inflammatory) and local honey (which inoculates you against pollens from your area, like an oh-so-sweet vaccine) in some water and call it a day. Jessica Cording, a registered dietitian, also recommends avoiding dairy and taking a probiotic supplement if you're prone to allergies. "This helps populate the GI tract with beneficial bacteria that can help our body function at its best and potentially reduce the severity of those symptoms," she says. "While it's not conclusive or shown to be a cure-all, having a healthy gut is important for overall wellness, so allergy season is a great time to make sure you're on point with that."
P.S.: When you steep any herbal tea you're hoping to derive therapeutic benefits from, cover it while it steeps and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. This way, the volatile organic compounds that make the tea so powerful don't escape in the form of steam. Don't say I never taught you anything.