Pollen is a powder-like plant matter that produces male gametes in plants’ reproductive cycle. This particular substance is infamous for the vast proportion of people allergic to it, a condition called pollinosis or hay fever, as people already recognize. Pollen allergy is more common in certain zones than in others. Pollen allergy contributes towards the 44% UK population who suffer from allergies, and its number keeps increasing.
Allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to certain substances. When our immune system encounters pollen, just like any other allergen, an inflammatory reaction will occur at the site of exposure. Normally, the immune system is activated and deals with pollen as a common foreign substance; and when everything is under control, the immune system will be down-regulated by the body itself to avoid causing damage to the surrounding tissues.
Unfortunately, in some people, a repeated exposure triggers an excessive response that induces cascading processes and manifests as allergic rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis is characterized by cold-like symptoms, such as sneezing, itchiness, and a runny nose. While the condition is often mild, sometimes the symptoms are severe and persistent, leading to sleep deprivation and reduced quality of life. It will undoubtedly improve with time, but it can take years and generally won’t resolve completely. Therefore, many people seek out the appropriate therapy for pollen allergy to alleviate their symptoms and improve their health.
Existing approaches towards allergy
By definition, most allergies, including pollen allergy, are induced by a hypersensitivity process involving histamine as the leading proinflammatory mediator. It also triggers a Th2 cell dominant pro-inflammatory state. As health professionals we advise patients to avoid the allergens to prevent any exacerbation of allergy symptoms. In addition, we will also prescribe drugs to relieve existing complaints. The primary pharmaceutical agent in use currently is antihistamines. There are two known generations of antihistamines, and both of them are pretty effective for reducing allergy symptoms.
However, there are several issues to point out with these kinds of drugs. First and foremost, caution should be taken when taking first-generation antihistamines as they cause drowsiness, reducing focus and attention. This is why second-generation antihistamines are more preferred, as there is no such issue with these drugs. Second, while these drugs can eliminate most allergy symptoms, a severe allergy may require prolonged use and high doses to manage the symptoms. The consequence is antihistamines dependency that is linked to several diseases, such as a higher risk of dementia and even brain tumor development. It is also still questionable if some antihistamines are safe to use during pregnancy, considering they can cross the placental barrier.
Medicinal mushrooms for pollen allergy therapy
There are other recommended approaches for pollen allergy. One option is to use natural agents, such as in mycotherapy. Lately, medicinal mushrooms have become increasingly relevant with therapy against inflammation and allergy. A particular species, Agaricus blazei, is proven to have immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects. A study showed that A. blazei extract prevented allergy development and can be used as a therapeutic substance against existing allergies. β-glucans contained in the A. blazei body can influence the immune system and exert an antiallergic action. Specifically, β-glucans established a balance between Th1/Th2 cells in the immune system. It can also be used with antihistamines as it inhibits histamine release by mast cells and reduces IgE-specific allergy antibodies.
A similar effect was also demonstrated on other species as well. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) was also proven to have immunoregulatory benefits. This powerful medicinal mushroom is already extensively studied for its life-enhancing properties. Its extract contains triterpenes with antioxidant, antihistamine, and anti-inflammatory activities. It prevents inflammation by inhibiting histamine secretion by mast cells and also inhibiting inflammatory prostaglandin. In another review article, nine lucidenic acids and four ganoderic acids from G. lucidum extract had also been shown to inhibit a substance called TPA, which induces inflammation.
Pollen allergy often causes life discomfort and disturbing symptoms in individuals who suffer from it. It is always a challenge both for health practitioners and for patients to deal with the condition. As a natural agent, medicinal mushrooms can be integrated in the current therapy to give synergistic therapeutic effects with their other nutritional and health benefits. The expected end result is healthier, symptoms-free individuals with improved quality of life.