Chrysanthemums. A bouquet of these makes the most seasonally allergic person look askew. However, did you know a tea steeped from these very flowers can treat the allergic symptoms they help to create, including itchy eyes and stuffy sinuses? Nobody can attest to this better than my unfortunately-sensitive brother and dad. As early as February, those beautiful red, maple trees – among others – start sending love notes to each other, and guess who gets caught in the middle? Yes, you, you and maybe you, though you’ve yet to analyze your symptoms and pinpoint the culprit.
My brother and dad didn’t always have pollen allergies. My dad developed allergies to trees and grasses in his late forties, and my brother, his twenties. Prior to that, they had no excuses for not doing yard work, including mowing the lawn, raking the leaves, and pulling out the weeds. When the allergies finally hit though, they were often sniffly and sobby – their eyes turned into red, swollen, and wrinkly pairs. To alleviate their symptoms, the two of them traded allergy medication, knowing well that their bodies would soon grow immune – one brand of medication after another – and they’d have to find another brand to try.
For three or four seasons of watching them irritably and researching her sources – including newspapers, giant reference books both old and new, and hearsay – my mom finally came up with a hypothesis: Chrysanthemums. My dad tried it first. And the effect was almost instantaneous! Of course, my brother tried quickly thereafter and was subjected to clear eyes and sinuses soon after. They were both doubtful – due to their experience with the quick pill fix – but after taking the tea regularly, they found that their symptoms did not return when the pollen count was low. And when it was high – as it often is in the South – they drank the chrysanthemum tea a bit more heavily and exhibited a noticeable lessening of allergic symptoms.
Once it was proven to work, my mom was quick to dispense this information to her friends. One friend, who always wore a mask over his nose and mouth during allergy seasons, got on the chrysanthemum fix and was soon mask-free. To these tried-and-true, converted test subjects, the effects were miraculous. To Mom and me, we were just glad we didn’t have to watch my brother and dad in misery anymore. And they were, once again, excuse-free when it came to working outdoors.
To make Chrysanthemum tea: Bring a pot of water to boil. Toss in dried chrysanthemum flowers. The flowers will float, so you just need to put in as many flowers as will loosely fill the area within the pot’s circumference. The water will continue boiling – let it boil for one, two, three seconds (here, my mom says, “a flash”) then, with a strainer, pour the tea into a cup and add honey, and toss the flowers after one use. The tea should be a very thin yellow. Cheers!
Where to find it: You can definitely find chrysanthemums in floral shops or in the garden. Sometimes, chrysanthemum tea will also be served in Chinese restaurants or tea houses. The doses are very, very light, so it is best if you make it yourself. Chrysanthemums can be found in paper- or plastic-wrapped packages in Chinese grocery stores. I don’t recommend picking the roadside varieties because the ones used for tea appear to be slightly different than the ones I’ve seen in the wild. The packages you can buy at the grocery store contain small white or yellow flowers, with yellow or beige centers, respectively. Chrysanthemums are also sold as tea bags and in pill-supplement form – but as my mom says, it’s better to take it from the source.
What else: My mom read of a story in the Chinese news recently about a small village in China where old people grow to be centenarians and remain healthy, to most standards. Inquirers found out that the people in this small village use as their water source a river which – perhaps miles away – was lined with wild chrysanthemums along its embankment, and the flowers fell into the river as it passed. Whether or not stories like this are true, the Chinese culture retain countless and ageless stories – with morals like, “and this is why x, y, and z is good for you.” Throughout Chinese history, chrysanthemums have also been used as an herbal remedy to strengthen lungs, in general, and get rid of head congestion and other lung-related ailments. Chrysanthemums have also been known to treat eye fatigue, blurred vision, or night blindness. Furthermore, whether for their beauty or their healing properties, chrysanthemums have also been prized by Chinese and Japanese Emperors, who valued these flowers more than gold.
Yes, I have tested chrysanthemum tea – after having developed allergies recently and wondering why my eyes were itchy for awhile – and yes, I have been and am relieved.
Who’s done the research:
- The flowering heads of Chrysanthemum morifolium are used as an herbal tea in Chinese traditional medicine and folklore. They are also used as an insecticide, parasiticide, in Parkinsonism, and nervous ailments such as headaches, tinnitus, and night blindness. – Teixeira da Silva, J.A., et al. Mining the essential oils of the Anthemideae. Afr. J. Biotechnol. 3(12):706-720, 2004
- Chrysanthemum also has antiallergic, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antispirochetal, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic or tumor-inhibition, lens aldose reductase inhibition and antioxidant activities. Contrarily, though, airborne and contact dermatitis results from coming into contact with various parts of the plant. – Teixeira da Silva, J.A., et al. Mining the essential oils of the Anthemideae. Afr. J. Biotechnol. 3(12):706-720, 2004
- Chrysanthemum flowers—Chinese name ju hua—contain triterpene diols and triols. Arnidiol exhibited cytotoxicity in vitro against 58 of the 60 human cancer cell lines developed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Developmental Therapeutics Program. – Ukiya M, et al. Constituents of Compositae plants III. Anti-tumor promoting effects and cytotoxic activity against human cancer cell lines of triterpene diols and triols from edible chrysanthemum flowers. Cancer Lett 177 (1):7-12, 2002