Image: Steve Nova/Wikimedia Commons.
Home » Hay fever: another straw to clutch at?

Hay fever: another straw to clutch at?

Image: Steve Nova/Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Steve Nova/Wikimedia Commons.

As the northern hemisphere’s hay fever season gets into full swing, there is encouraging news from Mother Nature’s own medicine cabinet. Hay fever – ‘seasonal allergic rhinitis’ – is an allergic inflammation of the nasal airways, and the most common atopic disease in the industrialised world (10–25 % of that population are martyrs to the malady). It occurs when an allergen such as pollen is inhaled by an individual with a sensitized immune system, and is one of the most dramatic confirmations that spring has sprung and a botanical orgy of reproduction has begun. It is a miserable affliction that can cause sleep disturbance, impairment of daily activities, and poor performance in academic studies or other work, and those affected will try almost anything to be free of symptoms. The usual treatment is with anti-histamine drugs, but a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial by Alina Dumitru et al. (Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology; doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2011.02.045) demonstrates that Ze 339 (petasol butenoate complex) – extracted from Petasites hybridus, a member of the Asteraceae – combats nasal mucosa swelling faster and more effectively. Furthermore, Ze 339 also appears to have a preventative effect. And if this botanical equivalent of fighting fire with fire gets fellow sufferers hot under the collar at the prospect of better treatment, be advised that at present Ze 399 is only available on prescription in Switzerland and South Korea.

Nigel Chaffey

I am a Botanist and former Senior Lecturer in Botany at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany I contributed the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that international plant science journal for almost 10 years. As a freelance plant science communicator I continue to share my Cuttingsesque items - and appraisals of books with a plant focus - with a plant-curious audience at Plant Cuttings [https://plantcuttings.uk] (and formerly at Botany One [https://botany.one/author/nigelchaffey/]). In that guise my main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way) others about plants and plant-people interactions, and thereby improve humankind's botanical literacy. I'm happy to be contacted to discuss potential writing - or talking - projects and opportunities.
[ORCID: 0000-0002-4231-9082]

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