In the Willamette Valley, seasonal allergies are a particular problem. Whether it is grass seed, hay or pollen, every season seems to have something to aggravate the sinuses. Don’t forget indoor allergens like dust, mold and pet dander; they can get you too.
Sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, runny nose or nosebleeds, headache and even asthma are all common symptoms. Over 50 million Americans suffer from such allergies, which can cause misery for days, weeks or even months every year.
Allergic reactions typically occur when an allergen triggers histamines to be released in your body. Histamines are a compound found in our immune system involved in our inflammatory response.
Although inflammation is very important in certain circumstances, a continual state of inflammation can be very stressful on your body. It is also very annoying.
One of the best nutrients for helping suppress the release of histamines is quercetin. Quercetin is one of many flavonoids, which are found in many fresh fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids are very potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Quercetin is especially great for allergies because it is what is known as a “mast cell stabilizer.”
Mast cells are large cells in the immune system that hold histamines. Allergens like pollen and dander are very sharp particles. Eventually they come in contact with mast cells, and when they do, they tend to ‘pop’ them.
Then we get that flood of histamines and all the allergy symptoms along with it. Quercetin makes those mast cells stronger, so they are much less likely to rupture when the sharp allergen comes along, and the histamine flood is avoided.
Quercetin is very abundant in one food that commonly ends up in the trash: onion peels. The thin, papery skin which surrounds white, yellow and red onions is full of it.
So here’s the trick: save all of your onion peels in a gallon storage bag in your freezer. When the bag gets full, dump it into a large pot, add a couple bay leaves, fill it with water and make some homemade vegetable stock.
By gently boiling those onion skins for an hour or so, you infuse all of that good quercetin into your broth. This will result in a very healthy and easy-to-use stock that will help tamp down seasonal allergies. Use your stock to make soup, rice, beans, polenta or in whatever you want.
In addition to the onion peels, feel free to add other common vegetable scraps like carrot peels, potato skins and other peels like beets, turnips and parsnip. Generally speaking, if it grows under the dirt then it makes a great stock.
A one gallon bag of onion and vegetable peels will easily result in four to six quarts of vegetable stock. If you aren’t using the stock right away simply freeze in leftover quart containers until you need it.
So don’t throw those onion peels away. Use them to make a simple, inexpensive and healthy vegetable stock that can keep your allergies at bay all year long.
Andrew Harmon holds a Masters in Nutrition from the National University of Natural Medicine.