Photo Credit to Jane Shelby Richardson, Duke University
Photo Credit to Jane Shelby Richardson, Duke University

Sagebrush (Artemisia vulgaris), also known as mugwart, is native to temperate Europe, Asia, northern Africa and Alaska and is naturalized in North America. According to Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, there are over 11 different species of Sagebrush (Artemisia) in Montana, and 17 different species in the US. It’s one of the many weeds that produce pollen, and a very common allergen.

Basic Information about Sagebrush
Plant description: Sagebrush is a tall herbaceous perennial plant growing around 3-6 feet tall, with a woody root. Depending on the species, it may grow up to 8 feet. The leaves are 2-8 inches long, dark green, with dense white matted hairs on the underside. The stems are grooved and often have a red-purplish tinge. It produces small symmetrical flowers with many yellow or dark red petals.
Allergy type: Non-food allergy, weed-pollen allergy
Habitat: Sagebrush is naturalized to North American. It can be found in disturbed areas of upland prairies, particularly along the margins near developed areas. Other habitats include weedy meadows, cropland, abandoned fields, vacant lots, fence rows, roadsides, gravelly areas along railroads, gardens and lawns, construction sites, and waste areas. This plant thrives in a variety of disturbed sunny sites, especially where the topsoil has been exposed. It has can inhibit the growth and development of neighboring plants, so some consider it a noxious weed, though it is not specifically listed as such in Montana.
Allergy season: late summer to early fall
Allergic reactions: mild to severe, depending on the pollen count and the body’s sensitivity
Sagebrush Allergy Causes
The main source of Sagebrush allergy is the pollen it gives off. These pollen are airborne and are so small, they are inhaled without a person realizing it. The flower of Sagebrush plant starts to grow in mid-summer to early autumn, while the flower pollinates around September. The wind carries the pollens away from the flowers and it continues to linger on the environment until late fall/winter.

Although the allergy is usually rampant during the late summer and early fall, there is also a small chance of getting allergy symptoms during other seasons. More pollen is carried into the air during hot and windy days, which is why most allergic reactions occur before winter.

Weed pollen, in general, is regional and seasonal, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Weed pollen count is affected by several factors such as time of the day, weather and season.

Sagebrush Allergy Symptoms
As with other allergies, an individual’s reaction depends on how his immune system will react. Below is the list of common symptoms:

  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Asthma
  • Fever
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Watery eyes
  • Puffed eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Difficulty in breathing
Tips For Preventing Sagebrush Allergy Symptoms
  • Stay indoors from 5:00 AM to 10:00 AM, as this is when the pollen count is highest. Leave outdoor activities until 5:00 PM, or after a heavy rain. You can get a pollen count reports from other websites, though they are not accurate to the hour.
  • If you can, remove Sagebrush from your surroundings, and wear a mask when doing so. If you can afford it, consider hiring someone else to do the removal.
  • Always keep your home and car windows closed. This lessens their exposure to pollen. Avoid window and attic fans as they will draw air from outside of your house, which may be contaminated with pollen.
  • Use a dryer for your clothes. If you hang them outside, pollen can attach on your clothes. This will expose you and your house to the allergens.
  • Regularly bathe your pets. Pollen could also be attached to them.
  • Minimize your alcohol intake. A study from the National Institute of Public Health in Denmark last 2008 found a relation between alcohol and the allergy. Women who drank alcohol every week increased their susceptibility to the allergy by 3%. Alcohol also dehydrates the body, which can make the nasal symptoms worse.
Sagebrush Allergy Treatment Options
  • Antihistamines
  • Oral Steroids
  • Injectable Steroids
  • Eyedrops
  • Allergen Immunotherapy – See if it is right for you