6 Natural Allergy Remedies

’Tis the season for sniffling, sneezing and itching. Breathe easier with these medically proven natural allergy remedies.
By Lynn Keiley
August/September 2006
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Allergies plague millions of people, and many only get marginal relief from drugs, which can also have frustrating side effects. Natural allergy remedies, however, often have fewer side effects, and can combat allergic reactions to plants such as the notorious ragweed, shown here.
Photo by Istockphoto/Danijel Micka
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As the golden days of summer begin to fade, thoughts often turn to the last sun-ripened tomatoes and bringing in the harvest. But if you or someone you know are among the more than 26 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies (or the estimated 50 million who suffer from all types of allergies), you may be focused more on pollen counts, the first freeze, and stocking up on tissues and allergy meds than on harvesting tomatoes.

Members of the sniffling, sneezing and itching allergy demographic typically rely on numerous drugs and sprays for relief — often with mixed results. Many pharmaceutical treatments relieve sneezing and itching, but do little to treat congestion, and vice versa. In fact, at a recent meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Dr. William E. Berger reported that nearly a third of allergy patients think their medications don’t work. Plus, pharmaceutical remedies are often expensive and frequently come with unwanted side effects, such as drowsiness and nasal irritation. The sedative effects of these drugs can impair driving ability and cause a mental disconnect that many users find irritating.

Annual bouts with pollen aren’t just uncomfortable, they also take a toll on mental well-being. Studies have shown that during ragweed season, allergy sufferers often experience a general sense of fatigue — especially mental fatigue — and are more prone to feelings of sadness. People who suffer from allergies also are up to 14 times more likely to experience migraine headaches than those who don’t have allergies.

Given these statistics, you might want to pull the covers over your head and wait until the whole season blows over. But it is possible to step outdoors safely without first loading up on allergy medications, even when ragweed is in full bloom. Here are several natural allergy remedies that are medically proven to help control the condition so you can breathe easier, even when pollen counts are at their worst.

Understanding Allergies

When you understand what’s happening during allergy attacks, treating them naturally seems like plain common sense. First, picture a grain of pollen — it looks something like a spiny sea urchin (see photo 3 in Image Gallery). Now imagine this prickly invader entering your nasal passages and latching onto soft mucous membranes. These mucous membranes line our bronchial and nasal passages and contain immune cells, called mast cells, which are loaded with histamines. Receptors sit on top of these mast cells, and when an allergen trigger — such as pollen, mold or pet dander — lands on top of the receptor, it alerts the mast cells, which respond by releasing histamine and other chemicals. The histamine initiates a series of reactions designed to help the body get rid of the intruder, including sneezing, watery eyes and itching. For some people, particularly those with asthma, this reaction may also include swelling in the bronchial tubes that makes it difficult to breathe.

Natural Remedies

Most allergy medications attempt to treat the symptoms your body instigates to get rid of the allergen. But doesn’t it make more sense to shore up your defenses before your body goes into attack mode? Many of the natural remedies discussed below are designed to prevent a reaction before it occurs.

A few minor lifestyle changes also can go a long way toward keeping symptoms under control:

  • Avoid using window fans to cool rooms, because they can pull pollen indoors.
  • Keep windows closed when driving, using the air conditioner if necessary, to avoid allergens.
  • Limit your time outdoors when ragweed pollen counts are highest — from mid-August until the first frost.

Here are more things that can help head off allergies before they start, as well as some drug-free ways to treat symptoms when they do arise.

Neti Pots. What could be simpler than rinsing away allergens with saltwater? Neti pots, small vessels shaped like Aladdin’s lamp (see the Image Gallery), have been used in India for thousands of years to flush the sinuses and keep them clear. It’s an idea that takes some getting used to for most Westerners, but it’s a bit like using nasal spray. A little douse of saltwater can rinse away those prickly pollen grains and help treat allergies and other forms of sinus congestion.

Just last year, an Italian study published in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology found that nasal flushing was a mild and effective way to treat seasonal allergies in children, and markedly reduced their use of antihistamines.

You could simply use your cupped hand instead of a neti pot to rinse sinuses, but netis are inexpensive, and many people find them much easier to use. To flush your sinuses, mix a quarter to a half teaspoon of noniodized table salt into a cup of lukewarm water and pour it into the pot. (You can adjust the amount of salt, depending on what feels most comfortable.) Lean over a sink with your head slightly cocked to one side, then put the spout of the neti into one nostril and allow the water to drain out the other nostril. Use about half of the solution, then repeat on the other side, tilting your head the opposite way. Gently blow out each nostril to clear them completely. Neti pots are widely available online and at natural food stores. Use your pot about twice a day during allergy season, especially in the morning and after spending time outdoors. You also can use a neti pot before bed to prevent snoring caused by allergies and promote optimal overnight breathing.

Quercetin. A natural plant-derived compound called a bioflavonoid, quercetin helps stabilize mast cells and prevents them from releasing histamine. Quercetin also is a natural antioxidant that helps mop up molecules called free radicals that cause cell damage, which can lead to cancer. Citrus fruits, onions, apples, parsley, tea, tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce and wine are naturally high in quercetin, but allergy sufferers will most likely need to use supplements to build up enough of this compound to prevent attacks. The recommended dosage is about 1,000 milligrams a day, taken between meals. It’s best to start treatment six weeks before allergy season. Those with liver disease shouldn’t use quercetin, so please consult your doctor before using this or any other supplement — especially if you are pregnant or nursing.

Allergy-Fighting Foods. A German study, published in the journal Allergy, found that participants who ate foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids were less likely to suffer allergy symptoms than those who didn’t regularly eat these foods. Omega-3s help fight inflammation and can be found in cold-water fish, walnuts and flaxseed oil, as well as grass-fed meat and eggs.

To help keep airways clear when pollen counts are high, add a dash of horseradish, chili peppers or hot mustard to your food — all act as natural, temporary decongestants. It’s also a good idea to avoid foods that you’re slightly allergic to until the air clears. Fighting off allergies can render the body hypersensitive to those foods, causing more severe reactions than usual.

Stinging Nettle. If you decide you need an antihistamine but want a natural option, stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) behaves in much the same way as many of the drugs sold to treat allergies, but without the unwanted side effects of dry mouth and drowsiness. Nettle actually inhibits the body’s ability to produce histamine. It’s a common weed in many parts of the United States, but the most practical medicinal form is a freeze-dried extract of the leaves sold in capsules. Studies have shown that taking about 300 milligrams daily will offer relief for most people, although the effects may last only a few hours. You also can make your own tinctures or teas with stinging nettle. (Contact with the stinging hairs on fresh nettle can cause skin inflammation, so wear protective gloves when handling it.) For more on making your own herbal remedies, see Richo Cech’s Making Plant Medicine (Horizon Herbs, 2000).

Butterbur. Derived from a common weed in Europe, butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is another alternative to antihistamines, though it may be hard to find in the United States. In the days before refrigeration, its broad, floppy leaves were used to wrap butter during warm spells, hence the name butterbur. A Swiss study, published in British Journal of Medicine, found that butterbur was as effective as the drug cetirizine, the active ingredient in Zyrtec. Even though cetirizine is supposed to be a nonsedative antihistamine, researchers reported that it did cause drowsiness, though butterbur did not. Participants in the study took 32 milligrams of butterbur a day, divided into four doses. A word of caution though — butterbur is in the same family as ragweed, so it could worsen allergy symptoms in some cases. Effects of taking butterbur over a long period of time also are unknown.

Sublingual Immunotherapy. Specific immunotherapy, otherwise known as allergy shots, has been used widely to inject patients with diluted doses of certain allergens to help build immunity over time. However, allergy shots can take three to five years to be effective, and a small percentage of people suffer severe reactions to this treatment. Though it remains popular in North America, the practice fell out of favor in the United Kingdom during the late 1980s, when strict limitations were imposed after several adverse reactions occurred.

New studies have found a gentler way to acclimate the body to pollen and other allergens. The latest form of this therapy is called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), which has been used for the past 20 years in Europe. In SLIT treatments, patients put drops of a very small dose of the allergen (initially a 1:1,000 dilution) under the tongue for two minutes, then swallow. The daily therapy begins before peak pollen season for seasonal allergy sufferers, but also can be used to treat year-round allergies, though treatment must be specific to the type of allergen.

A recent study in the United Kingdom found that patients who used SLIT for two years were nearly seven times less likely to suffer runny noses, and almost three times less likely to experience sneezing, than those who took a placebo. Because an allergy extract has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States, check with your doctor and insurance provider before considering SLIT therapy.

Whether you suffer from seasonal or ongoing allergies, these natural remedies should let you get out there and harvest those late tomatoes!


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Rita
7/21/2014 2:12:29 AM
Very informative! I used a neti pot a few times and it was helpful. The allergy drops not so much. I read the comments and I will try to ingest honey on a daily basis and see how it goes. http://healthcareincomes.com/how-much-does-an-allergist-make/ For anyone looking to see how much it would be for an allergist to help you fix this in a professional setting, check out that article. It's amazing the business of allergies is!

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venusbarban
5/25/2014 7:03:00 AM
Thanks for the article. I have been using natural skin care products for many years and i do agree with you.

Nutrition
5/12/2014 6:36:51 AM
Thanks for the article. I have been using natural skin care products for many years and i do agree with you.

Michelle
4/19/2014 11:21:55 AM
My family and I take a natural herbal detox product a few times a year. Ever since we started we are all allergy FREE. I personally was one of the worst allergy suffer I knew. Thank god I found this product

somanabolic
4/5/2014 11:34:00 PM
I like to use apple cider vinegar for a range of issues like dandruff, stomach issues, and allergies. I make a cold funky cider from apple cider vinegar, raw honey, cinnamon, coconut water, and ice.

AprilEmeryHolisticHomemaking
4/1/2014 11:37:55 AM
Essential oils are another great natural solution for allergies. I personally have benefited greatly from using them for my seasonal and indoor allergies. I've been an allergy suffered all my life and have tried nearly everything available in a store (not kidding). It wasn't until I tried essential oils that I found relief ... and it has even helped control my immuno-response so that I hardly have to use essential oils for allergies anymore! I share my story in more detail on my blog if you want to read what oils I've used and how I use them for allergies. Treating Allergies Naturally (HolisticHomemaking.com) - http://holistichomemaking.com/2013/10/treating-allergies-naturally.html

gdarn
3/18/2014 1:32:37 PM
Couldn't agree more with jderin - The Lung Cleaner is the best thing around for allergies. And colds. And various other respiratory illnesses.

jderin
3/18/2014 1:28:57 PM
One natural remedy that wasn't listed here but that has been used as an effective combative against allergies for centuries is eucalyptus oil. Indigenous tribes in Australia, where I am from, swear by it and it is finally catching on mainstream. The lung cleaner is one product to my knowledge that has vaporized eucalyptus oil and put it into an all-natural, organic inhaler - along with salt and water. Easier and more convenient than a Neti Pot, and much safer and overall better for you body than pharmaceutical products and nasal sprays. There is more about it here: http://www.motherearthnews.com/natural-health/the-lung-cleaner-zp0.aspx#axzz2wL7DO5b3

yani
2/13/2014 7:27:31 AM
JK i have never used a Neti Pot, but i flush my sinus at the first moment of a Headache, i have an open sinus. I use a squeeze bottle with a salt solution. I make my own solution a pinch of salt, baking soda, and distilled water. Taste it so how strong, I like to warm my water fist not hot. This solution does help my sinus attack, and it also does well to flush out the dust and junk. Good Luck, Yani PS remember it will be startling at first kind of like snorting a batch of sea water when swimming.

jkongs
1/20/2014 2:38:36 PM
I've never used a neti pot - I've been scared of the idea of putting water in my nose. Anyone else out there braver than I am who can sway me into trying it?

aayel68
1/12/2014 11:52:02 PM
Welcome. The ACADEMIC MEDICINE HAS NO KNOWLEDGE. In RESULT INSTEAD OF MEDICINE HEALTH CARE ABOUT PEOPLE AND be able to cause and cure a disease, DESTROYS PEOPLE physically and mentally, and multiplying DISEASE.In the application of proper nutrition, allergic diseases can not be. The cause of food allergy is causing poor nutrition that your body can not break down into individual amino acids of protein consumed. For this you need energy and a good energy, and the missing. Proteins are not broken until the end, they may even be absorbed in its entirety or in large parts of which the body recognizes as foreign proteins and produces antibodies against them, which results in allergies and other allergic diseases. Patients with other types of allergies are a flaw in the body, which causes proteins such as grass pollen, mites, animal dander, or other allergens can cause symptoms of allergic diseases. The reason for this flaw is poor nutrition. For instance, if your dog's coat was the actual cause of asthma or other allergic diseases are those diseases should be sick all household members in contact with the hair of the dog. Scald in boiling water 100 people will in any similar symptoms. The encounter of 100 people with grass pollen allergic symptoms result from several people already sensitized. Therefore, there is a specific allergen causing the allergic diseases included, and the patient body a particular property, which is not in a healthy. This flaw is the cause allergies and are caused by incorrect nutrition. The doctors can not cure, for this must guess. Allergies cure completely, only one way. maniekpi@interia.pl Pozdrwaiam.

Robert
12/29/2013 10:13:19 AM
Hi my name is Robert 44 yrs old. it is about 3 months i have swollen skin hot spot itching and red symptoms it ravels around my body like forehead , arm ,under feet, neck, i am woory about what is happening to me ,could you help me in this regard thanks Happy new year 2014

MrDr
9/4/2013 8:25:20 AM
My allergist suggested that I use purified water and packets of pharma-grade salt to rinse once a day, best advice ever ... ...and only about $10 per year! All that $$, those meds, those landfill-bound disposable bottles -- goodbye! Amazon neilmed and ahr for the squeeze bottles. (I nuke the bottle for about 20 seconds beforehand to warm it up -- takes 5 -10 seconds per nostril).

Paul
7/21/2013 9:08:33 AM

My allergist gave me a sample of Sinol Nasal Spray for my chronic allergic rhinitis. The product is all natural and the first clinically proven all natural, OTC nasal spray for my condition. I am so happy with this product and glad to be off the steroid which is prescribed to me each spring. Sinol relieves my allergy symptoms quickly and I can use it as I need it throughout the day. Highly recommended.


patricia.campbell.5494
7/1/2013 9:11:35 AM

Use caution in some areas when you use the nasal rinse. Alerts in some southern areas warn of an amoeba present in water, even tap water, that can travel to the brain and cause death. The amoeba enters the body through mucous membranes and is not curable.  I searched to verify, and found nothing to debunk the claim. We now use purchased distilled water to be safer.


TimThorntonTheRealtor
5/22/2013 9:34:07 AM

http://bit.ly/17TPgsq I have found a remedy for my allergies!


Mritunjay Yadav
9/2/2012 1:53:30 AM
I finally got rid of my allergies. It turns out they were caused by particles in the air. I got a system from Chicago Air Purification and it solved my allergy issues. I highly recommend them. Check out their site at http://www.chicagoairpurification.com/

Francina
5/15/2012 5:34:54 AM
A very good article on how to combat allergies. One should also try a combination of ayurvedic herbs and homoeopathic remedies which are 100% natural, free from side effects. These remedies work to give relief by easing symptoms of allergic reactions, using advanced biotechnology techniques to give body information on the substances it is allergic to thus teaching optimal reaction to allergens, helping your body produce immunoglobulins thus inducing lasting immunity and getting your glands, organs and secretions involved in allergic reactions to return to harmony. Some of the frequently used remedies are OM28 AB formula and Alclearize.

jennifer jordan
4/7/2012 10:36:59 PM
Eat honey from your region - a spoon a day.

Shiketa Morgan
9/22/2011 12:06:23 AM
Love your tips!

Chris Barker
7/4/2011 11:43:12 AM
My allergies have been to Goldenrod and pollens in general. I have been having good luck with taking vitamin C. A couple of smaller doses a day seems to work for me. I would also consider any of the vitamins or herbs that boost my immune system.

Cindy Schuster
5/10/2011 7:48:16 AM
I have severe seasonal and pet (cat) allergies. I have used Super OPC Grapeseed Extract that I buy on I healthtree.com for years. I take it year round and it is so wonderful at controlling my histamine response. I've found if I can keep my allergies under control I can keep my asthma under control also. I have also found fish oil extremely beneficial in controlling my asthma and am a new fan of flax seed. I am a new person inside (healthy bm every morning) and very mild hot flashes as I experience menopause. I have read a lot on allergies and based on what I've read I think they're caused by antibiotics taken in childhood destroying the good bacteria in the gut. Be very careful with antibiotics. They are devistating to the body.

TarasBook
3/23/2011 5:38:51 PM
Goldenrod tincture- seasonal and cat. Isn't it interesting how prolifically Goldenrod grows during fall allergy season?(this is not ragweed) it seems to me as if Mother Nature is saying, "Here you go, this will help!" Also, I've noticed that people "develop" allergies as adults. I think this is more due to the lack of wellness maintenance. Similarly in a vehicle, when it is not maintained and cleaned with oil changes and such, junk builds up. I find it to be the same with our bodies. Regular, safe detoxing helps prevent many ailments. Simply drinking plenty of clean water is a way to detox the body!

Germaine_3
9/7/2010 4:13:40 PM
Great article! All other prescriptions are free except monthly allergy meds for my two teenage kids. Will have them try some of these methods. Also living with adult onset food allergies for the last year, will do more research on sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) because I have strawberries and banana trees growing around our house that I'd love to be able to eat again!!!

Richlund
8/24/2010 2:30:37 PM
A dehumidifier really helped my families allergies. We purchased ours from http://simplydehumidifiers.com and are pleased. We are looking into buying an air purifier next. Does anyone have any recommendations?

ManyMoss_2
3/9/2010 12:07:47 PM
Hyper-response to a pollen or any other natural substance is not normal. All the stated remedies attempt to treat the symptoms of allergies and not the cause, which is a compromised immune system. Outlining methods to improve immune function would result in a cure and not just a band aide.

Anne_15
5/28/2009 9:41:59 PM
While all of the above suggestions sound great, they all seem to refer to pollens inthe air. Have any of you found these natural remedies to be useful for allergies to cats and dogs, but mostly cats. Any suggestions besides a HePA filter would be greatly appreciated.

Ed_24
5/12/2009 11:36:30 PM
Dr Andrew Weil has been advocating nasal douching for at least 20 years. The simplest method is to wet a paper towel or rag, put in the entrance to your nose, then squeeze your nose which will inject a little water into the appropriate area. There are also many salt water preparations in most drugstores that come in little squeeze bottles. I used to have seasonal allergies. I started taking 1200mgs fish oil 3 times a day,eating walnuts and putting flax in my steel cut oats. Presto, no more allergies.

Vickie L. Jackson
5/11/2009 3:31:32 PM
Sublingual immunotherapy drops have been used since at least the '80s in Canada by Clinical Ecologists. When I suffered badly from allergies and chemical sensitivities back then and was living in Ontario, I used them. No insurance will cover them, unfortunately, but they work quite well.

Michael Morgan_3
5/11/2009 11:07:24 AM
I Have found over the years drinking Goats Milk or cows Milk from animals that have been grass fed or have eaten the offending vegitation. Drank over time(years) has reduced my allergies greatly..

P L
4/22/2009 2:34:59 AM
Tea with wild chamomile, lemon balm, natural local honey, and dandelion root/leaves/blossoms. The other stuff treats nasal and respiratory stuff, but the honey acts to build up an immunity to the pollens.

marcus_1
6/24/2008 3:32:22 PM
I also have recently discovered nasal irrigation. However the product that my doctor recommended was Nasopure. It has helped me very much and I no longer get frequent colds. Unlike other products Nasopure allows you to be upright during the rinse which allows for a more effective flush. Their website www.nasopure.com is very informative too.








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