6 Natural Allergy Remedies

'Tis the season for sniffling, sneezing and itching. Breathe easier with these medically proven natural allergy remedies.

| August/September 2006

  • Annual bouts with pollen take a toll on mental well-being. People who suffer from allergies are up to 14 times more likely to experience migraine headaches.
    Photo by Getty Images/BigPapa
  • natural allergy remedies - ragweed
    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
  • When pollen antigens enter your nasal passages and lodge onto mucous membranes, your body responds by producing histamine, which can cause allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itching and watery eyes.
    Photo by Getty Images/ttsz
  • natural allergy remedies - neti pots
    To soothe allergy attacks, consider using neti pots. They are a mild and effective way to treat seasonal allergies.
    Nathan Bryant/By The Planet
  • Rinse away allergens with saltwater twice a day.
    Photo by Getty Images/nullplus
  • Freeze-dried extract from the leaves of stinging nettle works like an over-the-counter antihistamine, but without the unwanted side effects of dry mouth and drowsiness.
    Photo by Getty Images/VvoeVale
  • Fill capsules with your choice of herbs to head off allergies before or after they start.
    Photo by Getty Images/studiocasper

  • natural allergy remedies - ragweed
  • natural allergy remedies - neti pots

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.  (To find out the current pollen levels in your area, check out the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology or Pollen.com.)

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.

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