Natural Relief for Seasonal Allergies
by Colleen M. Story, Healthline.com
If you think your allergies are getting worse, you’re not alone. A 2011 report by Quest Diagnostics stated that 17 million doctor’s office visits and 30,000 emergency room visits can be blamed on allergies every year. The organization’s analysis of allergy blood tests indicated that overall, sensitivity to allergens is increasing, with the number of patients tested for 11 allergens going up by 19 percent over a four-year study period. Sensitivity to one of the most common allergens—ragweed—went up by 15 percent, while sensitivity to mold increased by 12 percent.
What’s causing more people to suffer? That’s a debatable question. Some point to climate, and others say it has more to do with our immune systems, and how sensitive they are. Whatever the cause, allergies can make us miserable, and though medications can help, they may cause unwelcome side effects like brain fog, fatigue, dry mouth, flushing, headaches, constipation, and more.Fortunately, there are alternative solutions you can try. Here are five of the most effective:
In 2002, scientists published a study in the British Journal of Medicine showing that butterbur was just as effective as cetirizine (Zyrtec) in treating allergy symptoms. They gave 61 allergy sufferers one butterbur supplement four times a day, and 64 patients one Zyrtec tablet a day. Results showed that both treatments improved allergy symptoms, but that those taking the Zyrtec were more likely to report feeling drowsy, even though Zyrtec is not supposed to cause drowsiness.
An earlier 2004 study found similar results—those taking butterbur experienced significantly more improvements in symptoms than those on placebo. The typical dosage is 50-75 mg twice daily of a standardized butterbur extract. The herb is in the same family as ragweed, so it’s best to try a little at first to test for allergic reactions, but these are rare.
2. Stinging Nettle
The University of Maryland Medical Center states that nettle capsules may help reduce symptoms like sneezing and itching because they naturally reduce the histamine produced by allergens in the body. A 1990 study found that participants taking freeze-dried stinging nettles experienced significantly reduced allergy symptoms compared to those taking a placebo. Typical dosage is about 300 mg twice a day of the freeze-dried nettle leaf.
Laboratory studies have found that quercetin, like stinging nettle, can help reduce histamine in the body. More specifically, it actually prevents immune cells from releasing histamines, which could help reduce symptoms like runny nose, hives, itchy and watery eyes, and swelling in the face and lips. Typical dose is 200 to 400 mg three times a day.
Acupuncture is an ancient form of holistic medicine that has been used for centuries in China. It involves inserting very thin needles at specific points in the body to help redirect energy pathways. Some studies have found that targeted acupuncture treatment may help relieve allergy symptoms. In 2013, for example, researchers found that real acupuncture provided allergy patients with more relief than either a sham acupuncture treatment or no treatment at all. Another study that same year reported similar results, with participants who received acupuncture treatments showing a greater improvement in symptoms as well as a reduced use of antihistamine medications than those not receiving it. There have been several other studies—some with mixed results—but as any side effects are rare, this one is worth a try.
5. Neti Pot
Have you tried the neti pot? If you suffer from sneezing and an itchy or runny nose, you may want to, as there is some evidence that flushing out the nasal tissues can reduce allergy symptoms.
A neti pot is a ceramic or plastic pot you use to rinse out your nasal passages. It originated in India as part of the yoga practice, and involves pouring a saline solution into one nostril and allowing it to flow through and out of the other nostril. The process cleans out allergens that may cause symptoms, helping you to breathe more easily.
Researchers found the neti pot to help in a 2009 study. Participants with nasal allergies who used it twice daily for three to six weeks reported significant improvements in symptoms. An earlier 2008 study found similar results, with participants reporting improved symptoms with once-daily nasal irrigation.
If you decide to try using a neti pot, don’t use tap water—it may have bacteria that can cause dangerous infections. Instead, always use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water. Also, consider using the neti pot only as you need it. One study found that consistent use over time may reduce mucus, which serves as a natural protection against infections.
- Brauser, D. (2009, November 11). Medscape: Medscape Access. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/712146
- Brinkhaus, B., & Ortiz, et al., M. (2013). Acupuncture in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med, 158(4), 225-34. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23420231
- Choi, S. M., & Park, et al., J. E. (2013). A multicenter, randomized, controlled trial testing the effects of acupuncture on allergic rhinitis. Allergy, 68(3), 365-74. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23253122
- Mayo Clinic (2014, February 1). Antihistamine, Decongestant, And Analgesic Combination (Oral Route) Side Effects – Drugs and Supplements – Mayo Clinic. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/antihistamine-decongestant-and-analgesic-combination-oral-route/side-effects/drg-20069904
- Middleton, Jr., E. (1986). Effect of flavonoids on basophil histamine release and other secretory systems. Prog Clin Biol Res, 1986(213), 493-506. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2424030
- Mittman, P. (1990). Randomized, double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica dioica in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Planta Med, 56(1), 44-7. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2192379
- NHS (2013, October 1). Antihistamines – Side effects – NHS Choices. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Antihistamines/Pages/Side-effects.aspx
- Quest Diagnostics Health Trends (2011). 2011 Allergy Report. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from http://www.questdiagnostics.com/dms/Documents/Other/2011_QD_AllergyReport.pdf
- Rabago, D. P., Guerard, E., & Bukstein, D. (2008). Nasal irrigation for chronic sinus symptoms in patients with allergic rhinitis, asthma and nasal polyposis: a hypothesis generating study. WMJ, 107(2), 69-75. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2755042/
- Schapowal, A., & Petatites Study Group (2004). Butterbur Ze339 for the treatment of intermittent allergic rhinitis: dose-dependent efficacy in a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg, 130(12), 1381-6. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15611396
- Schapowal, A. (2002). Randomised controlled trial of butterbur and cetirizine for treating seasonal allergic rhinitis. BMJ, 2002(324), 144. Retrieved from http://www.bmj.com/content/324/7330/144
- Tomooka, L. T., Murphy, C., & Davidson, T. M. (2009). Clinical Study and Literature Review of Nasal Irrigation. The Laryngoscope, 110(7), 1189-1193. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1097/00005537-200007000-00023/full
- University of Maryland Medical Center (2013, May 7). Quercetin | University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/quercetin
- University of Maryland Medical Center (2011, May 2). Stinging nettle | University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/stinging-nettle
Colleen M. Story is a northwestern writer of imaginative fiction as well as a freelance writer and editor. Colleen has over 15 years’ experience as a freelance writer, specializing in health and wellness, preventative care, and alternative treatments. She researches, writes, and edits books, ebooks, magazine articles, research papers and more for clients like Gerber Baby Products, Kellogg’s, Healthline, and Renegade Health. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in music education and has over twenty-five years’ experience as a private music teacher, as well as over 15 years’ experience playing French horn in two community symphony orchestras.
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