It is estimated that close to 25% of Canadians suffer from seasonal allergic rhinitis (an allergic response to specific allergens). The most common allergies are to pollen, pets, dust and foods. Allergies are a hypersensitivity, meaning that the immune system overreacts to allergens and produces an inflammatory response. The body produces histamine and immunoglobulin E (IgE) (causing an inflammatory response) that cause a variety of symptoms including congestion, sneezing, headaches, hives, itchy eyes, and many others.
Many allergy sufferers rely on over the counter anti-histamines, like Claritin or Benadryl, to keep their allergies under control. Other therapies include corticosteroids, eye drops, decongestants, allergy shots and topical creams. Though many of these therapies provide temporary relief, these medications have their own host of issues with side effects ranging from drowsiness and fatigue to restlessness and confusion, just to name a few. Also, the severity of the allergic reactions don’t always change with these medications, and sometimes even worsen.
Often, natural remedies can help allergy sufferers get some relief and can also help reduce the necessity and frequency of anti-histamines. The following are a list of some natural allergy relief remedies and treatments.
Natural Allergy Relief Remedies and Treatments
Local, unpasteurized honey
Consider visiting your farmer’s market and picking up some local, unpasteurized honey. The honey contains local pollen and, when ingested regularly, can reduce the severity of allergies by helping the body build a tolerance to the pollen.
Quercetin is a natural anti-histamine. It is found in cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli and also in foods like onions and citrus fruits. It works by stabilizing mast cells (the cells in the body that release histamine in response to allergens). It is best to start taking Quercetin several weeks before your allergy symptoms typically start.
Saline Rinse/Neti Pot
You can boil a quart of water, dissolve a teaspoon of sea salt and allow it to cool before using the neti pot to rinse out the nasal and sinus passages or you can buy a premade saline mix to use with your neti pot. Alternatively, you can use a saline spray from the pharmacy and use it several times a day to rinse out all the allergens in your nose and sinuses and reduce allergy symptoms.
Stinging Nettles have been used to treat many types of allergic reactions including hay fever, hives and asthma. It has also been shown to be an effective treatment for a variety of other illnesses including benign prostate hyperplasia (enlarged prostate), arthritis, hypertension and many others.
When it comes to seasonal allergies, you can take the nettles as a dried extract, tincture, capsule or tea. Better yet, have a cup of Nettle tea with a teaspoon of raw, local honey!
Acupuncture has been shown to provide relief of allergy symptoms and reduce medication use. A study in 2013 showed divided 422 people, ages 16-45, into 3 groups. One group received real acupuncture regularly and antihistamines as needed. The second group received sham acupuncture (where the needles are placed randomly, in non – meaningful points on the body) regularly and antihistamines as needed. The last group received antihistamines only.
After 2 months of treatment, 71% of those treated with acupuncture reported improvement in their symptoms and a reduced use of antihistamines. However, 56% of those that received sham acupuncture also reported these same improvements. The fact that the sham acupuncture group reported significant improvements suggested that there was a strong placebo effect. 4 months later, the discrepancy between the groups were less apparent. This suggests that the subjects’ expectations of how much the acupuncture was going to help them may have played a role in the reported improvements.
Generally, acupuncture is worth a try in cases where individuals are struggling despite other treatments or in individuals that want to take less medication.
Are Natural Remedies for Allergies Safe?
The remedies above are considered safe and well tolerated. However, you should always check with your healthcare provider before starting a new medication or supplement to make sure it is right for you, especially if you are pregnant, nursing or have other pre-existing health conditions.
Benno Brinkhaus et al, “Acupuncture in Patients With Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis: A Randomized Trial,” Annals of Internal Medicine, doi:10.7326/0003-4819-158-4-201302190-00002