Herbal Remedies and Therapies as an Alternative to Medicines
Although many of the 50 million Americans suffering from seasonal or year-long allergies turn to pharmacies and medicinal treatments for relief, a growing number of allergy sufferers are looking to more natural remedies. In most cases, natural remedies provide relief without the irritating side effects (drowsiness, fatigue, lethargy) associated with pharmaceutical alternatives (Bouchez). There are several nature-based products that have proven to show a reduction or cessation of symptoms.
Many of the following suggested remedies are meant to prevent an allergic reaction before triggers are encountered, which is the best method of treating allergies. Including these supplements and changes into a daily routine before symptoms present will yield the best results year-round.
Beyond a lack of side effects, many herbal remedies are readily available without a prescription and at a much lower cost:
- Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is growing in popularity as an allergy treatment in the United Kingdom. In recent studies, it has been as effective as an antihistamine drug in controlling hay fever symptoms without drowsiness (Bouchez). Allergists and researchers recommend 32 milligrams of butterbur daily. However, caution should be used before taking butterbur, as the weed is in the same family as ragweed and can worsen symptoms for some people (Kelley).
- Quercetin, or a bioflavonoid, a compound that is derived from a natural plant, will help suppress the release of histamines in the system. It’s also an antioxidant by boosting the immune system and fights free radicals. Supplements are the best way to add the recommended 1,000 mg per day to the diet, but quercetin can also be found in onions, citrus fruits, parsley, broccoli, apples, lettuce, tea, tomatoes, and wine (Kelley).
- Grapeseed extract is another option, similar in function to quercetin. It is also abundantly present in red wine and reduces allergies best when used in conjunction with vitamin C (Bouchez).
- Nettle (Urtica dioica) behaves like many of the drugs sold to treat allergies, without the side effects. About 300 milligrams a day is enough to offer temporary relief to some allergy sufferers, but may only last a few hours (Kelley).
Foods to Love and Foods to Avoid
Allergy sufferers may also find some relief in the kitchen by choosing and avoiding certain foods. Researchers have shown that spicy foods can go a long way in thinning mucus secretions and clearing the sinus passages (Bouchez). Cooking foods with cayenne pepper, hot ginger, and fenugreek have the best results.
Further, choosing foods that are rich with omega-3 fatty acids may lower the risk of suffering allergy symptoms by fighting inflammation. Found in coldwater fish, grass-fed meats, walnuts, eggs, and flaxseed oil, omega-3’s can limit symptoms (Kelley).
On the other hand, sometimes what a person avoids may do more than what they choose to eat. Allergy sufferers should pay close attention to their reactions to food, cutting out anything that triggers even mild hives or an upset stomach. These can over-tax the immune system, which can heighten the level of reaction to other allergens (Bouchez).
- Those suffering from ragweed or other weed pollen allergies should avoid melon, cucumber, banana, chamomile, sunflower seeds, and echinacea.
- Those with a mold allergy should avoid cheese, mushrooms, yeast, sour cream, potatoes, hot dogs, sausages, canned fruit and fruit juices.
Other Natural Therapies
Used in conjunction with daily supplements, these alternative treatments might provide additional relief to those suffering multiple allergies:
- Nasal Irrigation, or use of a neti pot, is the process of rinsing the sinus cavities with a gentle saline solution. Perhaps the most natural treatment available, neti pots flush the sinuses and keep them clear with regular use (Kelley). They can be used for prevention and relief before, during and after the pollen season.
- Acupuncture is growing in popularity among those suffering from multiple allergies, as it targets and stimulates points outside the body to change or initiate reactions inside. In the case of allergies, acupuncturists seek to stimulate the immune system, where allergy reactions begin (Bouchez).
- Sublingual Immunotherapy, an alternative to receiving allergy shots which can take three to five years to become effective, is another natural treatment. It involves oral exposure to small doses of allergens with the intended purpose of building a gradual immunity (Kelley). Because it can trigger significant reactions in some people, it should not be used without the assistance of a physician.
Using Caution with Treatments
Nonmedical allergy relief can be very helpful and cause fewer reactions, but it’s important to remember that “naturally doesn’t always mean better – or safer” (Bouchez). Even mild preparations, if overused or mixed with other treatments or over-the-counter medications, can lead to harmful side effects. As always, it’s best to use allergy treatments under a physician’s direction to avoid any kind of toxic reactions.
Further, in the case of those with moderate to severe allergies, self-treatment should never be conducted without checking with an allergist beforehand (Bouchez). Seemingly benign natural products can worsen the situation is derived from plants similar to those that trigger allergies.