Tired of sneezing and wheezing but want to avoid medications? Try these natural remedies for relief.
Fall allergies in 2012? They’re expected to be worse than ever. The spring was bad enough, with allergy sufferers reaching for tissues more often than usual because of a warm winter.
Now, according to the United States Drought Monitor, about 70 percent of the nation is abnormally dry, with more than 50 percent categorized as being in a drought. Without rain, allergens can float for longer periods and longer distances, plaguing allergy sufferers for months.
The biggest offender is ragweed, which starts pollinating in August and can linger far into the fall. Most people who suffer fall allergies are allergic to ragweed, which can travel for hundreds of miles. Other offending weeds include goldenrod, curly doc, lamb’s quarters, pigweed, sheep sorrel, and sagebrush.
Mold, which can develop under piles of fallen leaves and in damp basements, is also a trigger for many people, as are dust mites, which can be stirred up when families turn on furnaces in the colder weather.
No one likes to suffer from constant sneezing, coughing, wheezing, or itchy eyes, say nothing of the burning nose and dry, itchy throat. Yet experts are predicting that this fall will be a particularly difficult allergy season because of the lack of moisture. Warmer weather can also extend the life cycle of offending weeds, giving them more time to populate the air with their pollen.
If you’re loath to reach for prescription or over-the-counter medications, here are some possible natural remedies that may help cut back on your symptoms this year.
They may sound distasteful, but according to some research, they really work. These small vessels have been used for thousands of years in India to flush the sinuses and keep them clear. 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 helped them rely less on antihistamines.
Just mix a quarter to half teaspoon of noniodized table salt into a cup of lukewarm water and pour it into the pot, lean over the sink, tilt your head, and put the spout of the neti into one nostril, allowing the water to drain out the other nostril. Use about half of the solution, and switch sides. Finally, blow your nose to clear the nostrils completely.
A powerful flavonoid, quercetin gives flowers and fruits their blue and red colors. Apples and onions are particularly high in this antioxidant. Some studies have indicated that quercetin has anti-allergy properties.
Specifically, quercetin stabilized so-called “mast cells,” which are the ones that secrete histamine in the first place, causing symptoms like runny noses and itching. By stabilizing these cells, quercetin helped to decrease the release of histamine, which could help decrease allergy symptoms. In the study, it worked just as well as cromolyn, which is a prescription medication sometimes used for allergies.
This was a preliminary study, but there have been others. In 2007, an animal study found that mice placed on a quercetin-enriched diet had a decrease in inflammatory chemicals linked to allergic diseases. Results also seem to show that quercetin may be more effective for this use when combined with bromelain, a mixture of enzymes found naturally in pineapples, which helps the body absorb quercetin.
The recommended dosage is about 300 mg twice a day, though you can try up to 1,000 mg a day, taken between meals. Short-term use of about one to two months is suggested over long-term use.
Foods Rich in Omega-3s
A German study published in Allergy found that participants who ate foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like cold-water fish, walnuts, and flaxseed oil, were less likely to suffer allergy symptoms than those who didn’t eat these foods.
Somewhat like quercetin, stinging nettle inhibits the body’s ability to produce histamine. Studies have shown that taking about 300 mg daily will offer relief. Stinging nettle tinctures and teas are also beneficial.
A Swiss study published in the British Journal of Medicine found that butterbur was as effective as the active ingredient in Zyrtec (cetirizine) in treating allergy symptoms—without the drowsiness.
In a second study, presented at the 60th annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, a group of British researchers reported that butterbur was effective in taming symptoms of grass allergy. Butterbur is in the same family as ragweed, however, so consumers need to try a little at first to check for allergic reactions.
Several studies have indicated the potential of acupuncture to help treat seasonal allergies. One study published in 2004 in the Allergy Magazine found that a combination of Chinese herbs and weekly acupuncture sessions showed promise as an allergy treatment.
Another study of over 5,000 participants published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that acupuncture can relieve allergic rhinitis symptoms.
Other Tips That Can Help
In addition to trying foods and herbs that can help your body better cope with allergens, don’t forget these other tips for cutting back on your symptoms:
- Use a HEPA air filter, particularly in the bedroom, to remove spores and pollen from the air.
- Encase your pillows, mattresses, and box springs in allergen-proof covers to keep out dust mites.
- If you live in a humid climate, consider a dehumidifier—a dryer home is less likely to host dust mites.
- Dust, clean, and vacuum regularly.
- Take a shower and put clothes in a hamper after returning from outdoors, as your hair and clothes may contain pollen. Remove your shoes when coming inside.
- Keep windows closed to stop pollen from coming inside the house.
Do you have a favorite natural remedy for fall allergies?
* * *
Lynn Keiley, “6 Natural Allergy Remedies,” Mother Earth News, August/September 2006, http://www.motherearthnews.com/Natural-Health/2006-08-01/Six-Natural-Allergy-Remedies.aspx?page=2.
Astrid Pufari, M.D., “Quercetin might help with spring allergies,” Seattle Times, March 2, 2008, http://seattletimes.com/html/health/2004247012_astrid02.html.
Rogerio AP, Kanashiro A, Fontanari C, da Silva EV, Lucisano-Valim YM, Soares EG, Faccioli LH. “Anti-inflammatory activity of quercetin and isoquercitrin in experimental murine allergic asthma.” Inflamm Res. 2007 Oct;56(10):402-8.
Dr. Manny Alvarez, “Acupuncture Pins Down Allergy Relief,” Fox News, April 3, 2007, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,263787,00.html.
Allergy: European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. September, 2004?.
American Journal of Epidemiology. November, 2008.