By Kate Wharmby Seldman
If you find yourself sneezing, sniffling, wiping your eyes and itching during pollen-heavy times of the year, you’ve probably tried anti-allergy pills and nasal sprays. For some, these traditional medical treatments work well. Others find that they relieve some symptoms, but not all: the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recently reported that almost a third of allergy patients think their medications aren’t effective. Even if they do work for you, they may have unpleasant side effects like sedation.
For those who want to try natural allergy remedies, there are plenty from which to choose. Here are 5 alternative treatments for seasonal allergies.
1. Flush out your sinuses with a Neti pot. It’s a small teapot-shaped device that originated in India. You fill it with saltwater, pour it into one nostril, and let it run out the other nostril. Then you switch sides and repeat the process. It can rinse away irritants inside the nose, and help clear congestion. A recent study published in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology indicated that nasal flushing helped treat children’s seasonal allergies in children.
2. Take quercetin supplements. Quercetin is an antioxidant bioflavonoid that’s found in citrus fruit, apples, broccoli, tomatoes, parsley, onions, tea and wine, among other fruits and vegetables. It’s possible to get a good amount of quercetin from these foods, but supplements will help you build up a large amount of the substance in your body quickly, so it can get to work fighting allergies. Try 1,000 milligrams daily, and begin treatment roughly six weeks before allergies usually kick in, so that you can begin building your stores before you’ll need them. You can also look for supplements that combine quercetin, grape seed extract, and vitamin C, for extra allergy-fighting power. Don’t take quercetin if you’re pregnant, nursing, or have liver disease.
3. Consume stinging nettles. No, not raw (ouch): take capsules of freeze-dried nettle, use a tincture, or drink tea. Stinging nettle inhibits your body’s production of histamine, which in turn stops your sniffling, sneezing reaction to allergens. 300 milligrams of stinging nettle in capsules is the recommended dose, according to medical research; if you’re using a tincture, take 2 to 4 milligrams three times daily. The downside: the effects of stinging nettle on allergies seem to wear off faster than traditional antihistamine medication.
4. Take butterbur. It’s a European plant that Swiss scientists found to be as effective as the antihistamine cetirizine – the active ingredient in common allergy medicine Zyrtec. In the Swiss study, which was published in the British Journal of Medicine, patients took four doses of butterbur daily, totaling 32 milligrams. The doctors performing the study reported that cetirizine caused drowsiness, even though it is supposed to be a non-sedative substance. Butterbur didn’t make patients drowsy. did not.
Those who are allergic to ragweed, marigold, daisy, or chrysanthemum shouldn’t use butterbur – it’s in the same plant family, so it might make allergies worse. Everyone should avoid butterbur preparations made from the raw herb, because they contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, substances that can harm your liver and kidneys, and may also be carcinogenic.
5. Drink angelica tea. This herb can help quell seasonal allergies because it blocks the body from producing IgE, an antibody that’s made when your body reacts to an allergenic substance. Add half a teaspoon of angelica to one cup of water to make tea.
For maximum relief, begin taking a natural allergy remedy three weeks before allergy season usually starts. It’s important not to combine these treatments with traditional allergy medicines: you could make yourself ill by overdosing on antihistamines. It’s also wise to consult with an allergist before beginning to take an alternative allergy treatment, especially if your allergies are severe.
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