If you’re one of the millions who suffer from the sniffling, sneezing, and itchy eyes associated with allergies, you know the struggles with pollen and ragweed aren’t just uncomfortable; they bring along some serious physical and mental fatigue. But it’s possible to feel better with natural treatments.
Here’s what’s happening during an allergy attack: pollen granules latch onto the mucous membranes that line nasal passages, stimulating their immune cells, which are loaded with histamines. These cells then rid themselves of those histamines, triggering a series of inflammatory reactions intended to help the body get rid of the intruder—sneezing, runny nose, and itching.
“Allergy” refers to any condition in which the body mounts an attack on a specific substance that is benign for some, such as pollen. It’s a normal immune response gone into overdrive—well-intended, but too extreme. We can interrupt the process at many steps, so there are many natural remedies that can play a role in mitigating the misery and help you breathe easier.
1. Stinging Nettle
For the past 20 years, natural medicine practitioners have recommended stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), or nettle leaf, for allergy symptoms. Research points to the anti-inflammatory properties of nettle, and studies show that nettle produces an antiallergy effect. Nettle’s benefits are likely due to its active constituents, which include bioflavonoids and polysaccharides. To retain these constituents, nettle leaf must be processed carefully, so look for a high-quality encapsulated product that has been freeze-dried or specially processed to retain the active compounds.
Use nettle the way you would use an antihistamine drug to terminate an acute attack. Many people take up to 3,000 mg per day of nettle leaf capsules to relieve hay fever reactions. Symptoms often begin to improve within 15 minutes, and the effect typically lasts for about four hours.
(Petasites hybridus) is used in cases of acute pain of smooth muscle, such as in the urinary and respiratory tracts. This quality also makes it useful for respiratory disorders involving cough and asthma.
Scientists report that seasonal allergy sufferers who received an extract of butterbur experienced symptom relief equivalent to patients treated with the prescription antihistamine Zyrtec (cetirizine). Patients were treated with either butterbur or cetirizine for two weeks. The patients described similar symptom relief with both treatments.
Butterbur root supplements are commonly standardized to contain a minimum of 7.5 mg of petasin and isopetasin per tablet. Take 50–100 mg twice daily with meals.
3. Pycnogenol For Seasonal Allergies
Most people reach for traditional antihistamines for their allergies, but these often present unwanted side effects, like drowsiness. Pycnogenol, French maritime pine bark extract, has decades of research showing its efficacy for reducing allergy symptoms without side effects. Allergens can cause an inflammatory response that leads to symptoms like swelling and itching. Pycnogenol acts as a natural anti-inflammatory to reduce these symptoms. Try taking 100 to 200 mg of Pycnogenol daily a few weeks before fall allergy season starts to see the best results.
Meet the Expert: Fred Pescatore, MD, is a Manhattan-based traditionally trained physician and internist who specializes in nutritional medicine. He is a globally renowned natural health expert and author of The Allergy and Asthma Cure.
4. Sinus Soothers
Combat fall allergies with a nasal spray containing xylitol. Recent research found that patients had better results using natural products. In three weeks patients showed a 36 percent improvement in their peak airflow and a 25 percent reduction in their SNOT score—the measurement of a persons comfort level when they have allergies. The lower the score the better. Xlear Nasal Wash gently cleans and soothes sinuses and nasal passages, promoting sinus health.
Meet the Expert: Dr. Alonzo H. Jones, D.O., was trying to find a solution for patients coming to him for upper-respiratory issues. Research pointed to the benefits of xylitol for improving oral health and its effects on bacteria. Based on this, Xlear formulation began and clinical studies followed with the product introduced to the market in June of 2000.