Allergies are your body's immune system reaction to ordinarily harmless substances that don't necessarily affect other people. Some people are allergic to pet dander, insect stings, pollen, dust mites and certain foods. More people are allergic to certain medicines and mold spores.
If you have allergies, your life can be quite miserable. You can have a persistent runny nose, itching, sneezing, rash, hives, swelling or even asthma. In most cases, allergic reactions are not deadly - unless you go into anaphylactic shock, where the immune system goes into hyperdrive in an attempt to protect the body from a benign substance.
Allergy sufferers have plenty of options when it comes to remedies. Most allergy remedies have one thing in common, and that is they block the chemical reaction that causes your symptoms. However, many common over-the-counter allergy medicines make you feel lethargic, or the opposite, completely jazzed up! Some come with unpleasant side effects that go beyond your energy levels. As an alternative to allergy drugs, there are very effective natural remedies for allergies that you can try.
Natural Remedies for Allergies
1. Herbs and Supplements
- Butterbur is a leukotriene inhibitor, blocking swelling of the nasal passages due to hay fever. Butterbur doesn't cause drowsiness, making it a good alternative for busy days when you need to avoid feeling sedated.
- Quercetin is a natural antihistamine found in fruits, vegetables and wine. It can also be taken in supplement form.
- Stinging nettle contains quercetin and, carotene and vitamin K - the leaf of the stinging nettle can be used at first sign of symptoms for mild relief (the jury is still out on its effectiveness beyond the first few hours of symptoms).
- Bromelain reduces nasal swelling and helps thin mucus, making breathing easier.
- Phleum pretense. Pollen allergies and eye irritation can be alleviated with sublingual tablets made from phleum phleum (pollen extracts).
- Tinospora cordifolia. This herbal tablet reduces nasal discharge, sneezing and itching.
- Combination allergy supplements abound. Use a blend of botanicals such as elderflower, verbena, gentian root, cowslip and sorrel, to alleviate chronic sinusitis and bronchitis.
- Others. Grape seed extract, echinacea, vitamin C, honey, skullcap, EPA, cat's claw, goldenseal and spirulina have no direct obvious benefits in treating allergy symptoms, but may help support the body in restoring balance and getting the immune system back on track viewing these substances as harmless.
Be very careful when using the above natural remedies for allergies. Just because they are natural doesn't mean they can't be toxic in improper doses: for example, bitter orange contains ephedra-like compounds - this powerful stimulant can have serious side effects. Natural allergy remedies are generally safe but they are meant to be used short-term, and can even cause other allergic reactions if the dosage is misused.
2. Non-drug Treatments
You can also manage allergies using the following methods:
- Environmental control. Regular vacuuming and dusting will go a long way in reducing the amount of allergens in your home. Brush pets often to reduce shedding (wear a mask while doing this). Cover your mattress in plastic and wash sheets and pillowcases often to prevent dust mite problems.
- Nasal irrigation. Simply flushing the nasal passages with warm saline solution can alleviate symptoms. Neti pots are easy to use and flush airborne allergens from the nose and sinuses.
- HEPA filters. High-efficiency particulate air filters trap airborne allergens; these are available for the vacuum cleaner too (to avoid the vacuum cleaner redistributing airborne allergens).
- Allergy shots or immunotherapy. This time-consuming but permanent solution may not always be successful for all allergy sufferers. It involves injecting increasingly larger doses of allergens under the skin to help the immune system get used to the substance. Desensitization works for many people, but not all.
- Protection. Face masks, long sleeves and long pants, gloves, and even goggles help keep pollen and other airborne and contact allergens from entering the body. Use these when gardening, tending to pets, vacuuming and using household cleaners (which can cause allergic reactions too).
- Acupuncture has been used successfully to treat allergies, particularly respiratory allergies like rhinitis.
3. Dietary Remedies
As one of the effective natural remedies for allergies, food can be a powerful medicine. Try the following to help with allergies:
- Quercetin (see the supplements above) is a flavonoid found in many vegetables, fruits and in wine. Whole apples, berries, red onions, grapes, black tea and capers are a few edible sources.
- Carotenoids don't necessarily treat allergies, however, they have been shown useful in preventing inflammation of the airways - simply by adding them to your diet. Sources are apricots, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, collard greens, kale, butternut squash and pumpkin.
- Omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the production of inflammatory chemicals. These fatty acids are not allergy remedies, but like carotenoids, they can help reduce risk of hay fever and other allergies. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, flaxseed oil and walnuts.
- Ban processed foods. Many people mistakenly believe they are allergic to certain foods, when in fact it is an allergy to huge quantities of preservatives and artificial flavors, colors and even to chemicals used in growing foods. Eating whole, fresh food as close to its natural state as possible will help prevent many food-related allergies.