Spring is in the air, the flowers are blooming, and the tree pollen is falling. For people who suffer from allergies, spring represents a time of prolific mucus secretion, sneezing, itchy eyes, nasal congestion and a scratchy and sore throat. During allergy season many will reach for over the counter allergy medications like Claritin, Zyrtec or Benadryl, which can be effective in relieving allergy symptoms, but may also have adverse side effects. As a Naturopathic Physician, I use botanical medicine and nutraceuticals that help support the immune system, lessen symptoms, have fewer adverse side effects and will bring overall tonifying effects to the entire body. I recommend starting botanical treatment for allergies 6-8 weeks before allergy season begins and continuing treatment throughout the season. Here are a few of the top botanical and nutraceutical therapies for allergies.
Uritica diocia (Nettle Leaf): Nettle leaf is one of the most widely used herbal remedies for allergies. The freeze-dried leaf has been shown to have increased efficacy for anti-histamine activity and decrease seasonal allergy symptoms. A preliminary study showed that freeze dried nettle leaf reduced symptoms in people suffering from hay fever. This plant grows in Louisiana and is usually considered an invasive weed. Be careful if you try to harvest it yourself — this plant has little stinging hairs that contain irritating chemicals, which are released when the plant comes in contact with skin.
Zingiberaceae: Two plants in the zingiberaceae family that are used in seasonal allergy treatment are Zingiber (Ginger) and Curcuma longa (Tumeric). Ginger and turmeric are both anti-inflammatory and antioxidants. Tumeric has been shown to relax bronchospasms due to its effect on calcium channels in the body, and stabilize mast cells. Ginger has been shown to prevent pulmonary inflammation that can occur in allergies, as well as thin and move mucus out of the sinus cavities and airways.
Quercetin: Quercetin naturally occurs in green leafy vegetables and berries. It is a great antioxidant that exerts anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Quercetin stabilizes the release of histamine from mast cells thereby decreasing allergy symptoms. Quercetin has been shown to be as effective at managing allergy symptoms as some medications.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an important natural antihistamine; it prevents the release of histamine from white blood cells and increases the detoxification of histamine. Vitamin C helps reduce histamine production and works well with quercetin.
Probiotics: There are specific probiotics that when combined in the gastrointestinal flora with Quercetin and other flavonoids have a harmonious antiallergy effect. Specifically, Bifidobacterium lactis, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Lactobacillus plantarum. These probiotic strains are used specifically for allergic rhinitis. They work by inhibiting IgE production and they also stabilize mast cells which prevents the release of histamine. When combined with the flavonoid quercetin, quercetin serves as the prebiotic and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Neti pot: A Neti Pot is used to clean the nasal passages and ensure free airflow through both nostrils. It is part of the treatment protocol for nasal congestion, allergies, sinus infections, colds, and many other ailments. The dust, dirt, pollen, and smoke that gets trapped by the nasal mucosa can easily be washed away by this simple procedure.
CAUTION! I recommend only using use distilled or sterile water for nasal irrigation. Using tap water is not safe since it is not filtered properly and may contain harmful bacteria, amoebas, and protozoa.
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Mittman P. Randomized, double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica dioica in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Planta Med. 1990;56(1):44-47.
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Ahui ML et al: Ginger prevents Th2-mediated immune responses in a mouse model of airway inflammation, Int Immunopharmacol Dec 10;8(12):1626-32, 2008.
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By Susan Slater – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46457058
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