About 20% of us suffer from hay fever or nasal allergies (rhinitis) this time of year. Why is it that our bodies respond so vehemently to seemingly harmless pollen, dust, or mold particles? Genetics, diet, and environment work together to cause our bodies to think that certain inhaled particles are intruders that should be eliminated. When this happens, the mast cells (immune response cells) in the nasal passage release histamines. Histamines are organic nitrogen molecules that act on nerve endings to initiate inflammatory responses like sneezing, itching, and mucous release. Herbs and nutrients used for natural allergy relief work by stopping one of these three mechanisms. They either prevent the mast cells from responding to inhaled particles as dangerous intruders, block histamine from activating nerve endings, or lessen the body’s inflammatory response.
I, for one, have had fairly bad symptoms of hay fever every spring for most of my life, and I don’t wish it on anybody! If you’ve had allergies so bad that you can barely function, you know what I’m talking about. I’ve tried nearly every over-the-counter allergy medicine out there, but hardly any of them work for me (most of these are anti-histamines). When I find one that does work, I usually have to take twice the recommended dose, and I don’t like doing that to my liver! In my search for natural relief, I’ve discovered a few things that work for me, such as high doses of quercetin, but everyone is different. Based on research and word of mouth, I’ve compiled a list of the most successful supplements for natural relief that are out there. You might have to try a few different ones to discover what works best for you.
Stinging Nettle: The phytochemicals in stinging nettle act on the mast cells to prevent the release of histamine. Stinging nettle also contains phytochemicals that block the histamine receptors on nerve endings. One double blind, controlled studied found that 58% of people who took two 300 mg capsules of freeze dried stinging nettle during the day found it effective at relieving allergy symptoms, and 48% found it equal to or more effective than their previous allergy medicine.
Quercetin: This flavanol is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, such as apples, onions, and berries. It’s usually attached to a sugar molecule (called a glycoside), which also gives it a higher rate of absorption. Quercetin works as both a mast cell inhibitor and an anti-inflammatory. One study found that quercetin was more effective at inhibiting mast cells than chromolyn, a common asthma treatment. Quercetin in supplemental form has a relatively low rate of absorption, so common doses range from 250-600 mg, three times daily.
Vitamin C: The role of vitamin C in providing allergy relief is often debated, but one Japanese study found that supplemental Vitamin C, compared with other anti-oxidants, was associated with fewer allergy symptoms. Another study found that a vitamin C solution sprayed into the nose three times daily greatly reduced nasal secretion. Vitamin C probably provides relief by acting as an anti-inflammatory.
Bromelain: This powerful enzyme is found in pineapples and stimulates the production of plasmin. Plasmin is an enzyme that helps provide allergy relief by opening up clogged nasal passages.
Local Honey: The research on the efficacy of local honey is limited, but it’s probably one of the more popular folk remedies out there. It seems like nearly everyone I mention anything about allergies to suggests trying local honey. I’ve tried eating local honey and it seems to work for me. There’s also at least one randomized, controlled study that indicates local honey may have scientific validity. In Japan, researchers gave birch honey to patients suffering from birch pollen allergies, and the patients who ate the honey had significantly fewer allergy symptoms than those using traditional anti-histamines. Hey, it’s honey we’re talking about here — it’s worth a try!
Do you know of any folk remedies or research on natural allergy relief that we missed? What works best for you? We’d love to read your comments below.
Originally posted 2013-04-30 22:03:31.