ACHOO! Oh man, I feel ya. Almost nothing is more miserable than a seasonal allergy attack. I usually feel it during fall, but I know many of you get spring allergies, as well. Congestion, sneezing, itchy eyes and nose, runny nose and watery eyes are all symptoms of seasonal allergies. Without treating those symptoms, forget about wearing contacts, mowing the lawn, going to the park or sitting quietly waiting for that spring gobbler.
Over 35 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies or hay fever. Doctors and other like-minded folks call allergies, allergic rhinitis. Pollen-producing trees, grasses, plants and weeds cause seasonal allergies from early spring all the way through fall. Trees, plants, weeds and grasses release teeny tiny particles in pollen—their way of making new weeds, grasses, plants and trees—into the air. This pollen spreads through the air by the wind and can travel up to 100 miles away from its originating source. When we breathe in this seemingly harmless pollen, or allergen, our bodies think it is a threat. In turn, our immune system produces immunoglobulin E to attack the perceived threat by producing histamines. The histamine causes the symptoms of hay fever. Many people are also allergic to animal dander, dust and mold. Many choose to treat allergy symptoms with prescriptions or over the counter antihistamines and nasal decongestants, while some with severe cases consider allergy shots. You can control and alleviate symptoms by avoiding exposure and treating allergies with home and natural remedies.
I know it’s beautiful outside and after being cooped up for too long, we are all itching (har har) to get outside. However, the outdoors is where we breathe in pollen and it settles on our clothing. If you suffer horribly, restrict your time outside, especially on dry windy days when pollen counts are high. If you must get out, wear a mask when doing yard work. Reserve your all-day activities until the day after it rains. Keep doors and windows closed at night when pollen counts are high. Pollen counts are high during the early mornings as well, so postpone outside activities until later in the day. 10am to 4pm is when pollen counts are generally highest. Restrict outdoor activities during those times. Before the end of winter, spring clean your entire house with a bleach solution. Wrap pillows and mattresses in hypoallergenic covers. If you are one to take antihistamines, take one 30 minutes before heading outdoors.
Allergens stick to fabrics. After spending time outdoors, change before you sit on the couch or lay down in the bed. Make sure to wash your clothing after you have been outside. Further, wash your linens at least once a week in hot water. Designate a pair of shoes to be your “outside shoes,” or “yard work” shoes and leave them outside when you are done.
Taking a hot shower after you have been outside will not only help clear up your nose with the steam, but will wash off the pollen. Shampooing your hair right before bed will help, too.
Though it would be impossible to completely eliminate allergens from inside your home, add HEPA filters to your AC unit and furnace. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter as well. HEPA filters work better at removing fine airborne particles than regular filters.
If you regularly get seasonal allergies, start treating symptoms now even if you have not experienced them yet. Because I get mid-autumn allergies, my doctor always advises me to start taking my preferred allergy medicine at the end of August.
Though many home remedies, herbs and supplements have no “true” scientific proof of working, many studies have shown that the following homeopathic treatments help alleviate symptoms.
Fill a bowl with hot water and add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil into the water. Cover your head with a cloth or towel and breathe in the steam for about 10 minutes. You can also drop eucalyptus oil at the bottom of your shower. Do not eat or put eucalyptus oil directly on skin.
Eat a spoonful or two a day of local, unprocessed honey. Anecdotal research and studies theorize that eating honey, or adding it to your tea works much like a vaccine, because the localized honey contains small amounts of the allergens and your body slowly gets used to having the allergen and builds up a tolerance.
Herbs and Supplements
Spirulina is made from cyanobacteria—a blue-green algae—and contains vitamins B-complex, beta-carotene, Vitamin E and high levels of protein and Vitamin K. You can find spirulina supplements in a pill or powder form.
Containing anti-inflammatory tannins, flavonoids and iridoid glycosides, eyebright is a plant used in medicines usually to treat pink eye. It can help alleviate a runny nose and itchy eyes due to allergies. Eyebright comes in capsule form, as a liquid extract or tea.
Also found in capsules, liquid extract or teas, goldenseal treats a wide variety of aliments, including allergies. It contains the chemical berberine that possibly fights off bacteria. The dried roots of the herb, goldenseal is used in medicines to treat not only allergies, but also digestive issues, UTIs, upper respiratory infections and is topically applied to rashes, ulcers, wounds, cure itching, blisters, and ringworm, and used as a mouthwash.
Bromelian is an enzyme found in pineapple juice and pineapple stems. Quite possibly, it fights pain and is an anti-inflammatory. When used in combination with Phlogenzym, bromelian medically treats osteoarthritis.
Freeze-dried Stinging Nettle
Used for years, stinging nettle is a plant that treats pain, hay fever, urinary issues, insect bites and many more aliments. It is suggested to take stinging nettle in the form of freeze-dried leafs in pill or tablet form. Studies have shown it reduces sneezing and itchiness. Experts think stinging nettle may reduce the amount of histamine your body produces when reacting to an allergen.
The herb, butterbur derives from the daisy family of plants and Europeans have used it for centuries to treat cough, congestion and asthma. In a study done in the early 2000s, the British Medical Journal found butterbur to be just as effective as Zyrtec—a common allergy medication. Butterbur contains petasines, which stop our body’s leukotrienes. Leukotrienes cause the inflammation symptoms related to allergies.
Flavonoids and Other Antioxidants
People taking supplements containing flavonoids and other antioxidants report alleviated and virtually no symptoms of allergies—in particular, quercetin. Quercetin is found in onions, red wine, green tea, apples, cherries and blueberries—among other fruits and vegetables. Foods high in Vitamin C or Vitamin C supplements might also help those who suffer from allergies.
Saline solution, Nasal Spray and Neti Pot
Both saline solution in the form of a nasal spray and neti pots are used as nasal irrigations and may help clear sinuses. The use of neti pots and saline solutions are safe. .
Before taking ANY course of action to treat allergies, please consult with your physician—especially when taking herbs and dietary supplements.
How do you treat seasonal allergies? Share your home remedies with us in the comment section.
To learn more about using plants for medicinal purposes, please read, “Survival Use of Plants”