No More Wheezing and Sneezing
Six Natural Methods to Treating Seasonal Allergies
After a long cold winter, nothing raises the spirits of Canadians more than the arrival of spring. For many, however, this joy is short-lived due to the misery seasonal allergies bring with each spring. When nature comes out of its hibernation trees, grasses and flowers start to flourish and allergy sufferers usually retreat indoors.
When people with seasonal allergies inhale plant pollens, their bodies release a neuro-transmitter, histamine. This triggers allergic rhinitis (hay-fever) and the sneezes, runny nose and itchy eyes that accompany it. Hay fever symptoms tend to be worse on dry, warm, windy days, when the amount of pollen in the air is at its highest levels.
There are numerous over the counter and prescription medications for the treatment of hay-fever You will no doubt be inundated by advertising for these products in every medium possible. These products are effective (for most) but not without risks. The most common products are antihistamines and steroids. The antihistamine products’ side effects include dizziness, insomnia, nightmares, headaches, dry mouth and nose. The steroid-based products’ side effects include weight gain, water retention, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and diabetes. Many people are unwilling to take these risks and are searching for a gentler natural solution. Remember to talk to a qualified health professional before treating (pharmaceutical or natural) to ensure the treatment is appropriate for your specific condition.
Any health care professional will start by telling you that where possible and within reason, try to practice allergen avoidance. It is the easiest, least expensive option that ultimately has no negative drug side effects. It's not possible to completely avoid allergens, but every little reduction equates to fewer symptoms requiring treatment. It helps to know exactly what you're allergic to (as specific as possible) so that you can avoid your specific triggers. Simple steps include closing doors and windows during pollen season and on pollen alert days (check http://www.theweathernetwork.com/pollenfx/canpollen_en/), avoiding hanging laundry outside (pollen sticks to clothes), using allergy rated filters in your home and car ventilation systems, and avoiding heading outside in the early morning when pollen counts are highest.
If you are exposed to allergens, try to wash your face (or shower) when indoors to remove the allergens from your sensitive areas (eyes, nose and mouth).
The herb Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is a herb that has gained a lot of interest in the medical arena for allergy treatment and prevention. In multiple studies it was found to be effective. In one particular large study it was found to be as effective as cetirizine (pharmaceutical drug to prevent allergy symptoms) without the many side effects of cetirizine.
Quercetin is a flavanoid anti-inflammatory antioxidant often taken with vitamin C and found naturally in select foods. Although it is not heavily researched in this area, initial findings show that quercetin can help prevent the release of the inflammatory chemical histamine, which causes allergy symptoms such as sneezing and itching. The plus side to quercetin is the additional health benefits it brings to your body as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, both good things.
The bane of campers everywhere, Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) may be a helpful aid to allergy sufferers. Multiple studies show nettle may help manage allergy symptoms including sneezing, nasal congestion, and itching. Scientists believe nettle's action is from its ability to reduce the inflammation that contributes to allergy symptoms.
Super Strength Oregano and Sterols:
Blend of oil of oregano and natural plant phytosterols. Together they act as a potent overall immune tonic to balance and strengthen your immune system, reducing allergic reactions.
Many people swear by green supplements to help them get through allergy season. Although no clinical trials have been done for allergies, the main component of “greens”, chlorophyll, is a known bronchial dilator (opens up airways making it easier to breathe). This action should help to some extent with allergies. When choosing greens be careful to choose concentrated products (I use liquid concentrates) with few ingredients to avoid the risk of ingesting an allergen from the greens themselves.
Non-invasive, gentle option for elimination of allergies and allergy-related conditions.
As always, common sense should rule your seasonal allergy prevention and treatment guidelines. Talk to your health professional and once you know what specific allergens you are up against, try first to avoid your triggers. If the avoidance strategy is not possible then try simple supplementation (butterbur, quercetin, nettle, oregano and sterols). It would be a shame to stay inside all season. Celebrate spring and summer and all they have to offer by helping your body react properly.
Joel Thuna, MH, is a master herbalist with over 30 years of experience. Dr. Claude Gallant holds a PhD in Microbiology.