The Natural Medicine Cabinet: Allergy Remedies
It seems like you have to choose when you have allergies. Do you want to feel foggy from the allergy, or groggy from the meds? Would you prefer dry, itchy eyes from pollen or cotton mouth from your decongestant?
Allergy season is upon us, and this year it has been brutal. In my corner of the world, cars and homes are yellow with pollen, and the air quality has never been lower because of it. However, there are many natural remedies to help assuage the symptoms.
It’s a bit late this season to begin taking local honey as a preventative, as one needs to begin 4 to 6 weeks before the start of allergy season. To use it as a preventative, you’ll need a source for local honey. We have a horse farmer close by, who is also a beekeeper, and their honey is delicious. It’s also significantly cheaper than those little plastic bears at the grocery store!
Another great place to find local honey is at your farmer’s market. I confess that I stay away from this stand at mine because they keep live bees in a small enclosure (like an ant farm) and the sight and sound of it makes me itch. The prices are great though, and they also sell honey soaps and treats. Good stuff!
Local bees collect local allergens as they pollinate flowers, and this makes its way into the honey. Taking around a tablespoon of local honey per day teaches the immune system not to freak out when it encounters the same pollen in another way (i.e., in the air).
As a reminder, never give honey to children under one year of age because of the possibility of botulism. I would recommend only using honey as a preventative allergy regimen for children six and older, just to be on the safe side (younger children don’t need that much refined sugar).
This herb probably has the best track record with the science community. It’s a leukotriene inhibitor (like Singulair), which means that it blocks some chemicals that cause swelling in the nasal and bronchial passages.
The great news is that it doesn’t cause drowsiness like other allergy medicines, so driving isn’t a problem. Some people report that butterbur helps with migraines, which is how I was initially introduced to it. While it hasn’t helped me in that regard, this herb seems to work well for my allergies.
As with most natural remedies, it takes some time for butterbur to get into your system and start working. Be sure to give it at least a month before you decide if it’s not for you!
This antioxidant may help with joint function, but we’re interested in its histamine-blocking properties. It tends to work better as a preventative rather than a treatment in the people I know who use it. Because butterbur works well for me, I’ve not tried this particular product, but friends of mine swear by it.
Many of the tablets and capsules you can buy are formulated with either bromelain and/or vitamin C. These products are said to synergize beautifully to aid absorption and therefore work more effectively on your allergies.
Again, take quercetin two to three weeks to see the best results.
If you have hay fever, I totally feel for you. I honestly think it’s the worst allergy, because there’s absolutely no way to avoid it. Many people report that alfalfa helps soothe the runny nose, itching and sneezing associated with hay fever. It also helps calm those inflamed mucus membranes.
Alfalfa is also great for the immune system, so you can take it year-round instead of just during hay fever season.
It should be noted that some people are allergic to alfalfa itself (as it is a grass). If you find that your symptoms get worse rather than better, stop taking alfalfa and try another remedy.
I talked about my love for the Neti Pot in the first post of this series, but it bears repeating. When you’re congested and cannot breathe, the Neti Pot is like a golden ray of light shining upon you. You might want to hug it. Then you’ll realize that it’s been up your nose, and refrain — but only just.
If you’ve been taking decongestants and are trying to wean, you’re likely somewhat dehydrated. Warm saline solution will soothe nasal passages and clear them of excess mucus, so it’s definitely a first resort to getting rid of that sinus pain and pressure. Often, the Neti Pot can head off a sinus headache.
Eucalyptus essential oil is one of the best remedies for allergies. I’m sure we all remember getting Vicks Vapor Rub smeared on our chests when we had colds as children, and eucalyptus oil is one of the main ingredients in that product.
Thankfully, you don’t have to get all goopy to experience the relief. You can take lozenges to help reduce coughing or add a few drops of oil to a warm bath. If you prefer not to have it on your skin, you can place a couple of drops on a cotton ball and keep it near your face for fifteen minutes at a time.
You may also use it on the well of a warm mist vaporizer, just be sure to use only a drop or two. Be careful if you use this near infants, as experts generally recommend cool mist humidifiers these days.
Not every allergy remedy works because it directly impacts allergies. In fact, several remedies are effective simply because they boost immune function as a whole.
Vitamin C increases the production of white blood cells which fight infection. It also increases the level of interferon, which prevents the entry of viruses by coating the surface of cells.
Vitamin E supports the production of killer T cells, which roam the body searching for germs. More killer cells means more immunity and less illness.
Grapefruit seed extract (GSE) is one of my favorite things. Among other uses, it’s great as a nasal wash, and it really helps to clear up sinus infections.
Dilute 3 drops of GSE into 8 oz of lukewarm water. Use a medicine dropper to release 3 drops into each nostril with head tilted back. Wait one minute, then shake head gently and blow nose.
CoQ10 is an antioxidant that boosts the immune system. It has the added benefit of reducing inflammation, which is fantastic for those puffy eyes and swollen nasal passages.
Hopefully, one or more of these remedies will help you discover some allergy or sinus relief.