By Tess Pennington
This article first appeared in ReadyNutrition.com.
Now that winter is behind us, the long-awaited season of spring brings with it rebirth, renewal – and allergies. When flowers, grasses and trees begin to set forth their blooms, our allergies show up. Congestion, sneezing and watery eyes are no way to enjoy the gifts that spring brings.
Relieve Your Allergies Naturally
For many, symptoms of allergies can be averted with a simple drive to the drugstore for over-the-counter meds. On the other side, those with more severe allergies must take a more aggressive approach to remedy their allergy symptoms.
1. Herbal Supplements and Extracts
Many herbs have been shown to have positive effects on allergy relief. Spirulina, eyebright, and goldenseal—have been studied for allergy relief and relief in sinus inflammation. Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple is sometimes used to curb inflammation after sinus surgery and could be used for allergy relief. Studies show that it reduces swelling and improves breathing, as well.
Some extracts have been shown to have a significant effect on allergy symptoms. According to WebMD, one study, published recently in the British Medical Journal, showed how just one tablet of butterbur extract (Ze 339) taken four times daily was as effective as a popular antihistamine drug in controlling symptoms of hay fever — without the traditional symptom of drowsiness that sometimes occurs.
Other extracts that show promise is nettles added to a tonic made from golden seal and added to a saline solution. This solution is used as a nasal spray and has been shown to have positive effects. ”The saline works to wash out pollen and reduce or thin mucous — the goldenseal has astringent and local antibacterial properties which can aid in this process.”
Evidence shows that local honey can have a profound effect on reducing allergies. The prevailing theory behind eating honey is similar to gradually vaccinating the body against allergens, a process called immunotherapy. Honey contains a variety of the same pollen spores that give allergy sufferers so much trouble when flowers and grasses are in bloom. Introducing these spores into the body in small amounts by eating honey should make the body accustomed to their presence and decrease the chance an immune system response like the release of histamine will occur [Source: AAFP].
3. Steam Bath
Breathing in steam is a simple way to open the airway passages and relieve the symptoms of congestion. Go a step further and add some essential oils, such as eucalyptus oil to the water to create a powerful bond between the steam and oils and helps to ease symptoms of certain ailments, especially those of the upper respiratory tract, nose and sinuses.
4. Saline Spray
Saline spray can also relieve allergy symptoms quickly. You can easily purchase pre-made saline solution at local drugstores, or make your own solution daily by mixing a teaspoon of salt in a pint of warm, distilled water and adding a pinch of baking soda. Bend over a sink and sniff a bit of solution into one nostril at a time, allowing it to drain back out through the nose or mouth; do this once or twice a day. Note: If you also have asthma, check with your doctor before trying this remedy.
5. Neti Pot
I first heard about the Neti pot over 10 years ago, and was sceptical at first. When I used it, I immediately felt relief in my nasal passages. The treatment, which involves rinsing your nasal cavity with a saline solution, and distilled warm water flushes out allergens (like pollen) and loosens mucus. Premeasured saline packs are available at local drugstores. These can also be used when you have congestion from a cold.
6. Spicy Foods
For a quick relief consider adding some spicy foods to your diet. Foods such as cayenne peppers, wasabi, spicy mustard, fresh garlic, and horseradish can help clear nasal passages and start your eyes watering very soon after they are ingested. Studies have shown that allyl thiosulfinate, an active ingredient in garlic and isothiocyanates, a similar ingredient in wasabi do appear to have a temporary decongestant effect.
7. Drink Tea
Drinking hot tea has a profound effect on allergy symptoms. Holding a steaming cup of hot tea close to the face does double duty in soothing nasal pressure, as well as helping to open the nasal passages. Drinking herbal teas containing menthol work as an expectorant and a decongestant. Similarly, studies are currently looking to the antioxidant properties found in green tea. The small amount of caffeine that green teas contain may also help you not feel drowsy. Those with severe seasonal allergies should steer clear of flower herbal teas such as chamomile until allergy symptoms lessen.
To make peppermint tea: Place 1/2 ounce dried peppermint leaves in a 1-quart jar. Fill two-thirds of the jar with boiling water. Cover and allow to steep for five minutes. For added benefit, inhale the steam. Let cool, strain, sweeten if desired, and drink.
(Note: Peppermint tea should be used with caution in children, as the menthol in peppermint may cause them to choke.)
8. Do Some Spring Cleaning
A little bit of cleaning can do wonders for removing dust and airborne irritants found in the home. Thoroughly dust the home, vacuum under furniture and thoroughly clean carpets. Your sheets could also be causing you some allergy discomfort. Therefore, regularly change your sheets (your pillowcase especially). Those with severe allergies may want to consider purchasing a vacuum that has a built-in HEPA filter or attach a filter to the exhaust port of your canister vac (uprights usually don’t have an exhaust port). Many vacuums blast small particles of dust back into the air, leaving behind plenty of allergens to keep you sneezing and wheezing.
Further, if you suffer from allergies, make a point to change out your air conditioning filters. This will help you clear allergens in the home. HEPA filters will help purify the air and are especially helpful when you have pets in the home.
9. Bathe Your Pet
Did you know that 10 to 15 percent of the population suffers from pet allergies? The allergen is a specific protein produced not in the animal’s fur, but primarily in its skin and – a lesser extent- urine and saliva. Regularly bathing your pet with natural products will help reduce you inhaling chemicals as well as reduce allergens.
10. Avoid When Necessary
Sometimes avoiding the cause of your allergy is the best way to keep those allergies at bay. For example, as much as you love the great outdoors, if you are severely allergic to grasses, you may want to steer clear of camping or hiking. Likewise, use a filtered mask when mowing the lawn.