Spring Allergies

Homeopathic Solutions for Allergies

Ah, spring. The days stretch longer, the birds start singing and the blooms begin to open.

All of this sounds great…unless you have allergies which could turn this blooming season into a blooming bummer. Some people find relief with antihistamine drugs such as Benadryl and other more potent prescription medications. However, before we dive into cures, let’s take a few seconds to explain what happens to our body that causes these reactions.  

Basically speaking, histamine is a natural chemical produced by our immune system -- when released, it increases blood flow to the affected areas. This makes the mucous membrane linings of the nose and throat swell and stimulates nearby glands to produce mucus. Symptoms that are caused by this reaction are itching, swelling, or reddening. Histamine can also cause sneezing, running nose, itchy or watery eyes and, in some people, can cause breathing difficulties.

Antihistamine medications can produce some unpleasant side effects. Common side effects include drowsiness, dry mouth, difficulty in urination, and constipation. There are newer non-drowsy antihistamine drugs that can be taken during the day. However, these medicines, like many others, have the same potential side effects.

Taking products with diphenhydramine, such as Benadryl, may increase the risk of mental impairment. Benadryl blocks the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and interrupts the normal functioning of the central and peripheral nervous systems. The more a person uses it, the more of a negative effect this will have on the nervous system. Natural and holistic treatments, such as using herbs and supplements, can help, without the side effects.


Herbs & Supplements

Luckily, there are a number of herbs and nutritional supplements that are known to have natural antihistamines properties. 
Here are a few:

Quercetin - A plant-derived flavonoid commonly taken as a nutritional supplement. Quercetin acts as a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory; it has been linked to supporting the immune system, clearing excess congestion usually associated with allergies, as well as preventing various cardiovascular problems.  It is found in certain fruits and vegetables -- particularly citrus, apples and onions, as well as herbs like parsley and sage, and liquids such as tea and red wine. Olive oil, grapes, dark cherries and dark berries -- such as blueberries, blackberries, and bilberries -- are also high in flavonoids, including quercetin.  If you decide to take quercetin as a supplement, be sure to inform your primary physician, as quercetin can possibly interact poorly with some prescription drugs.

Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) -- A study indicating that butterbur works as well as a conventional treatment for hay fever was published in the British Medical Journal in January 2002. Butterbur reduces inflammation and blocks histamines and leukotrienes, and can be effective for relieving itchy eyes, sinus congestion, sneezing, and headaches.  Butterbur also has shown to work well for migraines.  
Butterbur herb contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) that are toxic to the liver. Use only the PA-free butterbur extracts which are available at health food stores.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) -- Ginger is a natural antihistamine and is known to  break up congestion. A quick ginger tea with honey is also great for a scratchy throat. Ginger extract has long been used in traditional medical practices to reduce inflammation.

Turmeric (Curcuma Longa) –Turmeric is usually found in most kitchen cabinets as a spice, but also works great in alleviating symptoms of hay fever and other allergies. A study published in the journal of Molecular Nutrition and Food Research in 2008 found that turmeric prevented mast cells from releasing histamine.

Apple Cider Vinegar – Used to help treat countless ailments it is also included in hay fever remedies. As reported on EarthClinic: “Apple Cider Vinegar is hands-down a favorite remedy for stopping most allergies to pollen, dander, dust, animals, foods, etc…” One way to consume apple cider vinegar is to dilute 1-3 tablespoons in water and consume the drink throughout the day or over the course of a few hours.

Also highly useful in battling histamines is daily nasal irrigation with or without a neti pot. Formerly used in Indian Ayurvedic tradition, the neti pot has recently made its way to the West as a way of effectively clearing nasal passages. Saline nasal irrigation (SNI) is becoming a widely used modern means of treating allergies, colds and sinus infections.

Homeopathic Remedies

Specific homeopathic remedies which relieve symptoms associated with allergies, hay fever and such, should match the symptoms of the remedy.

Allium cepa (Red Onion) -- Used for eye irritation and burning nasal discharge. Whether due to a spring cold, hay fever or airborne irritants, it acts swiftly to relieve eye, nose and throat irritations as well as related headaches, hacking coughs and hoarseness. Those symptoms are often worse in cold damp weather and stuffy rooms, and although cold air makes their symptoms worse, people needing Allium cepa hate warm stuffy rooms.

Euphrasia  (Eyebright) – Used when tears burn watery eyes, nose runs or it gets stuffed up.

Kali bich (Potassium bichromate) – Used for sinus and allergy issues when symptoms include clogged, thick, ropey and stubborn mucus.

Pulsatilla (Wind Flower anemone) – Used for stuffy, yellow mucus, sniffles, cough and sinus pressure.

Natrum mur (Sodium chloride) – Used when experiencing dry throat irritation, profuse nasal discharge, watery eyes and post-nasal drip.

These are only a few examples of the many natural remedies that can be used for allergies, hay fever, etc.  For more information, contact Sal DiLiello, Naturopathic Doctor at Insight Wellness, 216.765.4470.

Have a Blooming Happy Spring!