I am very familiar with seasonal and plenty of other types of allergy. As a child, I suffered very badly from springtime onwards with all the usual symptoms including rough, itchy or watering eyes, constant bouts of sneezing and congestion.
Spot testing found that I was extremely allergic to everything from house dust to rabbits to human hair of all things. Funny enough, I was allergic to cats but not to dogs so we had to say farewell to Lucy the cat while the dogs remained as part of the family.
Back in those days, there was little awareness of natural treatments for allergies and I was largely treated with antihistamine medications before finally being cured with a series of injections known as allergen immunotherapy over the course of a year or so.
Pharmaceutical antihistamines are well-known to have an extensive list of undesirable side effects. They make you very tired and as a child they had a detrimental effect on my ability to focus at school and to my work at night.
People taking antihistamine medication are advised not to drive not operate machinery which can affect their day to day lives and also their ability to work effectively and safely.
Fortunately, there is growing evidence that you can keep your allergic reactions in check naturally and with far fewer of the after effects so familiar to those who rely on over the counter medications.
How Antihistamines Work
Allergic reactions are effectively your body’s immune response to a substance which is otherwise harmless. When a substance like pollen, pet dander or dust makes contact with your mucus membranes whether in the nose, throat, mouth or lungs an immune response occurs which causes histamine to be released.
Histamine is actually a protein and its release into your system is responsible for the many familiar allergic symptoms that you are so desperate to be free of.
Antihistamines, as the name implies, inhibit the production of histamines and prevent allergic reaction from happening.
If you suffer from allergies, then no doubt you have tried various antihistamine medications and you may well have also suffered from their side effects.
Fortunately there are alternatives to be found in nature and various foods and herbs may be an effective and much safer option. Let’s take a look at some of the best-known natural antihistamines.
Quercetin is a plant flavonoid and natural antioxidant found in a number of foods including apples, onions, citrus fruit, red wine and berries. Several animal studies have showed that quercetin was an effective treatment for allergies because of its ability to reduce the respiratory effects of histamine.
A study published in 2007 demonstrated that quercetin reduced inflammation in the airways of rats with researchers concluding that it was a potential natural treatment for allergies. (1)
Quercetin is widely available in supplementary form but you could also try adding foods rich in quercetin to your daily diet. The recommended dose of quercetin for allergic rhinitis is between 250 mg and 600 mg three times each day before meals and may be more effective when taking bromelain at the same time.
2. Stinging Nettle
Stinging nettle is a commonly used herb which is often drunk in the form of a soothing, healthy tea. Studies have revealed that it may actually be an effective treatment against allergies.
One commonly cited study with 60 participants found that 58% of those who were treated with stinging nettles at a dose of 300 mg a day experienced a significant reduction in their allergic symptoms with 48% rating it effective when compared to their prescription medications. (2)
3. Vitamin C
Studies have found that Vitamin C can exert a variety of inhibitory effects on histamine. It seems to block the secretion of histamines by the body’s white blood cells and also to improve its detoxification. One study that treated participants with a vitamin C nasal spray 3 times a day found that 74% experienced an improvement in allergic symptoms including congestion and edema. (3)
Vitamin C is a great option to deal with your allergies because it is non-toxic and free of any unwanted side effects. Of course, you can get increase the amount of dietary vitamin C in your diet but supplements are also freely available. Studies suggest taking at least 2 grams each day for allergic rhinitis.
Believe it or not, salt might be a surprising addition to your allergy prevention arsenal. There are no studies to back this up but plenty of anecdotal evidence is available to suggest that it is very effective.
- Proponents suggest placing a little unprocessed salt onto your tongue and letting it absorb.
- Another option is to place a little on your hand or arm and licking it off. It is certainly worth a try and in small enough doses is unlikely to do you any harm.
Bromelain is a naturally occurring enzyme which is present in high levels pineapples. Studies have revealed that bromelain may be an effective natural antihistamine because it can treat respiratory problems and other allergic symptoms.
It does this by blocking the agents responsible for inflammation. While it is present in the pineapple fruit, it can be bought in higher concentrations in supplementary form. Experts recommend taking 400 or 500 mgs three times daily for best effect. When combined with quercetin, it may be even more effective.
Butterbur is an herb which grows commonly throughout Europe, North America and Asia. Studies have demonstrated that as well as being effective against migraines, it is an extremely effective natural antihistamine.
A British study published in the BMJ in 2002 which recruited 125 patients found that after two weeks of treatment with butterbur it was just as effective as Zyrtec-a commonly prescribed antihistamine medication.
There are however some safety concerns regarding butterbur and it is important that you purchase butterbur certified to be free of PA or pyrrolizidine alkaloids which are known to cause liver damage.
Spirulina is a little known natural remedy for allergic rhinitis. It is actually a bluish green type of algae which preliminary studies suggest can exert an antihistamine effect. Spirulina inhibits the release of the histamine responsible for the familiar allergic symptoms.
It should be noted however that research conducted to date has only been done in vitro and on animals and there is no guarantee that it would have the same effect on humans.
Astragalus is an herb which belongs to the legume family which preliminary studies have shown may reduce allergic response. A study published in 2010 which used a formula containing 40% polysaccharides found that astragalus reduced familiar symptoms of allergic rhinitis including sneezing, itching and runny nose. (5)
9. Essential Oils
Several essential oils may also be effective in relieving the symptoms of your allergies. We have published a detailed article about the best essential oils for allergy relief here but if you can’t wait to find out, some of the very best essential oils to relieve your allergies include:
- Tea tree
Natural Antihistamines for Children
It can be very distressing to see your child suffering from allergies but there are several natural remedies that you can try without fear of side effects. Of course, it is always wise to speak to your doctor before trying to treat your child with any natural remedy but nettle tea is considered to be safe as is vitamin C and several of the more gentle essential oils such as lavender and clary sage.
If you are one of the tens of millions of people who are affected by allergies, the there are plenty of natural remedies that you can try as well as the common lifestyle changes like avoiding the allergens in the first place. Please let us know if you have tried these or any other remedies and also how they worked out for you.