Natural Remedies for Allergies
The pharmaceutical market offers a lot of various medications for the treatment of allergy. However, there are many reasons why you may not want to take allergy drugs: you may be worried about their potential side effects or you may be tired of using nose sprays all the time. Can you replace allergy medicines with natural supplements in order to avoid the side effect?
Experts conclude that although medicines work better for allergies, some natural supplements can also be helpful, though finding a good one can be quite a challenge. According to specialists, some people with allergies are able to control their symptoms using only natural remedies. There are also many of those who take natural supplements as complements to other medicines. In fact, statistics shows that around 50 percent of all people affected by allergies use natural allergy treatment.
However, you need to be careful with natural remedies, as some of them may actually cause an allergic reaction in your body and make your condition worse.
What Are the Natural Treatments for Allergy?
An allergic reaction occurring in your body can be determined as your immune system’s overreaction to substances (allergens) that are normally harmless. Those could be pollen, pet dander, dust mites, mold, certain foods etc. Allergy medications work by blocking the release of specific chemicals that cause the annoying symptoms. Some natural supplements are also capable of preventing the chemical reactions resulting in allergies.
Herbal supplements for allergy are usually available in the forms of capsules, tablets, or liquids, and you can find most of them in drugstores or in health sections in food stores. If you cannot find the supplement you want, you may look for a local alternative medicine specialist like an herbalist or a naturopathic physician, or try searching on the Internet.
Below, we will mention the most common allergy supplements available on the market today.
Experts tend to compare this supplement with a well-known allergy medication Singulair due to its evidenced effects on allergy symptoms. This herb acts as a leukotriene inhibitor that interferes with the chemicals triggering swelling in the nasal passages.
There is a research showing that an extract of butterbur root (Ze 339) can compete with such antihistamines as Zyrtec and Allegra in its effectiveness at relieving nasal symptoms. The advantage of this natural alternative to antihistamines is that it does not their common side effects like sleepiness or tiredness. Specialists recommend butterbur as a good alternative for people who need to be awake and concentrated.
Eating unprocessed butterbur root is dangerous for your health. You should look for UPA-free labelled brands of butterbur supplements. They may also contain certain amount of petasin, which is the beneficial compound. However, this is only recommended for short-term use. There is no research yet on whether using butterbur supplements for a long time is effective or safe for your health.
This substance is found in wine and many different fruits and vegetables. It works like mas cell stabilizers by blocking the release of the chemical histamine, responsible for the allergy-associated inflammation. Experts call quercetin “an herbal equivalent to cromolyn sodium” – an ingredient contained in the NasalCrom sprays.
Some scientists believe that quercetin is an effective and well tolerated alternative remedy for allergy. However, the effects that quercetin may have on people is not well researched yet. Besides, it is not clear whether enough of the substance is absorbed during digestion to provide a noticeable effect.
The extract of this plant is quite commonly used for treating allergies. Its ingredients include carotene, vitamin K and quercetin. According to one research, using the extracts of stinging nettle leaf can help with allergic symptoms, whereas using the stinging nettle root may be used in the treatment of prostate issues. However, the evidence on the plant’s effectiveness as an allergy treatment is not sufficient yet.
Based on several studies, bromelain help people with allergies breathe easier by reducing swelling in the nasal passages and thinning mucus. Moreover, combined with medical treatment, bromelain may be helpful for sinus infections.
There are a few studies showing that sublingual pills containing Phleum pratense pollen extracts can help to alleviate some pollen allergy symptoms in people who have asthma or hay fever. Besides, you can combine it with your regular allergy medicines in order to reduce their dosage.
Tinospora cordifolia is an Indian herbal supplement that is considered to be effective at reducing some allergic symptoms like itching, sneezing and nasal discharge. Speaking about its safety for long-term use, there is an 8-week research study that shows that the supplement is safe. However, this evidence is not reliable enough to make any defined conclusions.
Mixed allergy supplements.
A lot of natural supplements for allergy contain various botanicals. For instance, a supplement called Sinupret that contains European elderflower, verbena, sorrel, gentian root and cowslip, is considered as an effective and well tolerated supplement, which is especially helpful for conditions like chronic sinusitis sometimes resulting from allergies. This remedy has been used in Europe for years and it has been proved to reduce some symptoms of acute sinusitis, as well as bronchitis.
Other natural supplements.
There are many other popular allergy supplements, such as echinacea, pine bark extract, grape seed extract, vitamin C, EPA, albizzia, baical skullcup, cat’s claw, goldenseal, spirulina, and honey. However, specialists doubt the effectiveness of these remedies for allergies, since there is not enough evidence of their helpfulness. Although they are might be beneficial for other health conditions, the treatment of allergies requires other solutions.
Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium), which is sometimes sold as a decongestant, is something you should be especially careful with, as it may lead to serious adverse reactions. It contains compounds like those in ephedra, which may cause an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart issues and stroke.
When it comes to skin or food allergies, specialists are still not sure whether there are natural allergy supplements that are effective against these types of allergies. It is worth mentioning though that there is a study showing some beneficial effects of probiotics on people with food allergies, but the research is still at the preliminary stage.
How Safe Are Natural Allergy Supplements?
If you want to start using natural allergy remedies, there are several aspects you should take into account.
Possible risks and interactions.
Usually, commonly used allergy supplements are harmless for your health, but you should always discuss any medication or supplement with your doctor before taking it. Sometimes, allergy supplements may cause unwanted side effects in people with certain medical conditions, children and teenagers under 18 years of age, pregnant or breastfeeding women, or those whose use other daily medicines.
Remember to always follow the instructions of your doctor or pharmacists, and read the information provided on the label.
Safety of long-term treatment.
If you are taking a supplement or a drug for a long period, there is an increased risk of toxicity and harm. Researchers do not have a clear opinion of the safety of natural allergy remedies in terms of extended use. Check with you doctor before trying any long-term treatment.
Possible allergic reactions to supplements.
Many popular allergy supplements may not be suitable for people suffering from ragweed allergy. Such plants as butterbur, echinacea, and some others are related to ragweed, which means that a dose of supplements containing these plants may theoretically cause an allergic reaction. Specialists say that there are many people who have reported worsening of their ragweed allergies after allergy supplements.
How to Use Natural Allergy Remedies?
When dealing with allergic symptoms, expert recommend focusing on prevention. You should start your allergy treatment before the symptoms occur, or it may be too late. It is always hard to stop an allergic reaction when it has already started, even with medications.
Thus, you may want to start taking allergy medications or supplements several weeks prior to the ragweed season or pollen, which may even help to prevent the allergic reaction at all.
Some people affected by allergies manage to control their allergy symptoms using natural remedies alone, while others need more serious medications. But even if you are using some regular allergy medicines, taking a supplement could be beneficial as well, since you can decrease the dose of the prescription medications, and therefore, decrease their potential side effects.
What Other Alternative Allergy Treatment Methods Are There?
Apart from supplements, alternative treatment of allergies involves a lot of other methods, which will be discussed below.
Control of the environment.
Allergy-proofing your house can be quite a challenge but it is actually worth it. Reducing the number of allergens around you, you can significantly reduce your allergy symptoms. For example, expert suggest wrapping your mattress in plastic, vacuuming regularly, changing bed linen often enough, keeping pets away from bed, etc.
According to researchers, flushing out the nasal passages with salt water can reduce the symptoms of allergy. The effectiveness of this method can be explained by the fact that you are actually flushing away the stuff irritating your nasal membranes. Based on a study that involved children with allergies, nasal irrigation three times per day can improve the allergic symptoms within about one month. Besides, it helps to decrease the doses of the allergy medicines you are taking.
To prepare the salt water solution you need to mix a quart of water with 2-3 teaspoons of picking, canning or sea salt, as well as 1 teaspoon of baking soda. It is not recommended to use normal table salt, since it has iodine and other additives. You should store the solution at room temperature in a closed bottle or a covered jar. You may use simple neti pots or other more advanced devices for nasal irrigation. Irrigate your nostrils once a day for maintaining your well-being or several times a day for acute conditions. Some specialists also advise adding some drops of eucalyptus oil to the salt water solution, which helps to reduce the inflammation, as the eucalyptus constricts the blood vessels.
High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.
Many specialists recommend using HEPA filters to clean the air in your home. These filters are able to reduce the amount of allergens circulating in the air. Vacuum cleaners without filters actually just release the allergens into the air.
The majority of treatment methods for allergies focus on reducing the symptoms or eliminating the allergens in the environment. However, immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, offers another approach to the problem. This method involves injections of small, gradually increasing amount of an allergen under your skin, which should help your immune system get used to the allergen and stop overreacting to it. This type of treatment may take several months to start working, and the success is not guaranteed.
There is also a homeopathic alternative to immunotherapy, which involves placing a little bit of an allergen under the tongue. There is not much research on this method, but some experts believe that it’s actually effective. Remember that procedures like allergy desensitization should always be monitored by a professional allergist or immunologist.
Whenever you are dealing with environments full of allergens (e.g. when gardening or cleaning a dusty garage), you should protect yourself by wearing a mask over your nose and mouth, as well as goggles over your eyes. Although you may not realize it, a lot of allergens get into your body through your eyes.
Acupuncture is getting more and more popular among people all over the world, and many people with allergies use acupuncture to alleviate their symptoms. Researchers have mixed opinions on the effectiveness of this ancient technique against allergies. According to some studies, this treatment method may help to reduce symptoms in people with allergic rhinitis. For example, one study that involved children who were given two acupuncture sessions per week (16 sessions in total) showed quite significant improvements in terms of allergy symptoms. However, more research needs to be done, before we can say for sure whether acupuncture can help with allergies.
The treatment of allergies has been changing in recent years. While it used to focus on alleviating the symptoms before, today it is rather about determining the cause of an allergic reaction and, ideally, resolving the problem.
Chronic allergy symptoms may significantly affect your quality of life, but it is possible to find a solution. Visit your doctor, see what options you have and start your treatment as soon as possible.