Most people love spring and summer–the sight of pink blossoms, the sound of birdsong, the scent of freshly mown grass. But those who suffer from hay fever think of spring and summer as Big Sneeze Seasons–the sight of used tissues, the sound of sniffling and blowing, the distress of watery, itchy eyes. Such allergy symptoms plaque some people year-round; doctors call this phenomenon perennial allergic rhinitis.
Hay fever has become more common worldwide than ever before, particularly among children and young adults. Among all ages, one in five now gets hay fever.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
One study found that nettle may offer some relief to people with hay fever. Of the 69 patients who completed the study, 58 percent rated the freeze-dried preparation of nettle effective; 48 percent said it worked as well or better than their conventional medications. Typical dosage: 300 milligrams of freeze-dried nettle in capsules two or three times per day.
Ephedra (Ephedra sinica)
Also known as ma huang, this herb acts as a decongestant just like its chemically synthesized counterpart, pseudoephedrine. It’s available dried in teas, capsules, tablets, and liquid extracts. Dosage guidelines for ephedra vary, which is cause for some concern because overdoses of this herb can cause serious side effects. Abuse of ephedra compounds in combination with caffeine has even caused deaths. Ephedra offers a good example of why herbal dosages are both tricky and controversial: An amount that has little effect on one person may be too much for another whose body size is smaller or whose metabolism is faster. Typical dosage: 15 to 30 drops of tincture in water up to four times per day; or follow manufacturer’s or practitioner’s instructions.
Caution: Do not exceed the recommended dose. May cause high blood pressure, palpitations, nervousness, insomnia, nausea, flushing, appetite loss, headache. It is not recommended for people with a history of anorexia, glaucoma, thyroid disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, difficulty urinating because of prostate enlargement, or chronic insomnia. Do not use during pregnancy or in combination with other central nervous system stimulates such as caffeine, theophylline, MAO-inhibiting drugs, and amphetamines.
Peppermint (Mentha x Piperita)
Inhaling peppermint’s volatile oils makes you feel as if you can breathe easier, even when airflow is not actually increasing. One study found that both menthol oil extracted from peppermint and peppermint essential oil have anti-inflammatory effects. The researchers called for clinical trials to see if mint could help relieve such conditions as hay fever and asthma. Until the results are in, go ahead and drink mint tea (steep 1 teaspoon of dried herb in 1 cup of hot water for 15 minutes) as needed if it helps your hay fever. You can also use the essential oil of peppermint in steam inhalation.
Simply boil a pot of water, pour it carefully in a heat-resistant bowl, and add three to five drops of the essential oil. Cover your head with a towel. Holding your face at least 12 inches away from the steam, breathe deeply through your nose for several minutes. Caution: Do not use peppermint internally if you have heartburn or esophageal reflux.
Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy, licorice has actions that are similar to cortisone drugs. There are two kinds of licorice. One is used long-term to help heal ulcers and is labeled DGL licorice. For hay fever, you want whole licorice, not the DGL variety. Typical dosage: up to six 400- or 500-milligram capsules per day; or 20 to 30 drops of tincture up to 3 times per day. Caution: Do not use licorice for longer than six weeks.
Do not use if you are pregnant or nursing or have high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid, kidney, liver, or heart disease. Also, if you are already taking corticosteroid allergy medications, consult a doctor before adding licorice to your treatment regimen.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
Best known for preventing migraines, feverfew possesses anti-inflammatory properties that may relieve allergies. Although scientific studies have yet to confirm this, many herbalists view feverfew as an anti-allergy herb. You can nibble one to two fresh leaves a day or make them into a tea, but the bitter taste may drive to using a liquid extract or capsule. Typical dosage: up to three 400-to 500-milligram capsules per day; or 15 to 30 drops of tincture per day. Caution: About 10 percent of people report mouth ulcers, tongue inflammation, or lip swelling. Those allergic to other members of the daisy family may be allergic to feverfew. Do not use during pregnancy.
Garlic (Allium sativum)
This pungent bulb contains the anti-inflammatory substances quercetin, which can help calm the allergic response during hay fever season. Garlic is a potent antibacterial and antiviral agent, too, so it could help ward off sinusitis and make your mucous membranes less of a target for opportunistic cold and flu viruses. Typical dosage: up to three 500-to 600-milligram capsules per day (look for products that deliver a daily dose of 4,000 to 5,000 micrograms of allicin); or just eat one or more fresh, raw cloves per day. Caution: Consult your doctor before taking garlic if you have stomach inflammation, take warfarin or other blood thinners, or expect to have surgery soon.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
This Chinese remedy boats several healthful effects, including an ability to reduce allergies. Reishi inhibits some of the body chemicals that trigger inflammation, including histamine. In China, it is used to treat asthma and other allergic diseases. It’s available in capsules, tablets, syrups, and teas. Typical dosage: up to five 420-milligram capsules per day; or up to three 1,000 milligram tablets up to 3 times per day.
Salt for the Sneezes
Here’s a simple home remedy for relieving hay fever: wash out your nose with saltwater, with or without herbs. To make your own salt solution, add 1/2 teaspoon salt or baking soda to 1 cup of warm, clean water. You can also make herbal tea and add salt to that. Good candidates include herbs with astringent and anti-inflammatory action, such as eyebright, and those that act as mucous membranes tonics and antimicrobials, such as Oregon grape root or goldenseal. Put your saline or herb solution into one of the following containers: a creamer with a long shout, an eyedropper, or a neti pot (a small pot designed for this purpose available at yoga equipment stores).
To use turn your head to one side and lower it over the sink. Keeping your forehead slightly higher than your chin, gently pour the solution into your uppermost nostril. The solution will drain out your other nostril. (Some of it may run down the back of your throat, so don’t breathe while you’re doing this.) This form of nasal irrigation helps flush out pollens, molds, and other allergens. It also helps thin mucus, making it easier to expel by gently blowing into a tissue.
Supplements for People with Hay Fever
The following vitamins and other supplements may help make allergy season a bit more manageable.
* Vitamin C and bioflavonoids. Although antihistamine drugs inhibit histamine after its release, these supplements prevent its formation. Foods rich in bioflavonoid quercetin include onions, garlic, and cayenne peppers. The recommended dose of vitamin C is 2,000 to 3,000 milligrams per day in divided
doses; for quercetin, it’s 500 milligrams two or three times per day.
* Omega-3 fatty acids. Abundant in flaxseed, flaxseed oil, and cold-water fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, and others), these acids can affect chemical pathways in the body in a way that eases allergy symptoms. Gamma linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid contained in evening primrose, borage, and black currant seed oils, has a similar effect. On the other hand, the saturated fats found in animal-derived foods tend to increase chemicals that promote inflammation. Some practitioners recommend a dose of up to a tablespoon of flaxseed oil per day to ensure adequate omega-3 intake. But don’t cook with flaxseed oil, as heat–even storage at room temperature–causes it to turn rancid.
The Myth of the Stoic Sneezer
Hay fever isn’t just an annoyance; doctors know that it increases your risk of other diseases. Lingering inflammation of the upper respiratory tract–one of hay fever’s typical symptoms–can result in middle ear infections, sinus infections, allergic conjunctivitis (pinkeye), chronic cough, recurrent nose-bleeds, and nasals polyps. One study even found a link in women between year-round hay fever and recurrent vaginal yeast infections. And other allergic conditions, such as asthma and eczema, often go hand-in-hand with hay fever.
So toughing out your hay fever symptoms may not be a good option for your overall health. Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed it, if you did please don’t forget to share it with your family and friends on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.