Spring Allergies? Natural Remedies Nothing to Sneeze At

Q.Are there natural remedies I could try for my annual bouts with hay fever?

A.Yes. Alongwith a good diet, several herbs may work as well as over-the-counterantihistamines for symptomatic relief with no drowsiness, says David Winston, anoted herbalist and founding member of the American Herbalists Guild. They work,he says, primarily by reducing inflammation.

Known as hay fever, seasonal allergicrhinitis arises when the body perceives a normally innocuous substance (e.g.pollen) as foreign and produces antibodies, triggering the release of histamine,which causes inflammation. The end result is the all-too-familiar runny nose,sneezing, nasal congestion and itchy, watery eyes that afflict 20 to 40 millionAmericans with regularity each year. While ragweed is the most common trigger,some people react to other pollens or indoor allergens like animal dander, dustor mold, causing year-round misery.

Ingredients found in natural allergyremedies reduce the histamine response, calming inflammation and drying up mucusmembranes, says Winston. He cites the herb eyebright as especially helpful foritchy eyes, while osha, bayberry and horseradish can clear up congestion.Echinacea reduces the overall allergic response, but could (rarely) increaseallergies?especially preparations made from the plant’s flowers?becauseechinacea is in the same plant family as ragweed.

A few herbs have research to back them,including stinging nettle, which works similarly to over-the-counterantihistamines. In a study of 69 people, 58% of those taking 300 milligrams aday of freeze-dried nettle (Urtica dioica) reported relief, 48% found itas effective as their usual medicine. However, the benefits may be asshort-lived as an hour.

Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) isknown to have anti-inflammatory action and may ease seasonal allergies as wellas over-the-counter antihistamines, according to a recent Swiss study of 125people who took 32 milligrams a day (divided into four doses) of petasines, theherb’s active compound. Note this plant is also in the same family asragweed, so a worsening of allergic reaction is possible, though rare.

Allergy-AlleviatingAdvice

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Eat a diet high inantioxidant-rich foods (such as green tea, blueberries, beets and other highlycolored fruits and vegetables) and fish and flaxseed (rich in omega-3 fattyacids) to reduce the inflammatory response.

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Add horseradish to yourfoods as a natural decongestant.

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Be extra careful toavoid foods you are usually only mildly allergic to. Because ofcross-reactivity, you may find symptoms worse than usual if you eat those foodsduring hay fever season.

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If you have severeragweed allergies, limit or avoid other herbs in the same family, includingechinacea, butterbur, chamomile, yarrow and goldenrod.

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Avoid productscontaining ephedra, a decongestant ingredient, which is potentially dangerous,especially if you have high blood pressure.

[ Reduce exposure tooutdoor allergens by closing windows and using an air filtration system. Keepcar windows shut while driving.

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