By the Weil Vitamin Advisor Editorial Staff
Before you start wishing for winter's return, take heart. "The good news is that there are a number of natural remedies you can use to relieve your symptoms that are safe, effective, and free of many of the side effects associated with conventional medicines," said Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., Fellowship Director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and nationally recognized expert in herbal medicine.
Many of these natural remedies act upon specific cells called mast cells. When activated by an allergen, the mast cells release histamine, which causes your nose to swell, mucus to thicken and eyes to itch. If you are looking for a more natural way to handle those discomforts, consider some of the following.
|•||Guduchi, the common name for Tinospora cordifolia, is a climbing vine native to the tropical areas of India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. In Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, guduchi root and stem have long been used to tame coughs and minor respiratory problems. Scientific studies show that it inhibits the histamine release of mast cells. A randomized double-blind study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that guduchi was significantly superior to placebo for relieving allergy symptoms. Look for extracts that provide 300 to 400 mg per day.|
|•||“Stinging” nettle is a common name for Urtica dioica. While the wild plant can irritate skin, cooking, drying or making an extract from nettles will take away the sting. Researchers have found that compounds within nettle leaves inhibit histamine release. A randomized double-blinded study of 90 people found that 600 mg a day of freeze-dried nettle was more effective than placebo for relieving the majority of allergy symptoms. Forty-eight percent of the participants stated that nettles' effectiveness equaled or surpassed previous medications that they had taken for seasonal allergies. There are no known safety issues.|
|•||Butterbur, the common name for Petasites hybridus, is a large-leaved plant that has been used in many parts of the world to relieve coughs and congestion. Clinical trials conducted in Europe have shown that butterbur is as effective as a leading prescription allergy medication and is well tolerated by both adults and children. Look for a product standardized to provide 7.5 mg of petasin per 50 mg of extract, and one that is free of the harmful pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Take 50 mg, two times per day. Safety during pregnancy is not known.|
|•||Quercetin, a natural compound found in citrus fruits, dark berries, onions, red wine and green tea, also slows the histamine release of mast cells. It is widely recommended by practitioners of natural medicine during allergy season at a dose of 500 mg one to two times per day, however, there are no clinical trials that prove its effectiveness. It is considered quite safe but is not recommended during pregnancy.|
|•||Saline solution used daily to wash nasal passages of pollen and dust can be a very effective home remedy. A review of clinical studies found that on average, people who used this simple technique experienced an impressive 27 percent improvement in nasal symptoms and a 62 percent reduction in medicine consumption. Invest in a neti-pot, a container that looks a little like Aladdin's magic lamp. Use prepared saline wash or make your own by pouring eight ounces of distilled/bottled water, or water that has been boiled for 10 minutes, over 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda. Stir well until salt and soda have dissolved. Make fresh daily.|
Badar VA, et al. Efficacy of Tinospora cordifolia in allergic rhinitis. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2005; 96(3): 445-9
Hermelingmeier KE, Weber RK, Hellmich M, et al. Nasal irrigation as an adjunctive treatment in allergic rhinitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Rhinol Allergy. 2012 Sep-Oct;26(5):e119-25.
Käufeler R, Polasek W, Brattström A, Koetter U. Efficacy and safety of butterbur herbal extract Ze 339 in seasona
Kelly GS. Quercetin: Monograph Alternative Medicine Review 2011; 16(2):172-94
Mittman P. Randomized, double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica dioica in the treatment of allergic rhinitis Planta Medica 1990; 56(1): 44-7
Roschek B, et al. Nettle extract (Urtica dioica) affects key receptors and enzymes associated with allergic rhinitis. Phytotherapy Research 2009; 23(7): 920-6
Schapowal A: Petasites Study Group Treating intermittent allergic rhinitis: a prospective, randomized, placebo and antihistamine-controlled study of Butterbur extract Ze 339. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2004 Dec;130(12):1381-6.
Weng Z, et al. Quercetin is more effective than cromolyn in blocking human mast cell cytokine release and inhibits contact dermatitis and photosensitivity in humans. PLoS One 2012; 7(3): e33805
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