Many people find the cooler days of autumn to be a welcome relief from summer’s heat. But for those who suffer from season allergies – particularly allergies to ragweed – the advent of fall can mean simply exchanging one type of misery for another.
It is estimated that between 40 and 60 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies[i] and nearly 75 percent of those people have allergic reactions to ragweed.[ii] Other pollens that are more rampant during the fall include curly dock, sagebush, pigweed and sheep sorrel.
An entire industry revolves around providing relief for sufferers of seasonal allergies. Take a walk through any drugstore this time of year and you’re bound to find large displays of antihistamines and decongestants. And while these medications can relieve symptoms, not everyone wants to reach for a pill. Besides that, some people have problems with side-effects of these drugs, such as drowsiness, dry eyes and mouth, insomnia and abdominal distress.
The good news is that there are natural remedies for fall allergies:
1. Neti pot
Some people cringe at the thought of pouring warmish salt water in one nostril and letting it drain out the other – and granted, it does take some practice of holding your head at just the right angle so that the water doesn’t go down your throat. But Neti Pots have been around for thousands of years, and the science behind them is sound.
When you use a neti pot, you are gently flushing allergens out of your nasal passages so that your body’s natural defenses are able to work more effectively. (It’s like cleaning a filter.)
Quercetin is a plant compound that can help relieve seasonal allergy symptoms by stabilizing mast cells and inhibiting the release of histamine. This bioflavonoid can be found in a number of foods such as onions, tomatoes, apples, citrus fruits and parsley. However, to effectively be used as a treatment for allergies, it usually must be taken in the form of a supplement.
A word of caution: You should consult your doctor before taking quercetin. Also, people with liver disease should avoid this supplement.
3. Stinging nettle
Stinging nettle can be taken by allergy sufferers either in a tea or in an herbal supplement. It contains antihistamine and anti-inflammatory compounds. In some studies of stinging nettle and its ability to relieve allergy symptoms, as many as 57 percent of the participants found the plant to be as effective as over-the-counter allergy remedies.
It has been suggested that stinging nettle works best when patients begin taking it before hay fever season begins.[iii] If you decide to forage for and harvest your own stinging nettle, be sure to wear gloves to protect your skin from coming into contact with the herb’s stinging hairs.
Butterbur is another herb that rivals over-the-counter drugs for effectively treating seasonal allergies. A study published in 2002 in the British Journal of Medicine found that butterbur was just as effective at relieving symptoms as was cetirizine, which is the active ingredient in Zyrtec.[iv]
Butterbur has the added advantage of not causing drowsiness – a side-effect that some patients experience when using Zyrtec.
5. Essential oils
Whether you diffuse them into your room or soak with them in a nice hot bath, there are also plenty of essential oils which may prove beneficial in combating the nasty effects of fall allergies. Peppermint and eucalyptus oils, for example, both have anti-inflammatory properties which can help to unclog stuffy noses. It is no wonder that eucalyptus oil is one of the active ingredients in Vick’s vapor rub.
Lemon oil is another useful essential oil for those who suffer from hay fever. This oil has been shown to support lymphatic symptom drainage, and when diffused into the air can kill allergy-aggravating bacteria.[v]
Lavender oil has both antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties, and is effective in treating headaches and congestion as well as in helping both the mind and body to relax.
For those with seasonal allergies, the arrival of this time of year can be dreadful. Fortunately, nature has provided a wide selection of remedies. Find the one that is right for you.
What is your favorite fall allergy relief? Share your advice in the section below: