Natural Remedies for Pollen and Seasonal Allergies
Hay Fever (also known as seasonal allergy) is caused by an over-reaction of the immune system to harmless airborne particles such as pollen.
Symptoms of Hay fever can include any of the following:
- stuffy or runny nose and nasal congestion
- itchy, watery eyes
- post nasal drip
- sinus pain or pressure
Hay fever is common in the Spring and Fall when airborne pollen counts are highest.
Although hay fever effects some 40 million people annually, not everyone is susceptible to airborne pollens and particulates. So what makes a person vulnerable to seasonal allergies?
Studies have shown that people with inhalant allergies are more likely to have food allergies. A hypo allergenic diet has has shown to help some people with asthma and allergic rhinitis. (1,2,3) Remember that avoidance of a food allergen, even if it does not improve hay fever, would be expected to improve over-all health.
Pharmaceutical anti-allergy drugs often have undesirable side effects. So what can a person do to decrease hay fever symptoms without using drugs? Here are some of the best-proven natural remedies for alleviating seasonal allergies:
Butterbur (Petasites hybridus): Butterbur has been shown in studies to be as effective as drugs at relieving symptoms of hay fever but without adverse side effects (4-8)
One study compared Butterbur to the drug cetirizine (Zyrtec) and found that both relieved symptoms equally well. However, the drug was associated with a higher rate of adverse side effects including drowsiness.(4)
A second study compared butterbur extract with fexofenadine (Allegra). Butterbur was just as effective as fexofenadine at relieving symptoms.(5)
Because butterbur may contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids which can cause liver damage, use only extracts which have the pyrrolizidine alkaloids removed. This will be stated on the label.
Symptom improvement is related to dosage, with higher doses producing more symptom relief. Suggested dose for best effect: 1-2 capsule, 3 times per day of an extract standardized to contain 7.5 mg of petasine per capsule. Look for formulas which state that they are pyrrolizidine alkaloid-free.(6)
Grape seed extract — “nature’s anti-histamine.”
Histamine is an irritating substance released from certain white blood cells (mast cells) in response to allergens. Anti-histamines block the histamine receptor and can improve symptoms of sneezing, itchy eyes and nose. Older antihistamines cause drowsiness, newer antihistamines are associated with heart complications. They are also expensive.
Grape seed extract functions as an anti-histamine by stabilizing the mast cell, making it less ‘touchy” about releasing histamine. Grape seed extract has been shown to performs as a natural anti-histamine. (9-11)
The “side effects” of grape seed extract are actually additional benefits, not unwanted side effects. Grape seed has been shown to improve chronic venous insufficiency (12-17), strengthen collagen and blood vessels(18-22),and help prevent cancer and heart disease through multiple mechanisms. (23-41) Grape seed extract is also a potent antioxidant. (27,33-34,42-47)
Many people find grape seed extract effective for hayfever when taken 50-100mg, 3 times per day.
Quercetin is one of the most biologically active flavonoids, widely distributed in the plant kingdom in such species as oak trees (Quercus spp.), onions (Allium cepa) and tea (Camellia sinensis).
Like grape seed extract, quercetin prevents acts as a natural anti-histamine by preventing the release of histamine from mast cells. (48) In fact, quercetin performs this function so well that it is used in medical experiments as a control substance for such activity (49-51). Quercetin is not well-absorbed orally, so higher doses must be taken, especially at the beginning of allergy treatment.
A water-soluble form of quercetin, available as a nasal spray, is a safe and effective alternative to drug nasal sprays. The effects of quercetin nasal spray are felt within several minutes and last up to two hours. Pharmaceutical nasal sprays work by constricting blood vessels. They can have “addictive” effects on the nasal passages, and congestion becomes worse when they are discontinued. Quercetin does not create dependence or have rebound effects upon discontinuation. (52)
1. Speer F. Multiple food allergy. Ann Allerg 1975;34:71–6.
2. Buczylko K, Kowalczyk J, Zeman K, et al. Allergy to food in children with pollinosis. Rocz Akad Med Bialymst 1995;40:568–72.
3. Ogle KA, Bullock JD. Children with allergic rhinitis and/or bronchial asthma treated with elimination diet. Ann Allergy 1977;39:8–11.
4.) Schapowal A, Petasites Study Group. Randomised controlled trial of butterbur and cetirizine for treating seasonal allergic rhinitis. BMJ 2002;324:144–6.
5.) Lee DK, Gray RD, Robb FM, et al. A placebo-controlled evaluation of butterbur and fexofenadine on objective and subjective outcomes in perennial allergic rhinitis. Clin Exp Allergy 2004;34:646–9.
6.) Schapowal A; Petasites Study Group. Butterbur Ze339 for the treatment of intermittent allergic rhinitis: dose-dependent efficacy in a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2004 Dec;130(12):1381-6.
7.) Lee DK, Carstairs IJ, Haggart K, Jackson CM, Currie GP, Lipworth BJ. Butterbur, a herbal remedy, attenuates adenosine monophosphate induced nasal responsiveness in seasonal allergic rhinitis. Clin Exp Allergy. 2003 Jul;33(7):882-6.
8.) Käufeler R, Polasek W, Brattström A, Koetter U. Efficacy and safety of butterbur herbal extract Ze 339 in seasonal allergic rhinitis: postmarketing surveillance study.Adv Ther. 2006 Mar-Apr;23(2):373-84.
9.) Iwasaki Y, Matsui T, Arakawa Y. The protective and hormonal effects of proanthocyanidin against gastric mucosal injury in Wistar rats. J Gastroenterol. 2004 Sep;39(9):831-7.
10.) Kawai M, Hirano T, Higa S, Arimitsu J, Maruta M, Kuwahara Y, Ohkawara T, Hagihara K, Yamadori T, Shima Y, Ogata A, Kawase I, Tanaka T. Flavonoids and related compounds as anti-allergic substances. Allergol Int. 2007 Jun;56(2):113-23. Epub 2007 Mar 1.
11.) Sharma SC, Sharma S, Gulati OP. Pycnogenol inhibits the release of histamine from mast cells. Phytother Res. 2003 Jan;17(1):66-9.
12.) Dartenuc JY, Marache P, Choussat H. Resistance Capillaire en Geriatrie Etude d’un Microangioprotecteur. Bordeax Médical 1980;13:903–7 [in French].
13.) Delacroix P. Etude en Double Avengle de l’Endotelon dans l’Insuffisance Veineuse Chronique. Therapeutique, la Revue de Medicine 1981;Sept 27–28:1793–1802 [in French].
14.) Thebaut JF, Thebaut P, Vin F. Study of Endotelon in functional manifestations of peripheral venous insufficiency. Gazette Medicale 1985;92:96–100 [in French].
15.) Cesarone MR, Belcaro G, Rohdewald P, Pellegrini L, Ledda A, Vinciguerra G, Ricci A, Gizzi G, Ippolito E, Fano F, Dugall M, Acerbi G, Cacchio M, Di Renzo A, Hosoi M, Stuard S, Corsi M. Rapid relief of signs/symptoms in chronic venous microangiopathy with pycnogenol: a prospective, controlled study. Angiology. 2006 Oct-Nov;57(5):569-76.
16.) Cesarone MR, Belcaro G, Rohdewald P, Pellegrini L, Ledda A, Vinciguerra G, Ricci A, Gizzi G, Ippolito E, Fano F, Dugall M, Acerbi G, Cacchio M, Di Renzo A, Hosoi M, Stuard S, Corsi M.Comparison of Pycnogenol and Daflon in treating chronic venous insufficiency: a prospective, controlled study. Clin Appl Thromb Hemost. 2006 Apr;12(2):205-12.
17.) Koch R. Comparative study of Venostasin and Pycnogenol in chronic venous insufficiency. Phytother Res. 2002 Mar;16 Suppl 1:S1-5.
18.) Schlebusch H, Kern D. Stabilization of collagen by polyphenols. Angiologica 1972;9:248–56 [in German].
19.) Monboisse J, Braquet P, Randoux A, Borel J. Non-enzymatic degradation of acid-soluble calf skin collagen by superoxide ion: protective effect of flavonoids. Biochem Pharmacol 1983;32:53–8.
20.) Lagrue G, Olivier-Martin F, Grillot A. A study of the effects of procyanidol oligomers on capillary resistance in hypertension and in certain nephropathies. Sem Hop 1981;57:1399–401 [in French].
21.) Galley P, Thiollet M. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a new veno-active flavonoid fraction (S 5682) in the treatment of symptomatic capillary fragility. Int Angiol 1993;12:69–72.
22.) Cho HS, Lee MH, Lee JW, No KO, Park SK, Lee HS, Kang S, Cho WG, Park HJ, Oh KW, Hong JT.Anti-wrinkling effects of the mixture of vitamin C, vitamin E, pycnogenol and evening primrose oil, and molecular mechanisms on hairless mouse skin caused by chronic ultraviolet B irradiation. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2007 Oct;23(5):155-62.
23.) Buz’Zard AR, Lau BH.Pycnogenol reduces talc-induced neoplastic transformation in human ovarian cell cultures. Phytother Res. 2007 Jun;21(6):579-86.
24.) Engelbrecht AM, Mattheyse M, Ellis B, Loos B, Thomas M, Smith R, Peters S, Smith C, Myburgh K. Proanthocyanidin from grape seeds inactivates the PI3-kinase/PKB pathway and induces apoptosis in a colon cancer cell line. Cancer Lett. 2007 Dec 8;258(1):144-53. Epub 2007 Oct 17.
25.) Sharma G, Tyagi AK, Singh RP, Chan DC, Agarwal R.Synergistic anti-cancer effects of grape seed extract and conventional cytotoxic agent doxorubicin against human breast carcinoma cells.Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2004 May;85(1):1-12.
26.) Bagchi D, Bagchi M, Stohs S, Ray SD, Sen CK, Preuss HG. Cellular protection with proanthocyanidins derived from grape seeds. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2002 May;957:260-70.
27.) Zhao J, Wang J, Chen Y, Agarwal R. Anti-tumor-promoting activity of a polyphenolic fraction isolated from grape seeds in the mouse skin two-stage initiation-promotion protocol and identification of procyanidin B5-3′-gallate as the most effective antioxidant constituent. Carcinogenesis. 1999 Sep;20(9):1737-45.
28.) Hu H, Qin YM. Grape seed proanthocyanidin extract induced mitochondria-associated apoptosis in human acute myeloid leukaemia 14.3D10 cells. Chin Med J (Engl). 2006 Mar 5;119(5):417-21.
29.) Zhang XY, Li WG, Wu YJ, Bai DC, Liu NF. Proanthocyanidin from grape seeds enhances doxorubicin-induced antitumor effect and reverses drug resistance in doxorubicin-resistant K562/DOX cells. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2005 Mar;83(3):309-18.
30.) Zhang XY, Li WG, Wu YJ, Zheng TZ, Li W, Qu SY, Liu NF.Proanthocyanidin from grape seeds potentiates anti-tumor activity of doxorubicin via immunomodulatory mechanism.Int Immunopharmacol. 2005 Jul;5(7-8):1247-57. Epub 2005 Apr 7.
31.) Agarwal C, Singh RP, Agarwal R. Grape seed extract induces apoptotic death of human prostate carcinoma DU145 cells via caspases activation accompanied by dissipation of mitochondrial membrane potential and cytochrome c release.Carcinogenesis. 2002 Nov;23(11):1869-76.
32.) Kaur M, Agarwal R, Agarwal C. Grape seed extract induces anoikis and caspase-mediated apoptosis in human prostate carcinoma LNCaP cells: possible role of ataxia telangiectasia mutated-p53 activation. Mol Cancer Ther. 2006 May;5(5):1265-74.
33.) Packer L, Rimbach G, Virgili F.Antioxidant activity and biologic properties of a procyanidin-rich extract from pine (Pinus maritima) bark, pycnogenol.Free Radic Biol Med. 1999 Sep;27(5-6):704-24.
34.) Yang HM, Liao MF, Zhu SY, Liao MN, Rohdewald P. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on the effect of Pycnogenol on the climacteric syndrome in peri-menopausal women. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2007;86(8):978-85.
36.) Mendes A, Desgranges C, Chèze C, Vercauteren J, Freslon JL. Vasorelaxant effects of grape polyphenols in rat isolated aorta. Possible involvement of a purinergic pathway. Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 2003 Dec;17(6):673-81.
37.) Polagruto JA, Gross HB, Kamangar F, Kosuna K, Sun B, Fujii H, Keen CL, Hackman RM.Platelet reactivity in male smokers following the acute consumption of a flavanol-rich grapeseed extract.Platelet reactivity in male smokers following the acute consumption of a flavanol-rich grapeseed extract.
38.) Holt RR, Actis-Goretta L, Momma TY, Keen CL. Dietary flavanols and platelet reactivity.J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2006;47 Suppl 2:S187-96; discussion S206-9.
39.) Zhang FL, Gao HQ, Shen L. Inhibitory effect of GSPE on RAGE expression induced by advanced glycation end products in endothelial cells. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2007 Oct;50(4):434-40.
40.) Edirisinghe I, Burton-Freeman B, Tissa Kappagoda C. Mechanism of the endothelium-dependent relaxation evoked by a grape seed extract. Clin Sci (Lond). 2008 Feb;114(4):331-7.
41.) Ray SD, Patel D, Wong V, Bagchi D. In vivo protection of dna damage associated apoptotic and necrotic cell deaths during acetaminophen-induced nephrotoxicity, amiodarone-induced lung toxicity and doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity by a novel IH636 grape seed proanthocyanidin extract.
42.) Hosseini S, Pishnamazi S, Sadrzadeh SM, Farid F, Farid R, Watson RR. Pycnogenol((R)) in the Management of Asthma.J Med Food. 2001 Winter;4(4):201-209.
43.) Carini M, Aldini G, Bombardelli E, Morazzoni P, Maffei Facino R.UVB-induced hemolysis of rat erythrocytes: protective effect of procyanidins from grape seeds. Life Sci. 2000 Sep 1;67(15):1799-814.
44.) Lorenz P, Roychowdhury S, Engelmann M, Wolf G, Horn TF.Oxyresveratrol and resveratrol are potent antioxidants and free radical scavengers: effect on nitrosative and oxidative stress derived from microglial cells.Nitric Oxide. 2003 Sep;9(2):64-76.
45.) Enginar H, Cemek M, Karaca T, Unak P.Effect of grape seed extract on lipid peroxidation, antioxidant activity and peripheral blood lymphocytes in rats exposed to x-radiation. Phytother Res. 2007 Nov;21(11):1029-35.
46.) Dulundu E, Ozel Y, Topaloglu U, Toklu H, Ercan F, Gedik N, Sener G. Grape seed extract reduces oxidative stress and fibrosis in experimental biliary obstruction.J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2007 Jun;22(6):885-92.
47.) Du Y, Guo H, Lou H. Grape seed polyphenols protect cardiac cells from apoptosis via induction of endogenous antioxidant enzymes. J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Mar 7;55(5):1695-701. Epub 2007 Feb 13.
48.) Leung, K.B., et.al. Differential effects of anti-allergic compounds on peritoneal mast cells of the rat, mouse and hamster. Agents Actions, 1984;14(3-4): 461-467.
49.) Otsuka, H. et.al. Histochemical and functional characteristics of metachromatic cells in the nasal epithelium in allergic rhinitis: studies of nasal scrapings and their dispersed cells. J. Allergy Clin Immunol, 1995; 96(4):528-536.
50.) Szabo, A. et.al. Mucosal permeability changes during intestinal reperfusion injury. The role of mast cells. Acta Chir Hung, 1997; 36(1-4):334-336.
51.) Barrett, K.E. and D.D. Metcalfe. The histologic and functional characterization of enzymatically dispersed intestinal mast cells of nonhuman primates: effects of secretagogues and anti-allergic drugs on histamine secretion. J Immunol, 1985; 135(3): 2020-2026.
52.) Remberg P, Björk L, Hedner T, Sterner O. Characteristics, clinical effect profile and tolerability of a nasal spray preparation of Artemisia abrotanum L. for allergic rhinitis.Phytomedicine. 2004 Jan;11(1):36-42.