Hay Fever(Seasonal Allergies, Allergic Rhinitis)

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
  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • post nasal drip
  • sinus pain or pressure
  • fatigue

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)


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