Natural allergy remedies that really work

Allergy season is just around the corner, but individuals preferring natural medications (herbs, vitamins, and supplements) can breathe easier knowing that several therapies have supportive evidence for the treatment or prevention of seasonal allergies.

Here are some conclusions from the experts at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database:

Bromelain

Bromelain is an enzyme from the pineapple plant and may be a useful addition to other therapies (such as antibiotics) used for sinusitis. Bromelain has anti-inflammatory properties, which may be beneficial for allergies by reducing swelling and improving breathing.

Butterbur

This is my personal favorite to recommend as good scientific evidence suggests that extracts from this perennial shrub not only may help prevent allergic rhinitis in susceptible individuals, but help in the treatment of symptoms. Comparisons of butterbur to prescription drugs, such as fexofenadine (Allegra®) and cetirizine (Zyrtec®), have reported similar effectiveness with fewer side effects.

Nasal irrigation

Good scientific evidence suggests that nasal irrigation with warm saline may effectively treat allergies and chronic sinusitis. Nasal irrigation is generally well tolerated. It should be used cautiously in those with a history of frequent nosebleeds. Also, if the irrigation liquid is hot, the nasal tissues may become irritated.

Lifestyle changes

  • Limit the amount of time spent outdoors in the morning and evening, when pollen levels are the highest.
  • After being outdoors, wash the hands and face to remove residual pollen.
  • Keep windows closed and use an air conditioner in the house and/or car, if possible.
  • Consider installing central air conditioning with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter attachment. The HEPA filter can trap airborne allergens (such as mold spores, dust mites and pollen) from outdoor air, preventing them from circulating inside.
  • Avoid drying laundry outside, as pollen and other allergens may stick to the fabric.

2 thoughts on “Natural allergy remedies that really work

  • Michael McBrearty

    Good Morning Dr. Walt,

    Thank you for posting this on LinkedIn. Otherwise I would not have found it.

    What do you think about the natural ingredients Cinnamon extract and Spanish needles powder for clearing nasal passages? Have you found any compelling research on them? I am considering trying them.

    Additionally, in articles such as this, would you give a suggestion as to where one might find ingredients such as bromelain and butterbur? A simple “available at your local health food store” or “you’ll have to Google these to find them” would do.

    Thanks for what you do!
    Mike McB

  • Hi Mike. Bromelain and butterbur are available at health food stores and in the supplement sections of many grocery stores and pharmacies. Of course, both can also be ordered on-line.

    Regarding CASSIA CINNAMON for allergies, I’m not aware of any compelling evidence that it is effective. Although it is likely safe. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database says it is, “LIKELY SAFE … when used orally and appropriately. Cassia cinnamon has been safely used in clinical trials lasting up to 4 months. Cassia cinnamon has Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status in the US.

    However, it is “POSSIBLY UNSAFE …when used orally in high doses, long-term. Some cassia cinnamon products contain high levels of coumarin. Coumarin can cause hepatotoxicity in animal models. In humans, very high doses of coumarin from 50-7000 mg/day can result in hepatotoxicity that resolves when coumarin is discontinued. In most cases, ingestion of cassia cinnamon won’t provide a high enough amount of coumarin to cause significant toxicity; however, in especially sensitive people, such as those with liver disease, prolonged ingestion of large amounts of cassia cinnamon might exacerbate the condition.”

    As to “Spanish needles,” that’s a new one for me. I’m aware of “Spanish Broom,” “Spanish Chestnut (as both European and Horse Chestnut,” and “Spanish Psyllium (Black Psyllium.”

    If you’re thinking of “Stinging Nettle,” I don’t recommend it. The NMCD says, “STINGING NETTLE (Insufficient Evidence for Allergies) … There is preliminary evidence that stinging nettle above ground parts might improve symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Starting stinging nettle at the first sign of symptoms seems to provide subjective improvement.” But, there’s not yet enough evidence for me to recommend it.

    As far a safety, Stinging Nettle is “POSSIBLY SAFE … when used orally and appropriately. Stinging nettle root has been used safely for up to 6 months. The long-term safety of stinging nettle root is unknown.”

    Hope this helps.

    Walt

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