For many of us, allergy season is in full bloom. The sneezing, sniffing, runny/stuffy nose, and itchy red eyes have a way of making us not just uncomfortable, but more than a little annoyed too. Ever had one of those attacks where sneeze after sneeze after sneeze makes you feel like your brain may be rattling back and forth inside your skull? Or maybe your belly and diaphragm feel like they’re going to spasm out of control? Allergies make day-to-day life difficult, and finding a medication or remedy that works is difficult, especially since your body builds an immunity to pharmaceutical medications.
Environmental allergy attacks are a nuisance and can cause a great deal of discomfort and illness, including serious sinus infections and headaches. Over-the-counter and prescribed medications are highly expensive and have intolerable side effects that make getting through the day feel like you’re walking through mud. Fortunately, there are several natural remedies for allergies that can be used that are cheaper and healthier.
Most Common Allergens
It’s important to understand the most common types of allergens and which ones are causing you the most trouble. The best way to figure out the trigger for an allergy attack is to determine what is “in season” or around at the time. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the most common environmental allergens are:
- Pollen (trees, ragweed, grass, flowers, etc. These are usually bad in the early morning hours of warmer months, especially spring and summer)
- Pet dander and hair (allergies are exacerbated when the animal is in close contact with you or shakes near you, causing you to breathe in dander and hair)
- Dust mites
- Mold (this is common in older homes and humid areas)
- Cigarette smoke
The most reliable way to figure out which allergen you are most sensitive to is to talk with an allergist about getting environmental allergy testing done.
Natural Remedies for Allergies
When looking for home remedies for allergies, there is a plethora of information out there, making it difficult to know which ones will work. Once you know the type of allergen that is causing the problem, you can take preventative measures to help control symptoms. For example, if allergies are caused by household conditions such as dust mites, mold, or cockroaches, you will need to take steps to clean the air and home of these triggers.
Preventative remedies for the home include:
- Use a quality air humidifier to help clean out dust mites and pet dander.
- Clean and dust your home and office regularly.
- Get regular pest control for cockroaches.
- Quit smoking and/or don’t allow smoking in the home or car.
- Bathe your animals regularly with dander-control pet shampoo.
- Change carpets to wood, linoleum, or tile since carpets can house an abundance of dust mites and dander.
Natural remedies for the body include:
- Use local organic honey daily. Pollen is the most common environmental allergen, and the best way to combat it is local, organic honey, at least 2 tablespoons every day. It must be local because the active ingredients in the honey produced by the bees in your area will directly combat the pollen irritants.
- Drink peppermint tea for stuffy noses and congestion caused by allergies. Add honey to sweeten.
- Use a nasal saline rinse once to twice daily. This can head off allergy attacks, according to Dr. Nathanael Horne of New York Medical College. You can buy these over the counter, or make your own with sea salt and warm water.
- Steam helps to reduce congestion and clear the nasal sinuses. You can do a hot shower, a steam room at the gym, or boil water and put your face over it with a towel over your head to keep the steam in.
- Eat spicy foods like wasabi peas, cayenne pepper, etc.
- A change in diet may also be needed. If you eat a lot of processed foods, it may be making symptoms worse. Organic, GMO-free, local foods help to regulate your body’s immune system and remove toxins from the body. It sounds far-fetched, but there are studies from IRT, GRACE project, and the World Health Organization that have found genetically modified foods to have negative toxic effects on the body’s systems and can cause worsening allergies (both food and environmental) because of the decreased functioning of the immune system.
Natural Supplements for Allergies
If these above remedies don’t relieve symptoms, don’t panic. There are still natural supplements that can be used in place of pharmaceuticals that will get those symptoms under better control; however, it should be noted that if preventative measures aren’t taken to control the allergies, then it’s likely neither natural supplements nor pharmaceutical drugs will relieve symptoms completely. These holistic herbs can be found in capsules or powders at any local health food store (and even sometimes at regular grocery stores in the vitamin aisles). Generally, these supplements are completely safe for most people and do not have major side effects like drowsiness.
- Butterbur. This is possibly the best known natural antihistamine out there. It is also called sweet coltsfoot
- Nettle leaf (stinging nettle)
- Quercetin (taken with nettle leaf)
- Milk thistle
- Tinospora cordifolia. This has been used for thousands of years in India and is used most often in Ayurvedic medicine for hay fever.
- Astragalus membranaceous. This is good for pollen allergies and clears the sinuses effectively.
You should take a multivitamin daily, but especially during allergy seasons. Ramp up zinc and vitamin C doses either with diet or supplementation to help keep the immune system functioning up to par as well. Remember that the only real way to be healthy is to eliminate triggers and take care of yourself.