If spring and fall send your seasonal
allergies into a spin, many experts say look to Mother Nature for relief that
can be as comforting and easy as a day at the beach.
Whether it's the long-awaited change of winter into spring, or the quiet
fading of summer into fall, for many folks the changing of the seasons means
more than just vacation plans and a new wardrobe -- it signals the start of seasonal allergies.
Sneezing, wheezing, runny nose, and itchy, watery, red eyes -- these are
just some of the symptoms that more than 35 million Americans face each year as
the pollen from trees, grass, flowers, and plants makes it way into the
For many, relief is just a drugstore counter away -- with a wide array of
traditional medications available to help. However, for an increasing number of
allergy sufferers the road to relief is best paved by Mother Nature, with a
variety of all-natural treatments that studies show can help -- often without
many of the troubling side effects ascribed to traditional care.
"Using nature-based products can be a very useful way to handle mild
allergies and a useful adjunct for more significant allergies, and there are
many types of treatments you can safely try," says Mary Hardy, MD, director of
medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Among those generating the loudest buzz right now is the European herb
butterbur (Petasites hybridus), which, says Hardy, "has had some very
impressive clinical trial results."
In one study, published recently in the British Medical Journal, a
group of Swiss researchers showed how just one tablet of butterbur four times
daily was as effective as a popular antihistamine
drug in controlling symptoms of hay
fever -- without the traditional symptom of drowsiness that sometimes occurs.
In a second study, presented at the 60th annual meeting of the American
Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), a group of British
researchers put their stamp of approval on butterbur's effectiveness in
quelling symptoms of grass allergy.
Other herbal supplements proving helpful, says Hardy, include freeze-dried
nettles and a tonic made from the herb goldenseal, which she recommends adding
to still one more natural treatment -- a saline (salt water) nasal spray.
"The saline works to wash out pollen and reduce or thin mucous -- the
goldenseal has astringent and local antibacterial properties which can aid in
this process," Hardy tells WebMD.
In addition to herbs, many naturopathic doctors also believe certain
nutrients can be helpful in quieting seasonal symptoms. Among the most popular
are grape seed extract and a flavonoid compound known as quercetin. Although
both occur naturally in many foods -- and are especially abundant in red wine
-- when used in supplement form they can be extremely helpful in reducing allergy
symptoms, particularly in conjunction with vitamin C, says James Dillard,