In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics, including some of the most cherished medical myths out there. For our March/April 2012 issue, we talked to Michael Palumbo, MD, an allergist with Allergy & Clinical Immunology Associates in Pittsburgh, about the popular idea that honey helps prevent allergies.
Q: Can local honey help my allergies?
A: No. The theory that taking in small amounts of pollen by eating local honey...
You can take these in the form of a capsule, drops, or tea.
You may already have one proven allergy fighter in your pantry: “Green tea is a natural antihistamine that’s powerful enough to actually interfere with allergy skin testing,” says Tim Mainardi, MD, an allergist in New York City. Sip two cups a day, about 2 weeks before allergy season starts, to help avoid congestion.
An herb called butterbur may block allergies as well as over-the-counter antihistamines, Mainardi says. Licorice root is another good choice, because “it raises your body’s level of naturally produced steroids,” he says. It may also help loosen mucus, so you’ll breathe easier and cough less, but more studies are needed to prove this.
Check with your doctor before you give herbal treatments a go.
Some butterbur products contain an ingredient that can damage your liver and lungs. And if you’re allergic to ragweed, marigolds, or daisies, butterbur could cause a reaction.
Ever noticed how your nose starts to run after you’ve finished a plate of hot wings? That’s because hot, spicy foods have an effect that can help clear nasal passages, says Kathryn Boling, MD, a family medicine specialist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
Try adding cayenne pepper, hot ginger, or fenugreek, a plant grown in Europe and Asia, to your meals. While not as fiery, onion and garlic can also help calm your sore nose and un-stuff your head.
Ask your doctor if cutting some foods from your diet might ease your allergy symptoms, too. Dried fruits and some dairy products, like certain cheeses, can cause the blood vessels in your nose to swell and make you more congested, Mainardi says.
Other items to skip? “People allergic to ragweed, pollen, or other weed pollens should avoid eating melon, banana, cucumber, sunflower seeds, and chamomile,” Boling says. “All these foods can make symptoms worse.”
If you think certain foods might be setting off your allergies, write them down. Share this "food diary" with your doctor at your next visit.