Relieve Allergies the Natural Way

Itchy eyes? Sore throat? Runny nose? Welcome to allergy season.

Over-the-counter medicines will ease your symptoms, but some natural remedies may work, too. Here are a few to consider trying.

Herbal Supplements

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.

Use licorice with caution, too. Taking large amounts can cause high blood pressure and heart problems. Pregnant women should avoid licorice supplements. They can cause preterm labor.

Dietary Changes

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.

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Acupuncture

This ancient Chinese procedure has been used to treat a number of allergy symptoms, from sneezing and runny nose to puffy eyes.

During a session, a trained practitioner gently places hair-thin needles under the skin at different parts of your body.

“It’s common to see improvement even after the first treatment,” says Thomas Burgoon, MD, president of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. If you have ongoing (chronic) allergies, you might need two sessions per week for 6 weeks.

Nasal Rinses

Use a Neti pot to flush dust and pollen from your nose. You can buy one from your local drugstore. This gadget looks like a little teapot with a long spout.

Fill it with distilled or sterile water and rinse one nostril at a time. Do this twice a day to relieve allergy symptoms, Mainardi says.

Allergy-Proofing

The easiest way to avoid an allergy attack is to get rid of things in your home that make you sneezy.

  • Vacuum at least once a week to remove allergens from rugs and furniture. Use a HEPA filter if possible.
  • If you have dust allergies, buy dust-proof mattress covers and pillow-case covers, too, Mainardi says.
  • Close windows and doors during peak allergy season.
  • Take off your shoes before you go inside.
  • Wash any clothing that might have come into contact with pollen. “A quick rinse in the shower before bedtime, especially after being outdoors all day, will ... help keep pollen out of [your] bed,” Mainardi says.

Remember, you can always ask your doctor for more help. He’ll be able to find out what you’re allergic to and how to treat it.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on October 29, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

Kathryn Boling, MD, family medicine specialist, Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore.

Thomas Burgoon, MD, president, American Academy of Medical Acupuncture; editorial board, Medical Acupuncture; chair, IRB, New York College of Traditional Chinese Medicine; West Chester, PA.

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians: “Allergies: Natural Solutions.”

Tim Mainardi, MD, allergist/immunologist at Hudson Allergy, New York City, NY.

NIH: “Butterbur,” “Licorice Root.”

WholeHealth Chicago, The Center for Integrative Medicine: “Licorice.”

Zijlstra, F. Mediators of Inflammation, Anti-inflammatory Actions of Acupuncture, published April 2003.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration: “Is Rinsing Your Sinuses Safe?”

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: “Tips to Control Indoor Allergens.”

Department of Child Health, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK: “Adverse Reactions and Intolerance to Foods.”

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