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What Natural Allergy Remedies Work? continued...

“I think quercetin is pretty effective and well tolerated,” says Leopold. “It seems to work well for prevention.” However, while lab tests of quercetin are intriguing, we don’t yet have good research for how well it works as a treatment in people. Some experts doubt that enough quercetin is absorbed during digestion to have much of an effect. 

  • Stinging Nettle. Often used as an allergy treatment, this botanical contains carotene, vitamin K, and quercetin. There’s some evidence that using stinging nettle after the first sign of allergic symptoms can help a bit. Be sure to choose extracts of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) leaf, not the root, which is used to treat prostate troubles. Despite its common use, however, there’s not much research backing up stinging nettle’s effectiveness as an allergy remedy.
  • Bromelain. Some studies have found that bromelain is helpful in reducing nasal swelling and thinning mucus, making it easier for people to breathe. It may be particularly useful when added to drug treatment for sinus infections.
  • Phleum pratense. A few studies have found that a sublingual tablet made from pollen extracts from Phleum Phleum pratense can reduce some pollen allergy symptoms, such as eye irritation, in people with asthma, as well as help decrease symptoms in people suffering from hay fever. It also allowed people to reduce the dose of their allergy medicine.
  • Tinospora cordifolia. Based on one research study, there’s some indication that Tinospora cordifolia, an herbal tablet from India, can reduce allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itching, and nasal discharge. Again, the evidence is only preliminary and its long-term safety is unclear. Though it appeared safe during the 8-week research study, more research needs to be done.
  • Combination allergy supplements. A number of natural allergy remedies contain a blend of botanicals. Leopold singles out Sinupret, a combination of European elderflower, sorrel, cowslip, verbena, and gentian root. “It’s seems to be effective and well tolerated,” he tells WebMD, “especially for conditions like chronic sinusitis, which can result from allergies.” It’s been long used in Europe, and there’s some evidence that it helps treat the symptoms of bronchitis and acute sinusitis.
  • Other allergy supplements. People use many other supplements to treat allergies, including echinacea, grape seed extract, pycnogenol (pine bark extract), vitamin C, EPA, honey, cat’s claw, albizzia (Albizzia lebbeck), baical skullcup (Scutellaria baicalensis),goldenseal, and spirulina. However, research hasn’t found good evidence that they help. “These supplements might have other benefits,” says Rakel. “But if you’re trying to treat allergies, go with something else.”

Be particularly wary of bitter orange (also called Citrus aurantium), which is sometimes sold as a decongestant. It has compounds similar to those in ephedra and, as a result, may have serious side effects. They include an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart problems, and stroke. 

What about supplements for other types of allergies, such as skin reactions or food allergies? Unfortunately, researchers haven’t found much evidence for supplements that can help. Rakel says that while there’s some interesting preliminary evidence about the effects of probiotics on food allergies, more research is needed.

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