Health

Allergy Answers

These natural remedies will help you snuff out seasonal congestion and runny nose so you can enjoy being outdoors this spring.
Allergy Answers
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Stinging Nettle Mollifying allergies with leaves of the stinging nettle may seem contradictory, since the leaves’ tiny needles house histamine, the bane of allergy sufferers. Yet extracts of the leaves are popular for placating symptoms related to allergies. Back in the early 1990s, Mittman led the only clinical study to date on stinging nettle for allergies and found it to be significantly better than a placebo. Based on his research, he readily recommends stinging nettle to his patients. “At least half the people who try it swear by it,” he says. Take 300 mg of freeze-dried nettle leaf (not the root, which has different medicinal uses) two to four times daily. Stinging nettle can irritate the sensitive tissue inside the mouth, says Mittman, so take care not to break open the capsules.

Try homeopathy
Homeopathy enjoys a long history of success in treating seasonal allergies. As a matter of fact, it was homeopathic physician Charles Blackley who, in the late 19th century, first named pollen as the cause of hay fever. But homeopathy wasn’t well supported by clinical evidence until recently, when the British Medical Journal published a randomized placebocontrolled trial in 2000. European researchers found that allergy sufferers taking a homeopathic remedy saw a 28 percent improvement in nasal congestion compared with just 3 percent improvement in the placebo group. The scientists used a specially designed remedy in the study, but several homeopathic allergy remedies are available in stores.
When shopping for a homeopathic allergy remedy, start with a combination product, such as Boiron’s Sabadil or Hyland’s Seasonal Allergy Relief. Both cast a wide net, addressing most allergies by combining several of the most common anti-allergy agents, such as Nux vomica (poison nut), Allium cepa (raw onion), and euphrasia (eyebright). As a result of this scattershot approach, says Punzo, the combination will most likely take the edge off your symptoms. The bad news? The products won’t prevent allergies from coming back next year. If you want to rid yourself of seasonal allergies for good, Punzo recommends seeing a homeopath for individualized treatment.

Explore ayurveda
Ayurvedic practitioners consider allergies a sign of a doshic, or constitutional, imbalance. For clues about what dosha is too dominant, consider the symptoms. If you have breathing problems, such as wheezing, it mean vata’s in charge; itchy eyes and a scratchy throat equal too much pitta; and congestion indicates a kapha overload. While it’s best to see an ayurvedic specialist for treatment customized for your dosha, some ayurvedic remedies are thought to work across all three doshas.
One of the best ayurvedic therapies for allergies is triphala, a blend of three key ayurvedic herbs: amalaki, bibhitaki, and haritaki. You can buy the herbs at a natural-foods store or Indian grocery. To make a tea, add one teaspoon of triphala powder to a cup of boiling water and let steep for 10 minutes. Or just mix the powder into a tablespoon of honey and eat it.
Several ayurvedic allergy remedies are also on the market. Mark Blumenthal suggests Aller-7, a blend of seven ayurvedic fruit, bark, and plant extracts made by InterHealth. He likes it because it’s one of the few ayurvedic blends bolstered by clinical evidence: In a study published in 2004 in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology Research, researchers in India put Aller-7 through its paces in a multicenter clinical trial, giving 545 chronic allergy sufferers a daily dose of four capsules (1,320 mg) of Aller-7. After 12 weeks, more than 90 percent of the participants reported a 40 percent or more improvement in sneezing, runny nose, and overall congestion. Aller- 7 is available in health food stores and vitamin stores.

Get needled
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), allergies signify the body’s inability to rid itself of toxins. As a result, a TCM specialist may use acupuncture to boost energy levels in certain organs such as the lungs, which breathe in allergens, and the large intestine, which flushes them out, says Lincoln. “Instead of relying on a pill or herb to do the work,” she explains, “acupuncture stimulates the body’s chemistry directly.” Depending on the intensity of your symptoms, you may need six to eight sessions of acupuncture treatments over the course of the allergy season. Studies confirm that acupuncture can subdue vexing allergy symptoms, but the news on Chinese herbs is mixed. Chinese herbs are best used to support the body between acupuncture sessions, says Lincoln, who may recommend either Chinese skullcap or a custom blend of herbs to pacify symptoms between treatments.