Natural Remedies for Allergies


Reason, Leigh

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For many that suffer from seasonal allergies, living on medication to control symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing and watery eyes, can be as annoying as coping with the constant symptoms. Common allergy medications have side effects, the most vexing of which is drowsiness and fatigue. But are there alternatives? Recent research shows there are some natural remedies that actually do work, while others are a bit of a bust. So before you reach for that box of pills, consider a natural cure for those pesky hay fever problems.

Butterbur. For the common symptoms of seasonal allergies, such as nasal congestion, doctors often prescribe fexofenadine (Allegra). Research from the University of Dundee in Scotland found that a flowering plant called butterbur increased airflow and relieved congestion in allergy patients similar to fexofenadine. If the results hold in repeated larger studies, scientists might have found a legitimate herbal alternative for people suffering with allergies. If you want to try butterbur, make sure you talk to your doctor first. Also, it is important to choose butterbur that is labeled or certified PA-free. As explained by the National Institutes of Health, the unprocessed butterbur contains PA (pyrrolizidine alkaloids), which can cause liver damage. 

Neti Pots. Saline nasal irrigation is a more clinical term for a neti pot, and they may provide sinus pain relief for allergy sufferers. These nasal irrigators have been proven effective for cleansing the nasal passages of excess dirt and mucus. A review examined the effectiveness of nasal saline irrigation for symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis, and the research suggests neti pots are beneficial. Nasal irrigation helps whether used alone or when used in addition to nasal sprays or allergy medication. Researchers have found that the biggest problem with neti pots is compliance. Most people stopped using the nasal irrigation systems after a few weeks. The process of using neti pots is easy, but first use can be a little intimidating. The key is to use it regularly throughout the allergy season. Also, use distilled or filtered water, as unclean water could cause other problems.

Honey–the jury is out. The idea that honey that comes from within 100 miles of your home can help curb allergies has been the subject of great debate. The theory makes sense: expose yourself to a product made by pollen-carrying bees and you will in essence naturally “vaccinate” yourself from seasonal allergies. However, research has not backed it up this claim. A study out of the University of Connecticut had patients in three groups: The first group took unfiltered, unpasteurized local honey; the second group took filtered and pasteurized honey; and the third group took corn syrup with honey flavor. Sadly, no group saw any reduction in symptoms. The study was small, and more research needs to be conducted to determine if honey helps with allergies. So go ahead and enjoy some honey in your cup of tea, but don’t expect it to take away your nasal congestion.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jul 23, 2015

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Medical References

  1. Butterbur. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: National Institutes of Health.
  2. Saline irrigation spells relief for sinusitis sufferers. The Journal of Family Practice.
  3. Effect of ingestion of honey on symptoms of rhinoconjunctivitis. PubMed. U.S. National Library of Medicine .
  4. A placebo-controlled evaluation of butterbur and fexofenadine on objective and subjective outcomes in perennial allergic rhinitis. PubMed. U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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