The pollen season always brings discomfort to so many of us. But there are herbs that have been tested and shown to alleviate the congestion, sniffling, and sneezing of hay fever, so you can enjoy the warmer weather and longer days. Here are six herbal allies that can help you find natural relief from your seasonal allergies.
Most of these herbs may be found at your local natural foods store, or go online to find an herbal purveyor.
Butterbur may be a very effective treatment for hay fever. It was recently compared to an antihistamine and did just as well in controlling hay fever symptoms, but did not produce drowsiness. This plant contains substances that are known to affect the immune system, and it has also been used to treat asthma.
Stinging nettle was thought to be as good as, or better than, previous hay fever medications by half of the patients tested. The dose used was two 300 mg capsules taken whenever the symptoms were experienced. This is not a conclusive study, but it does suggest that stinging nettle might be a useful treatment. It is probably a safe herb.
Ginkgo may decrease the bodyís reactions to allergens. (For those with pollen asthma, it could also help by calming the inflammation of the airways.)
Luffa complex (also marketed as Pollisan) contains extracts of several different plant products, including the sponge cucumber. (Also called a luffa or loofah, this is better known as a scratchy cylinder used to scrub the ski while showering. ) Unpublished results of a trial carried out by the manufacturer suggests that 75 percent of hay fever sufferers find benefit from this mixture.
Quercetin is found in red wine, apples, onions, and other foods and is therefore likely to be safe as long as you donít overdo the dose. It has been tested in the laboratory with mast cells taken from the noses of people with allergic rhinitis (mast cells are responsible for starting off the allergic reaction.) Exposure to quercetin made the cells less likely to respond to allergen. Although we are not sure if quercetin is as effective when taken by mouth as it is in a test tube, if you want to give it a try, the dose usually recommended is between 250 mg and 600 mg, taken 5 to 10 minutes before meals.
Perilla 6000, which is marketed as a treatment for hay fever and other allergies contains Perilla frutescens, a Chinese herb with a long folk tradition of treating allergy, plus Coleus forskohlii. The latter has been tested for asthma and has definite benefits, but it can also cause soreness in the mouth and nausea. Perilla itself has only been tested in animals, but did show promising results in blocking allergic reactions. (Unfortunately, this mixture also contains alfalfa, which is harmful to some people with autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus.) Perilla 6000 is not yet sold in the United States, but can be found via the Internet.
Adapted from Hay Fever: The Complete Guide by Jonathan Brostoff, M.D. and Linda Gamlin (Inner Traditions, 2002). Copyright (c) 2002 by Jonathan Brostoff and Linda Gamlin. Reprinted by permission of Inner Traditions.
Adapted from Hay Fever: The Complete Guide by Jonathan Brostoff, M.D. and Linda Gamlin (Inner Traditions, 2002).