Living & Managing: Living With Allergies: Home Remedies for Allergies
As prime allergy season approaches (at least in our area) I thought I’d share some natural remedies that I’ve found to be very effective for seasonal and other allergies.
Thankfully, we don’t suffer from many allergies anymore after our time on the GAPS diet, which greatly helped relieve many of our allergies. I still occasionally get hit with an allergy attack from dust after cleaning though (a reason not to clean? I think yes!) and my hubby occasionally reacts to grass.
These simple natural remedies can be very effective for allergy relief. Different people seem to benefit from different remedies, so it might be worth trying more than one of these to see which works best.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is an age old remedy that is often suggested for a variety of health conditions. I’ve personally used it for allergy relief (and heartburn relief) with great success. The theory is that its ability to reduce mucous production and cleanse the lymphatic system makes it useful for allergies. It is also said to help digestion, weight loss and more so it is worth a try!
What I did: I mixed a teaspoon of organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with “The Mother” (that part is important) into a glass of water and drank this three times a day. This helped me with relief of acute allergy symptoms and seemed to help prevent allergy attacks as well.
Neti Pot and Saline Rinse
I haven’t personally tried the Neti pot because I’m a big scardey cat about pouring things in my nose, but I have friends who swear by it, and I’ve used saline nasal spray before. (If you use one, I’d love to hear your experience in the comments!) The basic theory is that you use a Neti Pot filled with a sterile saline solution to flush out the sinuses of allergens and irritations.
Surprisingly, I’ve heard this recommended by conventional and alternative doctors, and it seems that it doesn’t really have a downside.
To use: Either use a pre-made saline rinse or make your own by dissolving 1 teaspoon ofhimalayan or sea salt in a quart of boiled distilled water. Cool completely and put in theNeti Pot. Pour through one nostril and let it drain out the other.
Quercetin is a natural bioflavonoid that is said to help stabilize mast cells to keep them from releasing histamine. It is also a potent antioxidant that is said to help reduce inflammation. It is best used as a long term remedy and many people start taking it about 4-6 weeks before allergy season to help prevent allergy symptoms.
As with any herb, you should check with your doctor before using, especially if you have a liver problem, are pregnant, or are on hormonal contraceptives.
To Use: Though Quercetin is naturally found in foods like citrus and broccoli, it is very difficult to get the amount needed to relive allergies from food alone. A supplemental dose can be helpful for preventing allergies or helping acute symptoms. Not recommended during pregnancy or nursing though some practitioners feel it is safe after the first trimester.
Nettle leaf is another natural antihistamine that can be very effective as it naturally blocks the body’s ability to produce histamine. It grows in many places and can be made in to a tincture or tea, but for allergy relief, capsules made from dried nettle leaves are the easiest and most effective option.
Nettle leaf can also be used in combination with other herbs to make a soothing herbal tea for allergy relief. It is often mixed with peppermint leaf and sometimes red raspberry leaf to make a refreshing allergy relief tea.
To Use: Either make a tea (recipe at the bottom of this post) or use capsules for acute relief of allergy symptoms.
Allergies are the result of an imbalance in the immune system that causes the body to react too strongly to a stimuli. New research links the presence of beneficial bacteria in the gut with reduced incidence of allergies. Evidence is even emerging that a mother’s gut bacteria during pregnancy and nursing can impact a child’s likelihood of getting allergies throughout life.
While we can’t do much about our mothers’ diets while they were pregnant, balancing gut bacteria now and consuming enough beneficial bacteria can have a positive effect on allergies now. Fermented foods and drinks like Kombucha or Kefir can hep boost gut bacteria, as can a high quality probiotic capsule.
There isn’t much scientific evidence to back this one, but there seems to be a lot of anecdotal evidence from people who have tried it. (Even Mark Sisson weighed in on the subject here). The theory is that consuming local honey from where you live will help your body adapt to the allergens in the environment there. This is supposed to work like a natural allergy “shot” and doesn’t seem to have a downside.
To Use: Consume a teaspoon or more of raw, unprocessed local honey from as close to where you actually live as possible. Do this one or more times a day to help relieve symptoms. It is often suggested to start this a month or so before allergy season.
High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters ease symptoms by trapping allergens and other airborne irritants, such as pet dander and dust. Portable air cleaners equipped with HEPA filters can purify the air in bedrooms and other confined spaces, but whole-house systems that incorporate HEPA filters into your home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system are generally more effective.
Air conditioners and dehumidifiers also can help clean air, Dr. Graham says. They remove moisture from the air and floor, which will curb the growth of the mold and mildew that can worsen allergies.
Herbs and supplements
Several herbs and supplements—including spirulina, eyebright, and goldenseal—have been studied for allergy relief. The plant extract butterbur, which is thought to reduce airway inflammation, has produced what are perhaps the strongest results. In a pair of clinical trials led by a Swiss research team, butterbur tablets eased symptoms just as much as the over-the-counter antihistamines fexofenadine and cetirizine, respectively.
For his part, Dr. Graham suggests his patients first try bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple that is sometimes used to curb inflammation after sinus surgery. “It reduces swelling and improves breathing,” he says. “It’s a safe first step.”
Anyone who has even been stuffed-up knows the impressive ability of a steaming hot shower to soothe sinuses and clear nasal passages, if only temporarily. But showers offer an added benefit for springtime allergy sufferers. A quick rinse after spending time outdoors can help remove allergens from your skin and hair—and prevent them from spreading to clothes, furniture, pillowcases, and other surfaces where they’re likely to dog you.
This is especially true if you’ve been gardening. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends stripping off your shoes and clothes and showering immediately if you’ve been weeding, pruning, or planting.
Don’t feel like getting soaked and toweling off every time your sinuses get clogged? Other methods of inhaling steam—store-bought vaporizers, for instance—can flush out mucus and moisten dry nasal passages nearly as well as a shower.
The easiest method is simply to pour boiling water into a bowl or other container, drape a towel over your head to form a tent, and inhale deeply through your nose for five to 10 minutes. (Just be careful not to get your face too close to the water, as you may scald yourself.) If you find yourself really clogged up, this may be more convenient than taking several showers a day.
The strong, piney aroma of eucalyptus oil can supercharge steam inhalation, helping to open your sinuses and nasal passages further. Some research suggests the essential oil, extracted from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree, has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, but if nothing else the vapor provides a bracing, menthol-like sensation that can make breathing seem easier.
Try adding a few drops of oil to a bowl of steaming water, or to the floor of the shower before you step in. Just don’t swallow the oil or apply it directly to your skin; it’s toxic in concentrated amounts.
Many people swear by the sinus-clearing effects of spicy foods like chili peppers, wasabi, Dijon mustard, fresh garlic, and horseradish. Sure enough, an active ingredient in garlic (allyl thiosulfinate) and a similar ingredient in wasabi (isothiocyanates) do appear to have a temporary decongestant effect.
Foods with a kick can definitely start your eyes watering and open your nasal passages, but it’s unclear whether they provide anything more than fleeting relief.
Holding your face over a hot cup of tea may open your nasal passages, but the steam isn’t the only thing that’s beneficial. The menthol in peppermint tea, for instance, seems to work as a decongestant and expectorant, meaning it can break up mucus and help clear it out of your nose and throat.
Similarly, green tea contains a compound (methylated epigallocatechin gallate) that has been shown in lab tests to have antioxidant properties that inhibit allergic reactions. These results may not necessarily translate into noticeable symptom relief for spring allergy sufferers, however.
If you do have spring allergies, you’ll probably want to stay away from chamomile, as it can cause reactions in people allergic to ragweed.
Red Onion Water
Onions contain a water soluble chemical compound called quercetin, which has been demonstrated in preliminary studies to reduce the amount of histamine produced by the body, therefore reducing symptoms of allergies. It is, essentially, nature’s version of an anti-histamine. Quercetin itself has also been shown to inhibit inflammation, as well as act as a bronchodilator, opening up airways and helping you breathe easier.
You will need:
-1 red onion
-4 cups of water
-Organic, raw, honey to taste
Thinly slice the onion and add it to the water. Allow it to infuse for 8-12 hours before drinking 1-2 times daily. It will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. Stir some honey into individual glasses when you drink it if you like.
Steam Your Face
Breathing steam refreshes and soothes irritated sinuses, and it helps rid the nasal passages of mucus. While it takes some time, it will make you feel wonderful! Boil several cups of water and pour into a big bowl (or a plugged sink). Lean carefully over the bowl, and drape a towel over your head. Breathe gently for 5 to 10 minutes.
When you’re finished breathing steam, use the water for a second purpose: Let the water cool until warm, saturate a washcloth, and hold the cloth on your sinuses (to the sides of your nose, below the eyes, and above the eyebrows).
If you’re a hay fever sufferer who also loves Japanese food, this remedy will please. Wasabi, that pale-green, fiery condiment served with many Japanese dishes, is a member of the horseradish family. Anyone who has taken too big a dollop of wasabi (or plain old horseradish) knows that it makes sinuses and tear ducts spring into action. That’s because allyl isothiocyanate, a constituent in wasabi, promotes mucus flow.
The tastiest way to get those allyl isothiocyanates is by slathering horseradish on your sandwich or plopping wasabi onto your favorite sushi. Another option — although harder to swallow — is to purchase grated horseradish, and take 1/4 teaspoon to alleviate allergy symptoms.