If you’ve ever had seasonal allergies than the word “Spring” conjures up memories of watery eyes, post nasal drip, sneezing, and being all around miserable.
For me, every March/April/May was the time I refer to as “Rachel’s personal hell” It all started when I moved away from where I grew up in the city and went to college. That first spring I can remember thinking to myself “Am I just sick all the time?” before I finally figured out that I had seasonal allergies, otherwise called hay fever.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI); allergic rhinitis or hay fever affects between 40-60 million Americans. Common symptoms include: watery/itchy eyes, runny/stuffy nose, sneezing, and coughing. Allergic rhinitis is generally caused by an over reaction of the immune system to harmless substances like pollen.
Seasonal allergies can make life quite miserable and unfortunately pharmaceuticals can only attempt to control symptoms (which still was inadequate for me despite taking multiple antihistamines, a nasal spray, and eye drops).
After starting my herbal journey I figured that if herbs could help my seasonal allergies than I’d be a believer. While I still have minor seasonal allergy symptoms, I have found that herbs help me stay away from pharmaceuticals. I’d love to share what I’ve found helpful for me in case you are suffering from hay fever and want more relief!
Foundational/Lifestyle helpful ideas:
- Stay hydrated and get enough water! This is really important to not dry out your mucous membranes which contributes to being even stuffier and more congestion. I hate to say it but cutting back on caffeine and alcohol, two things that dehydrate you, can be helpful.
- Following the pollen counts either by finding a local allergist who posts pollen counts or by using www.pollen.com. On days when the pollen count is extremely high – I stay inside.
- Showering each night before bed. I’m take my showers at night anyway but I really think that it helps to wash all the pollen off each evening before bed.
- Trying your best to get enough sleep. Sleep is essential for optimal wellness and getting enough sleep helps your body to restore and repair.
- Eating a whole foods diet. Foods such as berries have been thought to help with seasonal allergies due to their antioxidant content.
Non herbal helpful ideas/products (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.):
- Neti pot: I have found that using a neti-pot frequently helps to wash out the pollen, relieve congestion, and helps with overall symptom control. Make sure to use distilled or boiled water in your neti pot and clean after each use.
- Probiotics: It is now known that bacteria in the gut play an important role in supporting the immune system. Allergies are a dis-regulation of the immune system and research has shown that probiotics can help improve allergy symptoms (1).
- Homeopathic pollen remedies such as the one by bioAllers found on Amazon. While I am not a homeopath, I’ve found these products pretty helpful. They make different blends to to target different allergens such as tree pollen and grass.
- Xylitol Nasal Spray: When I feel really congested but don’t want to use my prescription nasal spray, I turn to my Xylitol Nasal Spray.
- Freeze dried nettles: This is my go to when my allergy symptoms start flaring up. Nettles, particularly freeze dried nettles, act as an anti-inflammatory perhaps due to their histamine content (2); the dose for freeze dried nettles is 300mg 2-3 per day. I can’t get enough nettles during allergy season and I usually combine freeze dried nettles in capsules with a nettle allergy tea. Drinking an allergy tea also helps keep me hydrated!
- Herbal Eye wash: For me, itchy eyes are the worst part of my seasonal allergies. I’ve found that using an herbal eye wash with gentle herbs like calendula, rose, and eyebright are perfect for bringing relief. To make an herbal eyewash use equal parts of calendula and rose and make an infusion with boiling water (usually 1 tbsp of herbs per 8oz water). If you can find eyebright you can also add that in equal parts to the infusion. These days eyebright is impossible to find and I’ve been using a powdered version. I usually add about 1/2 tsp of the powdered version to the infusion and let steep for 15 minutes. You definitely want to make sure that the infusion is cool before putting it in your eye. I repeat- wait until the infusion has cooled down before applying it! Using an eye cup you can rinse your eyes several times per day with the eye wash. Just make sure to make an new solution every few hours or so as infusions do not keep for more than a few hours. I have found this combination to be incredibly helpful for itchy/puffy eyes.
- Butterbur: Butterbur is another herb that is used to relieve allergy symptoms. I have not personally used butterbur for allergies lately as I have been either pregnant or breastfeeding for about the last 2 years. Standard dose of butterbur capsules is 75mg twice per day. Please make sure that your butterbur is labeled “PA Free”. Butterbur contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids which are associated with liver toxicity. Commercial preparations typically remove the PA’s for safety. You can read about a clinical trial which compared butterbur to Zyrtec if you’re nerdy like me! Full pdf found at: https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/324/7330/144.full.pdf (3)
I hope this article has given you some ideas of different things to try when you feel seasonal allergies coming on. I’ll do another post on using essential oils to help manage allergy symptoms. But for now, off to the garden!
1. Probiotics for the treatment of allergic rhinitis and asthma: systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Vliagoftis, Harissios et al. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology , Volume 101 , Issue 6 , 570 – 579.
2. Natural treatment of chronic rhinosinusitus. Helms, Steve & Miller, Alan. Alternative Medicine Review, Volume 11, Number 3, 196-207.
3. Schapowal, A. Randomised controlled trial of butterbur and cetirizine for treating seasonal allergic rhinitis. BMJ 2002;324:144