Spring is here again, bringing with it the warmer weather, longer days… and allergies. For those that suffer from seasonal hayfever or asthma, this can be a particularly challenging time of year. Antihistamines are a popular choice for controlling itchy eyes, runny noses and that gluggly, stuffed-up-head feeling. But have you ever wondered if there’s a more natural solution?
Fortunately, alternative medicine provides many different options with which to tackle allergies and herbal medicine provides a gentle, yet effective method with which to do so.
Herbal remedies for allergy relief
Nettle Leaf (Urtica dioica)
This herb has proven ability to act on histamine receptors and mast cells, controlling the release of pro-inflammatory chemical mediators that contribute to the symptoms of allergies. (1) Nettle works well for easing lymphatic congestion and is a known depurative – basically a ‘cleaner’. This brilliant little herb is also used for treating rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, and can be added to a cream base to alleviate skin conditions too.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
Feverfew is traditionally known for treating migraines and fevers associated with colds & flu (hence its name). However, Feverfew is a fabulous anti-inflammatory and is very useful if you also suffer from headaches as a result of nasal or sinus congestion. It reduces secretion of several inflammatory chemical messengers, thus inhibiting irritation and associated pain common to allergy sufferers (2).
Albizia (Albizia lebbeck)
One of the better known anti-allergy herbs, Albizia has its origins in India & Ayurvedic medicine but it’s also native to Northern Australia. It inhibits histamine release and more specifically, prevents allergy associated inflammation. (4) Albizia is also used for treating asthma and eczema and is very useful for children who suffer from these conditions.
Elder Flower (Sambucus nigra)
One of my personal favourites, Elder works well in conjunction with anti-allergy herbs because it helps to reduce excess mucous production associated with allergic rhinitis. Acting as a supportive herb in an allergy mixture or tablet, Elder Flower helps the body to fight infection (viral or bacterial), is useful for ear infections, laryngitis, bronchitis and even pleurisy. It has a strong affinity for the upper respiratory tract and is another great herb for treating children, particularly those that suffer from allergic or seasonal asthma.
Baical Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis)
Baical skullcap is used for treating inflammation anywhere in the body, but is specifically an anti-allergy herb that contains powerful antioxidants. This herb is used more commonly in Traditional Chinese Medicine formulations, and has proven clinical results in terms of it’s ability to activate the main antioxidant pathway in the human body (5). Most symptoms of hayfever are a result of inflammation and irritation in the mucous membranes (mediated by histamine release), so the application of a herb like Baical Skullcap for allergy sufferers is quite clear.
Golden Rod (Solidago virgaurea)
Golden Rod is my main go-to herb for nasal/upper respiratory congestion of any sort. It’s a fantastic anti-inflammatory, reduces mucous and also assists removal of toxins via the kidneys. While not strictly a lymphatic herb, it carries many of these properties and would suit those who suffer from chronic sinusitis or ear infections. Clinical research also supports the use of this wonderful herb for other inflammatory conditions like arthritis (6)
Nutritional support for allergies
As we all know, the gut is the seat of health & has a major role in the development or prevention of allergies. Processed food, pesticides and herbicides make the gut permeable, setting off immune reactions which invariably result in inflammation and hyperactivation of the immune system. In some cases, treating the gut will almost completely alleviate allergies over time. Eating a diet that contains plentiful fresh fruit and vegetables is a great way to reduce systemic inflammation, oxidative stress & avoid allergies. Also avoid dairy products and sugar, as these both increase mucous production.
Treating allergies with herbal medicine rarely results in side effects, unlike those associated with conventional medication (ie. Drowsiness). Herbs act on many areas of the body, not just one: Their diverse actions give them the ability to do things that drugs cannot – they treat the cause of the condition, not just suppress the symptoms. As with all natural remedies, they should only be prescribed by a qualified practitioner. If you would like assistance with treating your allergies, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via the contact page.
(1) Roschek et al. (2009). Nettle extract (urtica dioica) affects key receptors and enzymes associated with allergic rhinitis. Phytotherapy Research. Jul;23(7):920-6
(2) Magni, P et al (2012). Parthenolide inhibits the LPS induced secretion of IL-6 and TNF-a and NFkB nuclear translocation in BV-2 microglia. Phytotherapy Research. Sep;26(9):1405-9
(3) Hayes, N.A and Foreman, J.C. (1987). The activity of compounds extracted from feverfew on histamine release from rat mast cells. Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmacology. Jun;39(6):466-70.
(4) Nurul, I.M et al. (2011). Albizia lebbeck suppresses histmaine signaling by the inhibiton of histamine H1 receptors and histidine decarboxylase gene transcription. International Immunopharmacology. Nov;11(11):1766-72..
(5) Havemann, S et al. (2016). Modulation of the Nrf2 signalling pathway in Hct116 colon carcinoma cells by baicalein and it’s methylated derivative negletein. Pharmaceutical Biology. Sep;54(9):1491-502.
(6) Gundermann, K.J and Muller, J. (2007). Phytodolor- effects and efficacy of a herbal medicine. Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift. 157(13-14):343-7.