Are you plagued by sneezing, coughing, congestion, and itchy eyes for days or weeks at a time? Do you feel wiped out but aren’t sure why? Hay fever (allergic rhinitis), the most common type of seasonal allergy, is the probable culprit, affecting one out of five people.
Hay fever occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly interprets airborne particles of pollen, mold, or dust as dangerous invaders. The body overreacts by releasing a chemical called histamine into the bloodstream, which causes the allergic responses. Many people use antihistamines to cope. But these medications can also cause depression, drowsiness, vomiting, nausea, gastrointestinal pain, and diarrhea. They also inhibit the production of serotonin, which dries out the nasal passages. Fortunately, the natural world offers relief.
Keep in mind that the suggested dosages are intended for adults. Experts recommend that children between the ages of twelve and seventeen receive three-quarters of the recommended amount. Half the adult dosage is typically advised for children between six and twelve. Another way to calculate appropriate dosage is by dividing a child’s weight in pounds by 150 (the weight general dosages are calculated for) to determine the fraction of the adult dosage to use. Consult a practitioner trained in herbal medicine for specific dosage and safety instructions.
Better with Butterbur
This herb’s common name stems from one of its historical uses—its leaves were used to wrap butter before the days of refrigeration. Studies show that butterbur (Petasites hybridus) contains a substance called petasine that performs as effectively as antihistamines—with no drowsiness. John Neustadt, ND, recommends 8 milligrams (mg) petasine three to four times daily.
This herb is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women. Those allergic to echinacea, sunflower, artichoke, or milk thistle may be at increased risk for an allergic reaction to butterbur.
The Mettle of Nettle
Nettle (Urtica dioica), also known as stinging nettle, possesses antiallergenic and antihistamine compounds that enhance the body’s resistance to pollens and molds. Taking it should dramatically decrease allergy attacks and will help staunch a runny nose. Try taking two 300 mg capsules when symptoms arise. Choose freeze-dried extracts for maximum effectiveness.
The Quality of Quercetin
Begin taking the supplement quercetin (200 to 500 mg twice daily, five to ten minutes before meals) at the start of allergy season. This natural herbal compound works a bit slower than prescription antihistamines but is very effective at blocking histamine release. Look for supplements that also contain bromelain for better absorption. Quercetin can be used as a primary remedy or in conjunction with more conventional approaches.
Sipping green tea may help. Research has shown that licorice root can boost energy levels while reducing allergic symptoms. This herb should not be used for more than a week at a time or by those with high blood pressure.
Garlic (in a liquid formula) can be helpful for sinus inflammation. Pycnogenol or grape seed extract also serve as anti-inflammatories.
Other useful herbs include dandelion, ginkgo, milk thistle, and turmeric. Children suffering from watery eyes and runny noses can benefit from a cup of eyebright tea. Eyebright can also be used to bathe nasal passages to aid in decongestion.
Who Gets Hay Fever?
Your odds of developing hay fever increase if
• there’s a family history
• you’re male
• you’re the firstborn child
• your birthday falls during pollen season
• you’ve been exposed to dust mites
• you were exposed to second-hand cigarette smoke during the first year of life.