new_health (2006-18)

Allergic to Spring?

For relief, fight nature with nature

by Wendy C. Smith

Well, it’s allergy time in Tennessee. Half of the people I know are miserable with headaches, sniffles and congestion. They’re feeling so bad that they’re hanging around inside waiting for it to rain. That’s no way to spend the spring.

The pollen seems to have attacked with a vengeance this year. Being in a bowl at the base of the Smoky Mountains doesn’t help the situation either. But, although pollen is a nasty beast, it’s not the only cause of allergic reactions. Pollution, dust, food, pets, insect bites, chemicals and molds can all cause allergic reactions that manifest as headaches, nasal congestion, hives, itching and fatigue to name a few symptoms.

Allergies are symptoms of a compromised immune system. They are a defensive response by that system to something that is not usually harmful. The immune system is our fortress against invading organisms and infections. However, once in a while the immune system incorrectly identifies a normal substance as a harmful one and, in trying to fight the incorrectly identified “invader,” produces a reaction that becomes problematic. Additionally, if the immune system becomes weakened through stress or other means, allergies can develop.  

Luckily, there are several natural ways to combat allergies. Allergic symptoms are caused by histamine, which is a bodily secretion that causes vascular constriction and is produced in the mast cells. The histamine level in the body increases when an allergen is introduced. The idea is to lower the histamine levels and try to keep it contained in the mast cells where it is made.

Quercetin is a bioflavinoid found in strawberries and red onions among other foods. Although it is not an antihistamine, it works against histamine by keeping the body’s mast cells from releasing the substance. It is also good at blocking inflammation, which is one of the bodily responses to allergies that create numerous problems. Quercetin seems to be especially effective in combination with bromelain. Bromelain is an enzyme that is a general anti-inflammatory found naturally in pineapple that seems to give great relief to allergies. Taking a little quercetin and bromelain on an empty stomach every day can help alleviate symptoms and will help support the immune system as well. Vitamin C (or Ester-C), taken alone or in combination, is a good anti-inflammatory and lowers the blood serum levels of histamine. This vitamin is also necessary to keep cell walls strong and maintain cellular integrity. SuperQuercetin is a supplement that contains bromelain, quercetin and vitamin C.

A couple of people I know have had success treating allergies with acupuncture. An acupuncturist prescribed acupuncture and a Chinese herbal product called Xanthium Relief Formula and Nasal Tabs for one friend. My friend was thrilled with the results and has experienced no side effects or drowsiness. Traditional Chinese medicine has used herbs as drugs for thousands of years, and those herbs can be quite potent. One should not purchase any sort of Chinese herbal formula without consulting a professional.

There are also many herbal options that can reduce the symptoms of allergic reactions. Nettle (stinging nettles) is a substance that is helpful in treating the symptoms of allergies. Nettle is a vigorous antioxidant and reduces inflammation in the sinus cavities. Licorice root is also effective at battling the inflammatory response of allergies and mimics the effects of cortisone and protisone without the nasty side effects. Many natural relief formulas such as AllerResponse contain those ingredients.

Mucolytic products, such as MucoStop , which contain natural mucolytic (mucus eating) enzymes can assist in easing congestion and sinus issues. And, oddly enough, an extract made from the Chinese mushroom Cordyceps seems to increase breathing capacity in asthmatic situations.

Homeopathy is another place to look for allergy relief. The basic premise of homeopathy is to fight like with like. Homeopathy immunizes the body against the allergen by introducing it in small enough amounts that allow the body to formulate the appropriate response to the problem. It’s the same thing an allergist does with shots.

Local honey is sort of like a mild homeopathic remedy for pollen allergies. Local honey contains local pollen so a “treat like with like” situation is set up. A teaspoon a day can help build immunity to local pollen. Some people take bee pollen to combat allergies, but this works better if the pollen is local. Pollen also needs to be taken in very small doses or even those with no allergies can have a reaction.

And, lastly, neti pots are another often overlooked home remedy. Neti pots look like small teapots and are used to pour warm salt water through the sinuses. This clears the sinuses and lessens the likelihood of a bacterial infection.   

With allergies, as with most other things, it never hurts to explore the natural options that are available. Then go outside and take a deep breath of spring.