Allergic rhinitis or hay fever can be miserable, causing a blocked nose, runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing, all caused by inflammation of the sinuses due to pollen.
Some people may experience some or all of these allergic symptoms with other common irritants such as household dust mites and the family pet. There are many traditional ways to treat this increasingly common problem but why not try out some herbal remedies says medical herbalist Lucy Stephens, of London’s Reva Clinic www.revaclinic.com.
Quercetin is a flavonoid found in many foods such as red onion, black tea, red grapes, apples, berries and a lesser amount in dark green leafy vegetables. Flavonoids are what give us the bright red, yellow and orange colours of the plant food we eat. Quercetin has been shown to have an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory effect in allergic reactions. Eating foods high in flavonoids would be the best way to take this, however there are also quercetin supplements that you can buy. Speak to your GP if you’re on medication or pregnant before supplementing.
Nettle extract has been studied for its anti-inflammatory effect in seasonal rhinitis and has shown positive effects. This can easily be taken as a tea but make sure you buy a good quality loose leaf tea.
This product contains Tinospora cordifolia which is an Indian plant used in Ayurvedic medicine. Several studies have reported its use for hayfever, showing that it is able to alter the immune system, affect the histamine pathway in the body and give an antioxidant effect. However long-term safety (8weeks+) of this plant is not known. It should be used cautiously by diabetics as it may lower blood sugar levels, as well as those with autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis due to its potential stimulation of the immune system.
Euphrasia officinalis (eyebright)
This is a plant that I use all the time for allergies. Eyebright tincture is effective for sinusitis, allergic rhinitis or any inflamed mucous membranes. You can buy eyebright tincture online. Alternatively many over the counter eyedrops contain eyebright which helps the itchiness associated with hay fever.
Ephedra is a very effective natural decongestant for allergies and hayfever. Ephedrine (derived from this plant) has been used in over the counter medicines but its use is restricted to pharmacists’ use only due to potential side effects. However whole ephedra which is used by herbalists has fewer side effects than isolated ephedrine because of the balancing effect of the other compounds it contains. A trained herbalist is able to use ephedra after consultation with a patient, ensuring the correct dose and any contraindications are taken into account.
Has immunomodulating or natural anti-inflammatory effects. There is a constituent in aloe – magnesium lactate which has been shown to block histamine and may stop itching. You can take aloe vera gel internally.
Vaccinium myrtillus (blueberry)
Blueberry has been shown to reduce proinflammatory substances such as histamine and to stabilise mast cells (which contain histamine), so it may be useful for allergies such as hayfever. As a herbalist I tend to give Vaccinium as a tincture, however there are capsules and tablets available over the counter.
Finally probably the best cure for hayfever is to avoid pollen, which obviously is not very easy to do! Pollen is a fine powder however, so putting a bit of Vaseline or another barrier cream around your nose can help ‘catch’ the pollen and stop you inhaling it and causing an inflammatory reaction.