Allergies notoriously affect an average of 50 million Americans, with half suffering from seasonal allergies. Allergies go hand in hand with the immune system. They are the result of the immune system's overreaction to the things in your environment, such as pollens, grass, mold, pet dander, pollution, certain foods, cosmetics, laundry detergents, and household products. When this overreaction of the immune system is triggered by an allergen, it causes inflammation and then the symptoms will appear. An allergic reaction can manifest with a stuffy and/or runny nose, sneezing, itchy, red, and watery eyes, and hives.
Unfortunately, most allergy sufferers get mild help and relief from conventional medicine via allergy shots, nasal sprays, or prescription drugs. Often, pharmaceutical drugs come with a long list of side effects, such as dry mouth, dizziness, drowsiness, heart palpitations, and some cause depression.
Here is a brief description of how histamines and antihistamines work. Basically, antihistamines block the histamine from connecting to the receptor site, they do not prevent the production of histamine. Essentially, they are merely suppressing the appearance of the symptoms, or the “branch,” but do nothing to treat the “root” or underlying cause of the problem (and they also have side effects). Fortunately, there are plenty of natural remedies and methods you can use to help to eliminate allergies.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been very effective in treating seasonal and non-seasonal allergies, through the use of acupuncture, herbs, nutritional therapy and lifestyle modification.
Acupuncture is the art of inserting needles into certain points on the body in order to restore balance, in this case, restoring balance to support the overactive immune system. Within the body, there are pathways of vital energy or ‘qi,’ that are associated with their own organs and systems. Inserting the fine needles act as a conduit by restoring the natural flow of energy within these pathways, therefore, enabling the patient’s own healing abilities.
Herbs can be prescribed by your practitioner, in order to restore the natural balance throughout your body. They have a slower and more gentle effect than pharmaceutical drugs and are tailored to the individual based on the presenting condition, overall constitution, lifestyle.
In 2004, Allergy magazine published a study demonstrating the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of allergies. 52 participants were divided into two groups. One group received weekly acupuncture treatments and an herbal formula, specifically designed for allergies, for six weeks. The second group received weekly “sham acupuncture” treatments and a non-specific herbal formula for six weeks. The results indicated that those who received specific acupuncture treatments and herbal formulas noticed improvements in allergy symptoms, as well as an increase in physical activity, energy and improved psychological condition.
If you are a constant allergy sufferer, it is important to seek help with your allergies a few months before the height of the allergy season, so it is easier to support and treat both the root and the branch. Although, if you do decide to seek help from a TCM practitioner during the height of the season, the focus will be more on alleviating your symptoms, followed by treating the underlying cause. Either way, whenever you decide to naturally address your allergies, TCM is extremely effective in aiding your allergy recovery with little to no side effects.
In addition to Traditional Chinese Medicine, you can also use natural healing methods at home, through the use of nutrition, supplements, and lifestyle modification.
Here are some dietary suggestions to help your allergy suffering! Eat foods loaded in Flavanoids!, also known as bio-flavanoids. Bio-flavanoids are in our fruits, veggies, teas, and wines and they possess anti-allergic effects! Cayenne, or chili pepper, is also very effective because it contains capsaicin, which desensitizes the mucous membranes that line the airways. This action prevents them from secreting excess fluids and becoming less irritated when exposed to pollutants.
Stay away from sugars! According to Fred Pescatore, M.D., author of “The Allergy and Asthma Cure,” One teaspoon of sugar suppresses the immune system by 56%, and two suppress it by 84%. Also, try to eat less meat and dairy, because animal products contain arachidonic acid, which has been shown increase inflammation and have an association with hay fever. Additionally, dairy and heavy greasy foods tend to increase mucous production in the body.
Here is a list of several supplements and herbal remedies that will help ease your symptoms. If you are planning on taking herbal remedies or supplements, please consult with your health care practitioner prior to use and be sure to read the directions on the bottle.
Quercetin is a bioflavanoid and is thought to prevent the release of histamine from the immune cells. Quercetin can be found in apples, berries, red grapes, red onions, capers, and black tea. You can also take quercetin in supplement form several times a day. Be sure to follow the directions on the bottle.
Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine! It seems to help reduce mucous and inflammation and works really well in conjunction with bioflavanoids, such as quercetin.
Vitamin E seems to help with seasonal allergies by inhibiting the overreacting immune system, as well. You can find Vitamin E in green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, collards, etc.), beans, apples, carrots, celery and nuts.
Omega-3s are also anti-inflammatory and can help reduce your response to allergens. You can either take a supplement or eat wild-caught salmon several times a week.
Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is an herbal remedy that has been used for centuries to treat migraines, pain, and inflammation! Recently, it has been found helpful in treating respiratory conditions, such as hay fever and asthma. This herb is thought to act like an antihistamine, but without the side effects. In the British Medical Journal in January 2002, butterbur was compared to the antihistamine cetirizine (Zyrtec) and was extremely effective. Because butterbur produces liver toxic substances, it is essential that you get the product with these substances removed.
Nettle is useful for reducing hay fever symptoms, particularly itchiness. Nettle leaf prevents the release of histamines. It is available in tincture, tea, or capsule form.
Angelica , or Dong Quai, helps to ease hayfever, as well other allergic reactions. It has been found to block the body's production of allergic antibody levels (IgE). A decrease in these antibodies inhibits the release from immune cells, or mast cells.
Licorice has been found to decrease inflammation in the body and reduce allergic symptoms. This herb is able to enhance the body’s cortisol levels, which is a hormone released by the adrenal glands, that decreases inflammation. It also inhibits the release from mast cells, much like Angelica. However, prolonged use of licorice can result in potassium loss. Therefore, it is essential to supplement or increase your intake of potassium rich foods. Additionally, people with high blood pressure, should use caution when taking licorice, as it has been found to increase sodium retention.