3 Evidence-Based Natural Allergy Remedies

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Allergies can be extremely difficult to deal with, especially when sufferers deal with year-round symptoms. Luckily, there are safe, natural alternatives to the harsh pharmaceutical options

If you're an airborne allergy sufferer, headache, nonstop sneezing, stuffy nose and fatigue are your steady companions for several months every year. And for those with year-round allergies, each day brings a cycle of misery, often abated only temporarily by powerful antihistamines and decongestants that often have side effects more uncomfortable than the original symptoms.

"Allergy" refers to any condition in which the body mounts an attack on a specific substance that is benign for the rest of us. People can experience allergic reactions to foods, chemicals, plants, animals, or a mixed bag of airborne substances.

Hay fever sounds like it must be an allergy to hay, but the name is just colloquial for allergic rhinitis, a disorder that involves sneezing, itching throat and eyes, sinus headaches, and sometimes coughing. Triggered by different kinds of pollen, it can vary with the seasons: tree pollens in spring, grass and weed pollens in summer and ragweed pollen in the fall. Pets, molds, mildew/fungus, dust and cigarette smoke are common household allergens.

An allergy is a normal immune response gone into overdrive. An invader of some kind enters the body, and the body reacts. This reaction can take many forms, but one kind is an inflammatory reaction—the rushing of blood and/or mucus to the area of contact or site of invasion. Usually this healthy and normal reaction rids the body of the threat. What is not normal is when the body escalates this type of response against something that is not in fact a threat to the body‚ such as grass or tomatoes or feathers.

A generally weakened immune system creates an environment for allergies to develop. The body considers itself vulnerable to attack, and prepares to launch a defense against any perceived invader at a moment's notice. Pollen, cat hair and mold are not truly invaders and are tolerated just fine by most people. This hair-trigger response is the body's way of averting a crisis in the long run.

Remedy 1. Natural Antihistamine. Nettle leaf

Nettles are widely spread over the world and consist of about 500 species, mainly tropical, though several occur widely in temperate climates. Clinical herbalists have been forming a consensus over the last decade that nettle leaf is effective for allergy symptoms. Although investigations remain preliminary, scientific research continues to point to the anti-inflammatory properties of nettle. Scientific research shows that nettle produces an anti-allergy effect. [i] [ii]

Research seems to point to at least one of the active components being a bioflavonoid, although other authorities think it is characteristic polysaccharides, and yet others, lectins. But whatever the final determination of the active ingredients, nettle loses its anti-allergy power if not harvested and processed correctly. Look for a high quality powdered product that has been freeze dried or specially processed to retain the actives. This special processing costs more, so don’t be seduced by cheap imitations.

Use nettle when you would otherwise use an antihistamine drug to stop your misery. Many people take up to 3,000 mg per day of specially processed nettle leaf powder in capsules to relieve the temporary symptoms of hay fever and other allergic reactions, including animal allergy. Symptoms often begin to improve within 15 minutes, and the effect typically lasts for about four hours.

Remedy 2. Hay fever relief. Butterbur

Boasting an enormous leaf with a three foot diameter,[iii] probably the largest leaf of all European plants, the name comes from the Greek petasos- a hat worn by shepherds. Folklore has it that field workers used the giant fresh leaves as impromptu hats.

Butterbur leaves and root are used particularly in cases of acute pain of smooth muscle, such as in the urinary tract, especially when stones are present.b [vi] This quality also makes it useful for respiratory disorders involving cough and asthma.

A Swiss study [vii] indicates that seasonal allergy sufferers who received an extract of butterbur (Petasites hybridus) experienced symptom relief equivalent to patients treated with the antihistamine Zyrtec (cetirizine).

The scientists compared the effectiveness and tolerability of the herb, compared to the drug, in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis.[viii] In a randomized, double blind, parallel group comparison, the 125 patients participating in the study were treated with either butterbur (61 patients) or cetirizine (64 patients) for two weeks. The butterbur dose (standardized to 8.0mg of total petasine per tablet) was one tablet, four times daily, for a total of only 32 mg per day. The patients described similar symptom relief with both treatments.

Usually, butterbur supplements are standardized to contain a minimum of 7.5 mg of petasin and isopetasin per tablet. Adults commonly take 50-100 mg twice daily with meals.

Remedy 3. Savory Relief. Quercetin

Onions and garlic are excellent anti-allergy herbs, especially for asthma, and garlic is used in some cases of asthma in Ayurveda. These plants contain the flavonoid quercetin, which was discovered in a 2008 study to significantly inhibit all asthmatic reactions.[ix] A recent Korean paper found that the flavonoid has anti-asthmatic activity similar to the asthma drugs cromolyn sodium and dexamethasone.[x] Both of these bulbs also inhibit an enzyme, lipoxygenase, which generates an inflammatory chemical.[xi]

Quercetin is available as a supplement. Many people find relief from 2,000 mg per day.








Specially processed powder in capsules

3,000 mg per day


Standardized to a minimum of 7.5 mg of petasin and isopetasin per tablet

50-100 mg twice daily with meals



2,000 mg per day

To learn more about allergies, go to the GreenMedInfo.com database on the subject. 


[i] Riehemann K Behnke B Schulze Osthoff K Plant extracts from stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), an antirheumatic remedy, inhibit the proinflammatory transcription factor NF-kappaB. FEBS-Lett. 1999 Jan 8; 442(1): 89-94 1999

Abstract: Activation of transcription factor NF-kappaB is elevated in several chronic inflammatorydiseases and is responsible for the enhanced expression of many proinflammatory gene products.Extracts from leaves of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) are used as antiinflammatory remedies inrheumatoid arthritis. Standardized preparations of these extracts (IDS23) suppress cytokineproduction, but their mode of action remains unclear. Here we demonstrate that treatment ofdifferent cells with IDS23 potently inhibits NF-kappaB activation. An inhibitory effect wasobserved in response to several stimuli, suggesting that IDS23 suppressed a common NF-kappaBpathway. Inhibition of NF-kappaB activation by IDS23 was not mediated by a directmodification of DNA binding, but rather by preventing degradation of its inhibitory subunitIkappaB-alpha. Our results suggests that part of the antiinflammatory effect of Urtica extract maybe ascribed to its inhibitory effect on NF-kappaB activation.

[ii] Mittman P Randomized, double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica dioica in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Planta-Med. 1990 Feb; 56(1): 44-7 1990

Abstract: Ninety-eight individuals took part in a double-blind randomized study comparing the effects of a freeze-dried preparation of Urtica dioica (stinging nettles) with placebo on allergic rhinitis. Sixty-nine individuals completed the study. Assessment was based on daily symptom diaries, and global response recorded at the follow-up visit after one week of therapy. Urtica dioica was rated higher than placebo in the global assessments. Comparing the diary data Urtica dioica was rated only slightly higher.

[iii] Petasites hybridus (Butterbur).Alternative Medicine Review April, 2001 https://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m0FDN/2_6/74510834/print.jhtml

[iv] Berger D, et al. Influence of Petasites hybridus on dopamine-D2 and histamine-H1 receptors Pharm Acta Helv. 1998 Feb;72(6):373-5.

[v] Debrunner B, et al. Petasites hybridus: a tool for interdisciplinary research in phytotherapy. Pharm Acta Helv. 1998 Feb;72(6):359-62.

[vi] Brune K, et al. Gastro-protective effects by extracts of Petasites hybridus: the role of inhibition of peptido-leukotriene synthesis. Planta Med. 1993 Dec;59(6):494-6.

[viii] Schapowal A; Petasites Study Group. Randomised controlled trial of butterbur and cetirizine for treating seasonal allergic rhinitis. BMJ 2002 Jan 19;324(7330):144-6
Allergy Clinic, Hochwangstrasse 3, CH-7302 Landquart, Switzerland. [email protected]
OBJECTIVES: To compare the efficacy and tolerability of butterbur (Petasites hybridus) with cetirizine in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever). DESIGN: Randomised, double blind, parallel group comparison. SETTING: Four outpatient general medicine and allergy clinics in Switzerland and Germany. PARTICIPANTS: 131 patients were screened for seasonal allergic rhinitis and 125 patients were randomised (butterbur 61; cetirizine 64). INTERVENTIONS: Butterbur (carbon dioxide extract tablets, ZE 339) one tablet, four times daily, or cetirizine, one tablet in the evening, both given for two consecutive weeks. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Scores on SF-36 questionnaire and clinical global impression scale. RESULTS: Improvement in SF-36 score was similar in the two treatment groups for all items tested hierarchically. Butterbur and cetirizine were also similarly effective with regard to global improvement scores on the clinical global impression scale (median score 3 in both groups). Both treatments were well tolerated. In the cetirizine group, two thirds (8/12) of reported adverse events were associated with sedative effects (drowsiness and fatigue) despite the drug being considered a non-sedating antihistamine. CONCLUSIONS: The effects of butterbur are similar to those of cetirizine in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis when evaluated blindly by patients and doctors. Butterbur should be considered for treating seasonal allergic rhinitis when the sedative effects of antihistamines need to be avoided.

[ix] Int Immunopharmacol. 2008 Dec 2. [Epub ahead of print] Quercetin regulates Th1/Th2 balance in a murine model of asthma.Park HJ, Lee CM, Jung ID, Lee JS, Jeong YI, Chang JH, Chun SH, Kim MJ, Choi IW, Ahn SC, Shin YK, Yeom SR, Park YM.

Department of Pediatrics, Pusan National University College of Medicine, Busan 602-739, South Korea.

Quercetin is found to be the most active of the flavonoids in studies and many medicinal plants owe much of their activity to their high Quercetin content. Quercetin has demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory activity because of direct inhibition of several initial processes of inflammation. However, its anti-allergic effect in the Th1/Th2 immune response was poorly understood. Recently, it was shown that T-bet and GATA-3 were master Th1 and Th2 regulatory transcription factors. In this study, we have attempted to determine whether Quercetin regulates Th1/Th2 cytokine production, T-bet and GATA-3 gene expression in OVA-induced asthma model mice. Quercetin reduced the increased levels of IL-4, Th2 cytokine production in OVA-sensitized and -challenged mice. The other side, it increased IFN-gamma, Th1 cytokine production in Quercetin administrated mice. We also examined to ascertain whether Quercetin could influence Eosinophil peroxidase (EPO) activity. The administration of Quercetin before the last airway OVA challenge resulted in a significant inhibition of all asthmatic reactions. Accordingly, this study may provide evidence that Quercetin plays a critical role in the amelioration of the pathogenetic process of asthma in mice. These findings provide new insight into the immunopharmacological role of Quercetin in terms of its effects in a murine model of asthma, and also broaden current perspectives in our understanding of the immunopharmacological functions of Quercetin.

[x] Arch Pharm Res. 2008 Jun;31(6):771-8. Epub 2008 Jun 19. Quercetin inhalation inhibits the asthmatic responses by exposure to aerosolized-ovalbumin in conscious guinea-pigs.Moon H, Choi HH, Lee JY, Moon HJ, Sim SS, Kim CJ.

Division of Pathophysiology and Pharmacology, College of Pharmacy, Chung-Ang University, 221 Huksuk-dong, Seoul, 156-756, Korea.

Effects of quercetin inhalation on immediate (IAR), late-phase (LAR) and late late-phase (LLAR) asthmatic responses by exposure to aerosolized-ovalbumin (AOA) (2w/v% in saline, inhalation for 3 min) were studied in conscious guinea-pigs sensitized with AOA. We measured specific airway resistance (sRaw), and recruitment of leukocytes, histamine and protein contents and phospholipase A2 (PLA2) activity in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF). Effects of quercetin (10 mg/mL, inhalation for 2 min) compared with cromolyn sodium, salbutamol, and dexamethasone inhalations, respectively. Quercetin inhalation decreased sRaw by 57.15 +/- 3.82% in IAR, 57.72 +/- 7.28% in LAR, and 55.20 +/- 5.69% in LLAR compared with AOA-inhaled control. Salbutamol inhalation (5 mg/mL) significantly inhibited sRaw in IAR, but inhalations of cromolyn sodium (10 mg/mL) and dexamethasone (5 mg/mL) significantly inhibited sRaw in IAR, LAR and LLAR, respectively. Inhibitory activity of quercetin inhalation on sRaw was similar to effect of its oral administration (10 mg/kg) in asthmatic responses. Quercetin (10 mg/mL, inhalation for 2 min) significantly decreased histamine and protein contents, PLA2 activity, and recruitments of leukocytes in BALF and also improved slightly infiltration of eosinophils and neutrophils in histopathological survey. Its anti-asthmatic activity was similar to cromolyn sodium and dexamethasone.

[xi] Murray, Michael, and Pizzorno, Joseph, Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Prima, 1998.

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