It may be hard to believe amid all the polar vortexes that have been plaguing the U.S., but spring will soon be here. Although most of us welcome the warmer weather, longer days, and blossoming plants that that herald the return of the season, some of us also dread the inevitable return of seasonal allergies. While some allergies may be so severe that they require prescription medicine or some other type of medical treatment, most of us will turn to the usual over-the-counter remedies in order to get some relief for our sniffling and sneezing.
However, there are several natural remedies that may provide you with the same level of relief that you get from a medicated nasal spray or antihistamine pill. Many natural remedies can duplicate the symptom-relieving effects that you would get from an over-the-counter allergy medicine; some remedies also have the added benefit of being less expensive. While some alternative allergy relief remedies may include exotic herbal supplements, others simply take advantage of widely available ingredients and environments that are conducive to allergy symptom relief. Of course, before you start ingesting any new foods or herbal supplements, make sure to get your doctor’s approval first. With that caveat in mind, here are seven natural allergy relief remedies to help you survive spring.
1. Essential oils
One of the most miserable allergy symptoms is congestion. While many over-the-counter medicines use decongestants like pseudoephedrine or various antihistamine preparations to counter congestion symptoms, some allergy sufferers may get a similar level of relief from essential oil vapors. One of the most popular essential oils used for easing congestion is eucalyptus oil. Eucalyptus oil has long been used in cough lozenges, and its decongestant properties are well known. Some people also like to use peppermint oil or lavender oil.
There are two primary methods for creating essential oil vapors: candle diffusers and hot water. Candle diffusers use the heat from a tea candle to warm the oil and release the aroma. Simply place a few drops of an essential oil mixed with water in the upper reservoir of a diffuser and let the oil slowly evaporate into the air. Another method is to put a few drops of oil into a bowl of hot water and inhale the steam. You can also drape a towel over your head to enhance the effect. However, use caution when handling essential oils. Some concentrated oils can irritate the skin on contact and others, such as eucalyptus, are even toxic if ingested in high amounts.
2. Neti pot
Rinsing out your nasal cavity with a neti pot is another quick way to relieve the congestion associated with seasonal allergies. A neti pot looks like a miniature teapot with an extended lip or lid to keep water from spilling out of the top. After the neti pot is filled with a lukewarm saline solution, it is slowly poured into one of the user’s nostrils until it flows out the other. The process is then repeated on the other nostril. Although the amount of salt used in the solution may vary based on personal preferences, most practitioners recommend about one teaspoon of sea salt (non-iodized) for every two cups (one pint) of sterilized water. Some users also find that adding a quarter teaspoon of baking soda or corn syrup makes the solution less irritating in their sinuses.
Although pouring a small pot of warm water into your nostril may be one of the least appealing allergy relief remedies, it is also one of the most effective. Since seasonal allergies are usually triggered by inhaled pollen grains, it only makes sense that rinsing out your sinuses will ease your allergy symptoms. For allergy sufferers who prefer not to put a spout into their noses, the same results can usually be obtained by taking a swim in the ocean.
Sometimes the simplest and most obvious remedies are the most effective. Most allergy sufferers have probably noticed the soothing effect that plain steam can have on their sinuses. Hot showers, hot baths, or saunas are all excellent methods for opening your nasal passages. If those are not available options, use a bowl of hot water with a towel over your head and inhale the steam. As previously noted, this method can also be enhanced with a few drops of an appropriate essential oil, such as eucalyptus or peppermint.
4. Tea and coffee
Besides giving you a miniature dose of steam, hot teas can also deliver a dose of allergy-fighting compounds. According to a medical study provided by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, bioactive compounds found in green tea were found to inhibit the release of histamines. Other teas, such as peppermint, have beneficial decongestant properties. Coffee and tea also contain caffeine, which is known to provide quick allergy relief by reducing swelling and opening the nasal passages.
5. Herbal supplements
There are many plants that have long been used to help relieve allergy symptoms, and many of them are available in concentrated form as herbal supplements. However, some of the allergy-relieving properties associated with these herbs are based on anecdotal evidence and have not yet been verified by medical science.
Stinging nettle, butterbur, ginkgo biloba, eyebright, and goldenseal are just some of the herbal supplements that allergy sufferers have claimed to get relief from. Just remember to consult your doctor before taking any herbal supplements.
There is also a lot of anecdotal evidence that suggests ingesting locally harvested honey relieves allergy symptoms. Since bees make their honey from pollen that is collected from the local environment, it is believed that eating the honey will strengthen your resistance to local allergens, much in the same way that a vaccine made of weakened microbes inoculates you against a disease. Unfortunately, there appears to be little scientific evidence to support this theory. On the other hand, there doesn’t appear to be a downside to eating delicious, locally produced honey.
7. Spicy foods
Although this method may only provide temporary relief from congestion, eating spicy foods is another way that allergy sufferers can ease their symptoms. Chili peppers that are high on the Scoville scale, spicy mustards, horseradish, wasabi, or any foods that make your mouth burn and your eyes water appear to have a beneficial side effect of easing sinus congestion. However, unless you have a cast-iron stomach, you may want to use this allergy relief remedy as sparingly as possible.