Hay fever, allergies, rhinitis. Whatever you call it, seasonal allergies can make you miserable. The sneezing; the itchy, watery eyes; the congestion—it can leave you positively exhausted! And, depending on where you live, symptoms can begin in March and last all the way through November.
The problem is, over-the-counter and prescription antihistamines and decongestants offer only temporary relief at best. At their worst, they can trigger side effects like drowsiness, dry mouth, and headache. For true relief, it’s important to work with the body’s own healing capacity. Here, three experts share their top tips for taming seasonal sinus problems.
Homeopathy is a safe, effective system of natural healing that is based on the principal that “like cures like.” This means that if a substance can cause symptoms of a disease in a healthy person, then miniscule amounts of that substance can cure a sick person suffering from similar symptoms. When it comes to allergic rhinitis, “homeopathic treatment boosts a person’s immune system and eliminates their propensity for hay fever and allergies,” says homeopath Nancy Gahles, DC, CCH, RSHom (NA).
Gahles often helps patients suffering from seasonal allergies either in her New York-based office or via TeleHouseCalls, a phone-based and online consultation program that is part of Health and Harmony Wellness Education. “Spring brings a steady stream of patients into my office complaining of ‘hay fever,’” she says. “While it may take several seasons to achieve, I have seen many patients whose lifelong hay fever tendencies have been greatly reduced or eliminated (with homeopathy).” Her favorite homeopathic remedies for seasonal allergies include:
Allium cepa is a homeopathic medicine prepared from red onion. It may be the one most used for springtime allergies. Indications include watery eyes, a runny nose, and sneezing. Nasal discharge may burn, causing a raw redness under the nose and above the upper lip. Hoarseness and tickling of the throat may be present with a hacking cough.
Euphrasia has an affinity to the mucous membranes of the eyes, and hay fever sufferers who need this remedy have prominent eye symptoms. Their tears and eye discharges are burning, but any nasal discharge is bland (which is the opposite of Allium cepa).
Sabadilla is frequently prescribed for people with hay fever, especially if they have violent sneezing episodes with a runny, stuffy, itchy, and/or tingly nose. Those needing Sabadilla often have severe headaches with cold sweat on the forehead, bursting pain above the eyes, and watering, tearing, red, or burning eyes.
Wyethia is called for when the roof of the mouth and throat (soft palate) itch intensely. A constant need to clear the throat is also common. A prophylactic for hay fever—especially in those with a predisposition for congestion that moves into the chest—Gahles points out that Wyethia is indicated more often for allergies that occur in autumn.
Homeopathic remedies come in a variety of forms including pellets, tablets, liquid, ointments, and suppositories. Pellets are the most popular form and are taken sublingually (under the tongue) because the large number of capillaries in the mouth allow for faster absorption into the blood stream. Since these remedies are highly diluted, they are extremely safe.
According to Walter Crinnion, ND, Professor and Chair of Environmental Medicine Department at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Ariz., skyrocketing rates of asthma and allergies appear closely linked to the pollution floating about in both indoor and outdoor air. If you can reduce your exposure to these compounds, your likelihood of experiencing allergies drops considerably. But that’s often easier said than done.
For those unavoidable allergens, Crinnion relies on the protein digesting enzyme known as mucolase. This specialized enzyme has been shown to support the immune system, breaking down excess mucus in the lungs and sinuses so it can be cleared by the body. “Taken on an empty stomach, an amylase enzyme blend that includes mucolase may help balance histamine, the body’s response to perceived allergens,” says Crinnion.
What you eat can also worsen allergy symptoms. “When patients stop consuming wheat and sugar products, they will often have a drop in their allergic reactivity,” notes Crinnion. “The lining of the respiratory tract and the digestive tract are covered in mucous membranes. If you are causing irritation to your GI mucous membranes, your respiratory membranes will show the strain as well by being much more reactive.”
Adopting a healthful diet based on minimally processed fruits, vegetables, and whole grains promotes proper digestion and elimination that dramatically reduces the level of antigens and endotoxins in the bowel and blood. This lowers your total load of antigens and makes your body less reactive. “I highly suggest a combination of enzymes plus high quality probiotics to boost overall immunity,” says Crinnion.
“Allergies are usually deep-seated problems that can be addressed naturally,” says Allan Magaziner, DO, cofounder of the Magaziner Center for Wellness in Cherry Hill, NJ. One way he accomplishes this is with sublingual desensitization—a natural alternative to allergy shots. Because it uses pills or drops, it’s perfect for those who hate needles.
Those suffering from seasonal allergies are tested for a range of allergens because “allergies are additive,” notes Magaziner. “If a person suffers from seasonal allergies, what he or she eats and breathes throughout the year affects his or her reaction during allergy season.”
After the specific allergens have been pinpointed and a record of symptoms made, the doctor creates a vial of individualized antigens that the patient places as drops under their tongue on a daily basis. Over time, these antigens retrain the immune system. “In the simplest terms, we are naturally treating the immune system and getting it to respond appropriately to the allergens,” explains Magaziner.
How well does it work? A recent study of more than 60 patients allergic to pollen, dust mites, and cat allergens demonstrated that sublingual desensitization is a safe and effective alternative to traditional immunotherapy injections. It significantly reduced the symptoms of hay fever and nasal allergies, as well as the need for medication, compared to placebo.
For sufferers without access to subliminal desensitization, Magaziner suggests acupuncture. Acupuncture stimulates biologically significant points on the body to activate the body’s own healing mechanisms. “Diagnosing an allergy using Traditional Chinese Medicine is far more individualized than it would be with Western medicine,” says Magaziner.
Xylitol for Seasonal Allergies
Looking for a new way to combat allergies? Try xylitol, a unique natural sugar that combats bacteria and bolsters the body’s defenses against allergens and other airborne invaders that can plague your sinuses. It’s now available in a spray solution (sold under the brand name Xlear and others) that helps hydrate nasal passages, flush away allergens, and shrink swollen membranes to allow easy breathing.
HYLAND’S COMPLETE ALLERGY 4 KIDS Temporarily relieves the symptoms of indoor and outdoor allergens, including runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, itchy nose and throat, stuffy nose, and facial pain.
SOURCE NATURALS ALLERCETIN ALLERGY AND SINUS is a comprehensive homeopathic formula that reduces inflammation and congestion, inhibits histamine, and combats fatigue associated with hayfever.
THE VITAMIN SHOPPE BEE POLLEN GRANULES, produced by flowering plants and gathered by bees, is high in protein and a wide array of nutrients that suppress allergy symptoms. Sprinkle on food or mix into drinks.
NORTH AMERICAN HERB & SPICE SINU OREGA combines soothing extracts of wild oregano, bay leaf, sage, and clove to safely soothe sinus membranes and combat allergens.
QUANTUM HEALTH MIGRELIEF. Allergies release histamine, which can also dilate blood vessels in the brain, and therefore cause or worsen a migraine headache. This powerful formula combines magnesium, feverfew, and riboflavin, all shown in clinical trials to ease migraines.