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Are There Natural Ways to Reduce Allergy Symptoms?

Air filters and saline nasal washes can help reduce allergy symptoms. So can quercetin, a supplement, and plant-derived cromolyn.

While some people revel in the glory of spring flowers and new green leaves, others suffer. Allergy symptoms such as itchy eyes, nasal. congestion and fatigue or fuzzy brain can be troublesome. Are there natural ways to manage this problem?

Figuring Out How to Reduce Allergy Symptoms:

Q. For the last few years, I have experienced varying degrees of pollen reactions in the spring. I live in the middle of an old Southern pine forest, with hardwood trees mixed in.

I experience lethargy, throat tightness and mild nausea for several weeks when the yellow stuff starts falling. Has anyone else experienced these symptoms? I take quercetin for relief but it only helps a bit. When the pollen lets up, so do the symptoms.

Pine Pollen Allergies:

A. Experts will sometimes tell you that pine pollen is too big to cause allergy problems. It turns out, though, that is not quite true. While allergies to pine pollen are less common than other pollen allergies, some people do suffer (Clinical and Experimental Allergy, Sep. 2009).

You may need to keep your windows closed and stay inside, at least until the afternoon, to minimize your pollen exposure. Some people find it helpful to use a saline nasal rinse morning and evening (see below). Others have told us that a daily shower and shampoo before bed during pollen season helps.

What About Quercetin?

Quercetin is a natural compound found in many plants including berries, fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, kale, onions and tomatoes, green tea and red wine. Supplements containing this antioxidant have been used to treat allergy symptoms and don’t appear to have serious side effects (Allergy, Asthma, and Clinical Immunology, May 14, 2020).

Mary offered her experience:

“After several months, my mold sensitivity has been dramatically reduced, as evidenced by changed dosage of my mold allergy serum.

“I have also noticed a definite difference in my reaction to tree pollen and have not taken any tree pollen shots so far this spring.

“After reading about these natural alternatives to Rx drugs, I researched these substances in NIH Medical Library, and found information which shows that these not only block histamine, but also inhibit cytokines, tryptase, PGD2, tryptase, and leucotreines, all of which contribute to severe allergy symptoms.

“Additionally, cytokines are implicated in a severe reaction to coronavirus in some people called a “cytokine storm” which is being researched in Canada as reported earlier in People’s Pharmacy.

“I am sure that these natural inhibitors of mast cell mediators, as well as higher doses of H-1 and H-2 blockers have dramatically reduced my extreme allergic reactions to mold and pollen.”

Brenn has also used quercetin to reduce allergy symptoms:

“I often take quercetin with nettles instead of or in addition to Zyrtec. It works! So great when Zyrtec begins to fail.”

Jim reminds us that people may develop allergies to quercetin just as they do to other natural products:

“WebMD documents Quercetin interactions with many medications. It also states Quercetin is “possibly safe” when 500mg is taken twice a day for up to 12 weeks. I stopped taking it after an odd rash developed (it subsequently cleared). Being a proponent of antioxidants and plant bioflavonoids, the reaction was disappointing.”

NasalCrom Is Another Option:

Other options include stinging nettle supplements or cromolyn (NasalCrom). This drugstore nasal spray was originally derived from a plant called bishop’s weed.

Jane says she appreciates this medicine:

“I started to use NasalCrom after reading about it earlier this year in a newsletter. This the first season I haven’t had allergy trouble. I Just use it once or twice a day. Magic.”

Laurie agrees:

“I’ve had seasonal allergies starting mid-August every year since having my first child. I’ve used the typical OTC remedies for itchy nose and eyes.

“This year I read about Nasalcrom in the spring and decided to try it as recommended about 2 weeks before symptoms. It was a slam dunk! No itchy nose, and it even seemed to reduce eye itching even though it says only works in the nose, I wonder if there is any activity through nasolacrimal duct that helped.

“Anyhow, after using it 3x a day for several weeks if I ended up only using it 2x a day here and there it wasn’t any problem.”

Cleaning the Air:

As we mentioned above, keeping pollen out of your living space is paramount. Hanna urges readers to use high-quality filters. 

She writes:

“I have added HEPA rated air filters in our apartment, one in the bedroom and one in the living room, and my allergies have all but disappeared. I might still have a reaction when exposed to certain perfumes (walking down the detergent aisle in the grocery store can set me off), but at home I stick to mostly products with no scent and those I have discovered do not bother me. The filters can be noisy, so the one in the bedroom runs only during the day, while the one in the living room is on 24/7.

“The filters are a yearly expense, usually being changed in the spring, but well worth the cost. Those with central air heating and cooling can buy HEPA filters for their system, again, well worth the investment.”

Saline Nasal Spray:

Another natural approach to easing allergy symptoms is regular use of a simple saline nasal spray. 

Q. I have had seasonal allergies for my entire life. I was put on way too many different allergy medications for years; then I had allergy shots for over 10 years.

I started using a generic saline spray morning and night, even sometimes when I’ve just been outside for a while. It has saved me entirely! I no longer need allergy shots or any other medication at all.

I buy a store brand of saline spray, with no other additives. It’s inexpensive and no mess. I carry one in my purse at all times.

A. Researchers have determined that rinsing the nasal passages with saline is effective for reducing allergy symptoms (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, June 22, 2018). We’re glad this simple approach works so well for you. We suspect it would also work for others. 

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Gastaminza C et al, "Allergenicity and cross-reactivity of pine pollen." Clinical and Experimental Allergy, Sep. 2009. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2222.2009.03308.x
  • Jafarinia M et al, "Quercetin with the potential effect on allergic diseases." Allergy, Asthma, and Clinical Immunology, May 14, 2020. DOI: 10.1186/s13223-020-00434-0
  • Head K et al, "Saline irrigation for allergic rhinitis." Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, June 22, 2018. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012597.pub2
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