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Herbal Remedies for Allergies: Natural Antihistamines

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Isvaiyah has been a licensed pharmacist at Gadjah Mada University (Indonesia) for nine years. She earned her M.Sc. from the same university.

Herbal Remedies for Allergies

Technically speaking, an allergy sufferer can avoid an allergic reaction simply by avoiding the allergy-triggering substance, or the allergen. However, in many cases, this is inconvenient, impractical, or impossible to do.

Many people take commercially produced over-the-counter (OTC) or prescribed medications, such as antihistamines, corticosteroids, or decongestants to manage allergies. But for those who believe in herbal medicines, there are some natural ingredients or herbs that can help relieve allergy symptoms.

Naturopathic doctors and alternative practitioners state that many natural ingredients are useful in dealing with milder allergies. However, it’s also possible that some of them may also be useful for people with higher levels of allergy.

Consult Your Doctor

Always consult your doctor or health provider before taking any herbs or supplements. Your personal medical history, including your other medications, conditions, and allergies, may make certain herbs unsafe for you.

Allergies at a Glance

An allergy simply means that the body has a hypersensitive reaction to certain harmless substances or an unusual reaction related to the increase of immunoglobulin E (IgE). It can occur when our body’s immune system reacts to foreign substances called allergens, such as spores, pollen, pet dander or a bee sting.

Causes of Allergies

Substances that lead to allergic reactions are referred to as allergens. They can enter the body through the respiratory system, the digestive system, or via contact with the skin. Some examples of each allergen are as follows:

  • Inhalant allergens: house dust mites, pet dander, spores, pollen, etc.
  • Ingestant allergens: milk, eggs, peanuts, fish, or certain medications
  • Contactant allergens: certain cosmetics and metals such as a watch, necklaces, etc.

The presence of allergens in the body will trigger an immune response, producing antibodies that then react with allergens. This process may lead to an allergic reaction. An immune response that occurs via antibodies or immunoglobulin E may cause several unpleasant symptoms, such as asthma, sneezing and cold in the morning, itchy skin, hives, and eczema.

Types of allergies based on where allergens enter into the body

Types of allergies based on where allergens enter into the body

Common Allergy Symptoms

  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Itchy skin or eyes
  • Runny nose and watery eyes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hives
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Chest tightness
  • Tingling mouth
  • Swollen lips, tongue, or face
  • Skin Rash

Symptoms of Allergies

In general, symptoms of allergies that appear may include itchy eyes or skin, sneezing, shortness of breath, etc. Allergies related to the respiratory system, such as asthma or rhinitis, are commonly found.

Respiratory Allergic Reactions

People with a rhinitis allergy (or simply referred to as allergic runny nose) commonly experience symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion, and an itchy nose. Not infrequently, rhinitis allergies are also followed by symptoms of conjunctivitis (pink eye), such as watery and itchy eyes. In addition to that, symptoms of hearing loss, such as clogged ears and unable to hear, sometimes appear.

Actually, rhinitis allergies often disturb people’s daily activities and quality of life. If rhinitis allergy is left unchecked and untreated, it is likely to develop into a chronic disease such as asthma.

Other allergies related to the skin are urticaria or hives, atopic dermatitis or commonly known as eczema, and other conditions, such as watery or inflamed eyes and itchy inner ears.

Urticaria or hives can be acute or chronic. An allergy is considered acute when it occurs all day. Common causes of this disease are known clearly such as foods, drugs, viral or bacterial infection, insect sting, latex, etc. In chronic hives, unfortunately, most of the causes are unknown so it is referred to as chronic idiopathic urticaria. However, some conditions known to cause chronic hives include autoimmune diseases, physical urticaria, and chronic infection such as tooth infection and sinusitis.

Herbal Remedies for Allergies

HerbsStrengthWarning Words

Stinging Nettle

Medium

So far, none

Butterbur

Medium

Choose "PA Free"

Ginkgo Biloba

Medium

Don't go any higher

Garlic

Medium

Not for garlic-allergy

Chamomile

Low

Use it cautiously

Butterbur

Butterbur is considered an effective herbal remedy for allergies. It's considered an oral antihistamine. It contains useful chemical substances, called petasin, which can help reduce inflammation. In addition, these also help block histamine and leukotriene that the body releases during allergy. As quoted from WebMD, "one study by Swiss researchers showed that one tablet of butterbur extract four times daily was effective".

A special warning word: Since butterbur has toxic substances called pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can damage the liver, make sure you pick ones marked "PA Free."

Stinging Nettle

Doctors commonly prescribe antihistamine drugs such as cetirizine to deal with any symptom of allergy. If you prefer herbal remedies, stinging nettle (or Urtica dioica) is a natural antihistamine.

For thousands of years, people have used stinging nettle to treat nasal and respiratory problems such as chest congestion, cough, runny nose, asthma, etc.

Some experts of herbal medicines state that stinging nettle has antihistamine acts as well as commercial antihistamine drugs but without any adverse effects such as dry mouth or drowsiness. According to them, stinging nettle works by inhibiting the body from producing histamine.

A number of clinical studies also reported that taking 300 milligrams daily of nettle’s freeze-dried extract could provide significant relief for people with allergies.

Garlic

Quercetin is a flavonoid that has antioxidant activity. It works by reducing inflammatory reactions due to histamine, which is usually involved in allergy symptoms such as itching and sneezing.

How to get quercetin naturally? Many foods contain quercetin such as unpeeled apples, black tea, red grapes, onions, etc. But almost herbal experts suggest that you can also get quercetin in garlic. You can get it just simply by adding a generous amount of garlic to your favorite foods.

The only problem you will get when eating garlic is its odor. For the easiest way, there are many odorless garlic supplements you can buy at health food stores or pharmacies.

Chamomile

There are many useful chemical compounds in chamomile essential oil that have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties. This can be helpful for skin allergies such as hives and itching.

The only warning word you should note is that chamomile is a member of the ragweed family. It means that you should use it cautiously! Some people report that chamomile may trigger an allergic reaction, so it's important to spot-check on a small patch of skin and dilute before applying topically. You can continue using this herb if there is no reaction on your skin. Additionally, most chamomile oil is intended for external use only.

Learn More About Allergies

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2013 Isvaiyah

Have any to Add to This Story?

Thelma Alberts from Germany on May 14, 2014:

Thanks for sharing this useful hub as I have allergy. Voted up and useful. Have a nice day!