Over the Counter: Natural allergy remedies
Who doesn’t love spring? The season is the stuff of scenic hotel room paintings, stock photographs and sentimental greeting cards where you can take in the lush leaves flickering in the wind, blades of green grass blanketing the countryside, and flowers blooming into shades of yellow, violet and pink, all under deep blue skies with puffy white clouds.
But for those of us with allergies, these images can stir a sense of dread. Spring becomes the season of eternal sneezing, itching, stinging and watery eyes. Nearly one-third of U.S. adults likely have some type of allergy, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. The numbers are even grimmer for children — About two in five have an allergy. The rates for everyone are increasing, and because of climate change and this year’s El Niño effect, allergy season is starting earlier than ever.
How do we defend ourselves? All too often it’s with powerful drugs. Allergy drug makers take in billions in the U.S. each year selling antihistamines, steroids and other medications to desperate customers. There is, however, an alternative — homeopathic medicine.
Unlike drugs that quash symptoms but fail to fix our body, homeopathic medicines and healthy living can help reset our internal system so that a little hay fever won’t make us go haywire. But before we cover natural remedies for allergies, let’s first consider how overuse of antihistamines and other drugs is affecting us.
We believe that long term use of these medications can actually do more harm than good. Here’s what typically happens when we have allergies: We sniff in pollen, dander or mold and our body produces histamines to help flush them out. Histamines are supposed to help us fend off invaders, but if our system is out of balance or overwhelmed, it goes into overdrive, producing too much too quickly. Our nose runs, our eyes water, we itch and sting and we may even burn red with hives and rashes. This is when we reach for antihistamines, steroids and other drugs.
Here’s the problem: When we’re on antihistamines, our nose stops running and our eyes stop watering, but our body doesn’t know why. Still sensing an assault from pollen and other allergens, our body thinks it must produce even more histamines, which are further suppressed. Until, of course, the drugs wear off. That’s when our symptoms come roaring back, and we reach for ever-stronger medications.
In severe, acute reactions such as those to bee stings or peanuts, drugs are vitally important — true lifesavers. But they’re no long term answer to chronic allergies. If you’re on the drugs now, we’re going to bet you’re not improving from year to year but instead reaching for more powerful prescriptions. The long term answer is setting your body up to eventually respond appropriately to allergens and to reduce exposure to them in thef first place.
Eating nutritious foods, drinking enough water and getting adequate rest and exercise will keep the body in shape so that it will less likely become overwhelmed from allergens. Staying away from pollen and dander as much as possible is also important. Avoid the outdoors, use an air filter and close the windows when the air is most saturated with allergens.
To help us when we do venture out is an arsenal of homeopathic remedies, which can help us by introducing a small amount of allergens to our body, essentially treating allergens with allergens. Other remedies act to alleviate symptoms, like a runny nose or watery eyes.
Here are several popular remedies that can offer relief for common allergies:
Apis mellifica: For those whose Latin is a bit rusty, this means honey bee. In medicinal form, it can be used to treat symptoms of bee stings, sun burns and some types of hives and sore throats.
Histaminum hydrochloricum: This is not an antihistamine, but it helps our body regulate histamine production, without blocking it, as antihistamines do. That means you won’t have the same side effects that come with the drugs, but can enjoy relief from hay fever and hives.
Allium cepa: This is just another fancy Latin word for something you probably have in your kitchen cabinet: onion. The same vegetable that makes your eyes water when you’re chopping it can help, in medicinal form, to relieve a runny nose from hay fever.
Sabadilla: A remedy for symptoms such as congestion caused by flower allergies and hay fever.
Urtica urens: A type of nettle, this herb is a treatment for hives.
Galphimia glauca: This herb can offer relief for swollen eyes and other symptoms associated with hay fever.
Remember, before taking any new type of alternative medicine, talk with a trusted medical expert. Also, make sure you buy from a reputable seller to ensure proper dosages and applications and accurate labeling of ingredients. Once you discover the best natural treatment for your allergies, so your spring and summer can again be enjoyed in all their beautiful glory.
— Steve Bernardi is a compounding pharmacist and Gary Kracoff is a registered pharmacist and a naturopathic doctor at Johnson Compounding & Wellness in Waltham, Massachusetts. For more information, visit naturalcompounder.com. Readers with questions about natural or homeopathic medicine, compounded medications or health in general can email email@example.com or call 781-893-3870.