Seasonal allergies are like the salt that spring throws on the wound of winter. The snow finally begins to melt, the birds begin to chirp, the sun begins to shine, and just when every ounce of our being is screaming to get outside, it becomes the one place we can't go without sneezing our way out.
While we don't know exactly why certain people suffer from seasonal allergies, a genetic component does suggest it's yet another thing we can blame on our parents. For around 10-25% of us, when our uber-paranoid immune system gets a whiff of pollen, it will mistake it for a foreign invader and promptly go medieval on its ass. It does so by releasing histamine, a chemical typically used when confronted with infection, which expands blood vessels, causing a runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, and relentless sneezing.
But before you go locking yourself in a hermetically sealed closet until Labor Day, check out some of these natural remedies to get back to breathing easy.
A plant typically found in wetlands throughout Europe, Asia, and North America, butterbur got its name from the practice of using its giant leaves to wrap butter during the warm summer months. Today, it's one of the leading natural alternatives to allergy medication there is. In a promising study, after five days of taking butterbur tablets, allergy sufferers reported significant improvements in their allergy symptoms. Tests also revealed the participants contained smaller amounts of leukotriene and histamine in their system–the bad boys that give allergies their bite. Another study found that butterbur was just as effective at relieving itchy eyes as an over-the-counter antihistamine.
In addition to being a nutrient powerhouse this blue-green algae can lessen nasal congestion and discomfort associated with environmental allergies. In one study, 127 people who took 2 grams of spirulina a day experienced significant improvements in their symptoms compared with the placebo.
A natural antihistamine, Vitamin C works by decreasing the amount of histamine your body produces, rather than blocking antihistamine receptors the way over-the-counter medications do. Studies show that two grams of Vitamin C may reduce histamine levels by 38%, a figure that shot up to 50% when the vitamin was given intravenously. The good news here is that Vitamin C can be found in everything from oranges to broccoli, so no fancy supplements needed.
In a 2013 study at the University Medical Center in Berlin, a two-month trial tested the efficacy of acupuncture as a treatment for seasonal allergies. Dividing 422 participants into three groups, the study compared the effects of real acupuncture, fake acupuncture (where needles were placed randomly in the body,) and a third group taking antihistamines. The participants who received real acupuncture reported the most significant reduction of symptoms. However, the group receiving fake acupuncture also reported relief, underlining the power of placebo. Further strengthening the case for real acupuncture though: an overview of 13 studies on its effects on allergies concluded it is a safe and valid treatment.
It may not be the sexiest wellness treatment, but it's been hawked by some seriously satisfied users for centuries. Originating as an Ayurvedic tradition in India over 500 years ago, nasal irrigation uses a specifically designed neti pot filled with warm salt water to clean the nasal passages of mucus, pollen, and, you know, grossness. And it works. A study of over 200 participants from the University of California, San Diego found that nasal irrigation improved 23 out of 30 symptoms and their overall quality of life. However, regular use might increase the risk of sinus infection by stripping the nasal passages of some protective mucus membranes, so only use when needed.
Look for essential oils that contain monoterpenes like 1,8-cineol, alpha-terpineol, and alpha-pinene, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. A 2015 study that researched the effects of essential oils on 54 men and women suffering from seasonal allergies found that a blended oil made from frankincense, sandalwood, and almond oil improved their symptoms and reduced fatigue.
Because an allergic reaction is essentially our immune system mistaking a love tap for a left hook, a rebalancing is in order. Thanks to their healthy dose of triterpenes, Chaga, Reishi, and Cordyceps mushrooms can keep allergies at bay by reducing the overproduction of histamines, improving oxygen supply, and lowering inflammation, meaning less sneezing and wheezing.
Ready to move toward overcoming allergies? Bless yourself for a change and try one of our four different mushroom enhanced bevies.