Ugh! The weather outside is beautiful – the sun is shining, the trees are blooming and the air finally feels tolerably warm. So why do I find myself suffering? The answer is – seasonal allergies.
I got the telltale itchy eyes a few weeks ago, and since then they’ve threatened to get worse. I knew a few other people, too, with this problem, so I decided to do a little investigation into the field of natural antihistamines. Because who wants to keep popping pharmaceutical products that make you feel drowsy and unable to function? If you have to work or be alert, that can seem almost as bad as the annoying allergy itself!
An antihistamine can be used to treat allergies and cold symptoms that involve inflammation. When your body encounters agents to which it’s sensitive, like pollen or pet dander, it releases histamine to try to fight it off. Unfortunately, in trying to protect the body from invaders like bacteria, histamine can cause an even more annoying side effect of puffy eyes, runny nose, and constant sneezing. And this season has me feeling it. So I compiled a little list, and here it is: a few natural antihistamines to choose from and check out.
I’m always singing the praises of this all-around immune system helper, but vitamin C acts, among other things, as a natural antihistamine, so it can only be of help during allergy season. You can’t really take too much of it as excess is flushed out, so adding an extra C supplement is not a bad idea to offer your body all the vitamin C that it can use to fight the allergy. On the contrary, though, a deficiency in C levels can send your allergy responses through the roof. You should take at least 2000 milligrams a day for it to be effective therapeutically.
According to a 2005 study, butterbur can be as effective as an over-the-counter antihistamine in reducing allergy symptoms. However, it’s best to take a butterbur supplement prepared by a laboratory, because the stems of the wild plant contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can be toxic to the liver. Butterbur is also helpful in the long-term prevention of migraines.
This is considered a “superfruit,” but unless you get fresh mangosteen, it’s probably useless against your allergic rhinitis, as many of the micronutrients will be leached out by the time mangosteen makes it to juice form.
This common plant grows almost worldwide, and its leaves can be used to make an antihistamine infusion to lessen the symptoms of allergy.
A type of blue-green algae that’s a popular supplement in whole fruit and vegetable smoothies, spirulina may also have antihistamine properties in that it blocks the release of histamines altogether. It may be better preventatively, but if you’re already suffering from allergies, it can’t hurt to add spirulina to your next juice drink.
Other good things to add to your diet during allergy season are honey, garlic, and onion — all of these have strong antibacterial effects and function as boosters of the immune system.
Maria (Niina) Pollari is a poet, editor, writer and translator. She wrote two chapbooks, Fabulous Essential (2009) and Book Four (2011). Pollari’s writing has been featured in numerous literary journals as well as the Brooklyn Rail and Jezebel.com. She has received her Master’s in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.