Scratch, itch, sneeze, cough: the seasons are changing, and for some people that means allergies. Allergy sufferers have often tried all manner of methods to reduce their allergic reactions to whatever happens to be blooming at the moment, but often the allergy medication they use has unpleasant side-effects. From the notoriously sleepy result of Benadryl to the amped-up, jittery feeling that other allergy medications bring, many people with allergies wrestle with the question, “What is the lesser of the two evils?”
Is it better to suffer through the allergies and avoid the strong medications and their unpleasant side-effects, or is it better to take allergy medication so at least you can breathe? What if you could have your cake and eat it to? Luckily, nature has provided us with plenty of natural antihistamines that don’t come from a laboratory. Take a look at these five alternatives to allergy medication.
Is there anything vitamin C can’t do? From helping you overcome your cold to boosting your immune system, vitamin C is one of nature’s wonder drugs. It also turns out that this scrappy vitamin can also reduce your histamine levels. Arizona State University researchers showed that 2000 mg of vitamin C per day can reduce the level of histamine by as much as 40%.
A Few Natural Sources of Vitamin C
With a whopping 2300 to 3150 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams, the Kakadu plum has more vitamin C than any other fruit. Native to Australia, the best place to buy this plum is online.
Found in the Amazon rainforest, the camu camu has the second-highest concentration of vitamin C amongst fruits. Sold in its powdered form in most health food stores, you can also purchase it as a powder or pill online.
High in antioxidants with tons of vitamin C (1,677 per 100 grams), acerola cherry grows in North America, Central America, and South America, particularly in drier regions. You can find it in powdered form at most health food stores, or you can look for it in a freeze-dried form. Unless you live in California or Texas with easy access to a farmer’s market, it is unlikely you’ll find it fresh.
With as much as 2,500 mg per 100 grams, rosehip is another excellent source of C. You can find it in herbal tea, jam, jelly, and certain other foods. Check your local health food store for rosehip tea as an easy way to increase your vitamin C intake.
Perhaps the easiest way to increase your vitamin C intake is through citrus fruits, which are very easy to find in the average grocery store. Grapefruit has about 34 mg of C per 100 grams; oranges weigh in at 53 mg per 100 grams.
Quercitin is a type of flavonoid that has been shown to work as a natural antihistamine. Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants, meaning that anything rich in quercitin may also help to prevent cancer, heart disease, and stroke. As an antihistamine, it is particularly effective in reducing swollen nasal passages, sneezing, itchy eyes/nose, as well as certain skin conditions such as eczema.
Natural sources of quercitin include apples, citrus, raspberries, red grapes, leafy vegetables, and chili peppers. You can also find quercitin in certain beverages, particularly black tea, green tea, and red wine. For more concentrated forms of quercitin, check your local health food store for the capsule version.
Another flavonoid that works both as a natural antihistamine and as an antioxidant is pycnogenol, a variety of the catechin, proanthocyanidin (PA / PAC). Pycnogenol is extracted from a French pine tree bark and has been proven to be a powerful anti-inflammatory. In particular, pycnogenol reduces swollen eyes. Because pycnogenol is found only in the South of France amongst particular pine trees, it is best acquired as a supplement in capsule form.
Grape Seed Extract
Grape seed extract is another one of the proanthocyanidins mentioned above. The compound is found in the grape seeds and the grape peels, and as such it can be found in red wine. Besides its beneficial properties against allergies, grape seed extract is yet another natural way to fight cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Beware: although grape seed oil manufacturers claim that their products also contain the beneficial proanthocyanidins, independent studies have shown that they do not contain significant levels of the compound.
Straight-laced Senator Tom Harkin, the longtime democratic senator from Iowa, started taking bee pollen on the advice of a friend to fight against his allergies. At first, he didn’t notice much difference, and he was ready to give it up. His friend insisted he just wasn’t taking enough, and so Mr. Harkin started taking more and more. He ended up taking a substantial amount of bee pollen, but eventually his allergies stopped and never started again. The amazed Senator Harkin became a champion of alternative medicine in the US government, and even helped establish the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine in 1992.
Harkin certainly has his critics, and the man he got his bee pollen capsules from, Royden Brown, turned out to be somewhat… odd. Brown was advertising his bee pollen as a way to reverse aging, promote weight loss, stop PMS, and even improve one’s sex life. Furthermore, he claimed both Ronald Reagan and “the risen Jesus Christ” took bee pollen regularly. The Federal Trade Commission fined him $200,000 (Source: USNews.com).
Nevertheless, the fact remains that, according to Harkin, the bee pollen stopped his allergies cold, and they have never returned since then. Whatever you wish to conclude about Royden Brown, Harkin’s story seems to indicate that there’s something to bee pollen as a natural way to fight allergies.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to choose between pharmaceuticals with negative and cumulative side-effects or suffering through allergy season. With your own experimentation, you can find natural antihistamines that work for your body.
Photo by mcfarlandmo