By Lara Evans Bracciante
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, April/May 2004.
The watery, itchy eyes, stuffy nose, scratchy throat, and sneezing that come with seasonal pollen allergies, or hay fever, affect an estimated 40 to 50 million Americans. While antihistamines, decongestants, and steroids are the conventional treatments for symptoms, they can also have side effects, including drowsiness, heart palpitations, and arrhythmias. Natural remedies exist that may go a long way in reducing symptoms and making the spring allergy season more bearable. In addition to vitamin C and the nutraceutical quercetin, which have been shown to reduce hay fever symptoms, the following herbs can also help:
Vitis vinifera), packed full of antioxidant compounds called proanthocyanidins, inhibits the release of histamines — a major element in controlling allergies. This herb is contraindicated in people with ulcers or any history of bleeding disorders and those on anticoagulants, such as warfarin.
Stinging nettle leaf (Urtica dioca) has been reported to have antihistamine properties, especially when freeze-dried. Pregnant woman should not use stinging nettle due to evidence of uterine stimulation in animal studies.
Coleus (Coleus forskohlii), while relatively new to the United States, is a popular Indian herb traditionally used to treat allergies. Like grape seed and stinging nettle, this herb inhibits histamine release, in turn easing allergy symptoms. Coleus should not be combined with pharmaceutical antihistamines, decongestants, antihypertensives, or anticoagulants. It is also contraindicated in people with ulcers or any history of bleeding disorders.