Top Five Natural Remedies for Allergies
Millions of allergy sufferers depend on antihistamines on a daily basis to get relief from their symptoms. Unfortunately many antihistamines carry unwanted side effects—and are certainly not cheap. But did you know that there are several natural antihistamines—some are even found in common foods—which have been clinically proven to reduce allergy symptoms? The best of these are presented below with short summaries of the science behind them, as well as an astonishing population study showing that simply eating a fruit and vegetable rich diet can profoundly reduce the risk of allergies and even asthma in children. The allergy drug market is estimated to be worth $15 billion by next year, so it’s no surprise that we aren’t hearing about these natural remedies from the health care industry. But as usual, natural solutions are the best when it comes to keeping healthy, balancing our immune systems, and feeling our best.
Quercetin is a flavonoid with proven anti-allergic properties both in lab studies and on humans. It suppresses the release of histamines and also reduces inflammatory response. Quercetin is such a powerful antihistamine in fact, that in one study it actually suppressed the anaphylactic reaction to peanuts in allergic mice. In another study, it outperformed a commercially available drug in suppressing allergic contact dermatitis in humans. The best sources of dietary quercetin include spinach, cabbage, celery, peppers, onions, citrus fruit, apples, berries and Spanish red wine. If that’s not enough, quercetin supplements are widely available on the market and there are many anecdotal reports that these help to reduce general allergy symptoms (including to pollen, mold, dust). As side benefits, quercetin is also a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. In lab studies, it has shown strong activity against melanoma, breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer. If you’ve got allergies, you may want to consider adding more quercetin-rich fruit and vegetables to your daily diet, or even taking a supplement (which are widely available). A typical supplement provides 500 mg of quercetin, and often adds in vitamin C, bromelain (an enzyme from pineapple) and other bioflavonoids, which may enhance the efficacy of quercetin. If you want to see good food sources of quercetin, a link to the USDA’s database on the quercetin content of foods is below in the references.
Vitamin C appears to work well with quercetin but even all on its own may offer relief from allergies, and on several levels. It not only suppresses histamine release from white blood cells but also speeds up the clearance of histamine from the blood. A recent study confirmed that higher vitamin C levels are indeed correlated with lower blood histamine levels in adults (and that high histamine levels may predict heart disease and hardened arteries!). When given intravenously at a dose of 7.5 grams to people with allergies, vitamin C lowered their histamine levels by an impressive 49%. And when used in a nasal spray, vitamin C relieved symptoms of stuffiness and runny nose in 74% of the patients. And mothers-to-be take note: a recent study showed that high vitamin C intake by pregnant women is linked to lower allergic diseases and wheezing in their infants. As for “side effects,” recent research has also shown that higher vitamin C intake may help ward off colon cancer, breast cancer, heart failure, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and even hip fracture. It’s always best to get our vitamin C from foods (oranges, acerola, rose hips, guavas, red and yellow peppers, grapefruit, lemons, limes, black currants, strawberries, kiwi fruit, apricots, vegetable juice, tomatoes) but for allergies, larger doses ranging from 500 mg to 2000 mg daily may need to be considered.
Polyphenols are natural compounds found in most fruit and vegetables, but apples are particularly rich in them—and in very special polyphenols which ward off allergy symptoms. In fact, apple polyphenols were shown to relieve allergy symptoms in two separate clinical trials in Japan. In one trial against dust allergies, a 50 mg dose provided significant relief from sneezing attacks, while 200 mg provided relief also from nasal discharge. Another trial showed that 500 mg of the natural polyphenols relieved symptoms (stuffy nose and sneezing) of cedar pollen allergy. Take note that this was not just any apple extract. The people in these trials were using a Japanese product called Applephenon, which is just now being introduced to the European and American markets. A similar product called AppleWise is being sold by Life Extension (but has not been tested as Applephenon was). However, do note that one large apple has an average of 86 mg of polyphenols (mostly in the skin!), so eating 1-2 apples daily may also provide some real relief. Apple polyphenols have shown numerous other benefits including lowering cholesterol, reducing body fat, controlling appetite and aiding in weight reduction. And a recent study found that eating one apple daily significantly reduced the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and throat cancer.
In a recent clinical trial, an extract of stinging nettle (Urtica Dioica) was judged by 58% of patients to be effective in relieving their allergy symptoms, while 48% judged it to be either more effective, or as effective, as their previous allergy medication. This was from global assessments in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. The dose used was 300 mg of freeze-dried extract. Since that trial, researchers have discovered how the stinging nettle does this. Not only does it directly antagonize histamine receptors like a classic antihistamine, but it also prevents mast cells from releasing pro-inflammatory chemicals which cause the swelling and irritation the comes with allergies – and it does this on multiple pathways. Stinging nettle has a long history of use in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, and has been used to treat allergies, asthma, arthritis, gout, enlarged prostate, infections, hemorrhoids, and even high blood sugar. Interestingly, stinging nettle extract is also a potent antioxidant and in lab studies has been shown to kill breast cancer and prostate cancer cells. Stinging nettle extracts are also widely available at most large supplement retailers.
Fruit and Vegetable Rich Diet: 66% Less Allergy Symptoms!
Last but certainly not least is the very simple concept of eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. It wards of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and now science has shown us even allergies and asthma—especially in children. In fact, in one recent study from Greece, children aged 7 to 18 who ate a “Mediterranean diet” rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts and fish had 66% less stuffy / runny nose (allergic rhinitis) and 33% less asthma. Grapes were the most protective food, reducing asthma risk by 68% and seasonal allergic rhinitis by a stunning 82% if eaten daily. Eating nuts 3X weekly lowered risk of asthma by 54%. Kiwi fruit, oranges, apples and fresh tomatoes were the next most powerful in preventing allergy symptoms. But margarine consumers beware: the use of margarine more than doubled the risk of asthma as well as allergic rhinitis! Once again, we see that a healthy, balanced diet focused on fruit and vegetables provides protection from virtually every chronic disease we know, and now even including allergies and asthma.
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