Allergic Rhinitis, commonly known as Hay Fever, affects nearly 40 to 60 million Americans, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (1). For those who experience them, seasonal allergies can certainly be a hindrance to go through for one, let alone all four seasons. Symptoms can range from the mild disturbance of a runny nose or minor cough to severe congestion, asthma attacks and low blood pressure leading to a significant reduction in productivity for the person experiencing the symptoms. However, these symptoms can certainly be contended with. Ads for allergy medications can be seen daily on television and online, but OTC drugs come with their own set of barriers as those who seek complementary treatment, pursue a holistic approach to their health, have an issue of substance dependability, are pregnant or young children seek refuge from these dreaded symptoms.

Certain herbs have been used for centuries to treat coughing, sneezing, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes that seasonal allergies induce. Now, with the advance of science, they’re beginning to gain their footing in the mainstream market as research backs herbs like fennel flower or stinging nettle for their potential in relieving allergy symptoms and supporting our ability to deal with allergies more effectively. As the prevalence of natural alternatives for handling allergies increases, more information on the uses of herbs has come to light.

SpringFor some the blooming of azaleas and pansies in the spring time is met with a grave sense of doom. This is certainly the most common time for people’s allergies to begin to manifest as the rainy season promotes plant growth and pollen begins to fill the air. Two herbs that can be most helpful as the battle between afflicted and the allergens begins are Eyebright and Galphimia Glauca.

Eyebright (Euphrasia Officinalis), a plant that has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties, has been used since the medieval times, and can be found in publications such as Gordon’s “Liticum Medicinae,” published in 1305 (2). In modern day, the herb has been used both topically and orally for irritation of the eyes as well as respiratory symptoms caused by allergies. In a patent submitted by Iomedix Allergy International SRL for a composition that contained the plant, they note that, “Sinus infections and watery eyes are quite often present in situations of allergic responses and so alleviation of these by use of a homeopathic remedy containing Euphrasia, would reduce the symptoms of an allergy” (3). The plant is also commonly used for pets. In an article written by Shawn Messonnier, DVM and Cheryl Yuill, DVM, MSc, CVH for VCA Animal Hospital, “Euphrasia is a benign herb, and is probably safe for administration in most species. Dogs, cats, and horses are the animals most commonly treated” (4).

If one were to experience a rare, but possible allergic reaction to the plant or Euphrasia simply doesn’t work for them, the option of Galphimia Glauca is also available. Sometimes referred to as simply Galphimia, the herb presents many physical and mental health benefits. Found most commonly in Eastern Mexico, it has a history of being used for hay fever in the area. Generally, the herb has been found to remedy itchy and watery eyes as well (5). In a 2008 study, the herb was found to improve the symptoms of two of 15 participants, and showed that said symptoms were in fact reversible (6).

SummerDuring the summer, sufferers are susceptible to pollen, mold, and insect bites. Most surprisingly, fresh produce like celery, apples, certain nuts and melon can also stir up pollen allergies with symptoms such as itching and minor swelling in the mouth and throat (7). Quercetin is a plant polyphenol from the flavonoid group (8). It can be found in many fruits, vegetables, and leaves and can be used as an ingredient in many supplements, beverages and food. Research conducted in May 2016 by Universities in the Czech Republic found that the mechanisms of quercetin were quite useful in the treatment of allergic rhinitis and was useful in the treatment of anaphylactic reactions (9).

AutumnAs summer winds blow elsewhere, and the setting of yellow and red leaves crunching beneath our feet becomes a reality, once again there can be an incredible amount of suffering left to endure for those with allergies. As people rake up leaves and other decaying plants, the agitation of the dead organisms sends ragweed pollen and mold into the air, triggering some of the same allergic reactions seen in the spring and summer months (10). Also, as children head back to school, they can be faced with allergies induced by chalk dust and classroom pets. Nigella Sativa, commonly referred to as Fennel Flower, Roman Coriander, and simply Nigella has been proven to aid in relieving congestion, nasal itching and sneezing attacks. In a 2011 study presented in the American Journal of Otolaryngology, the use of N. Sativa was observed to have reduced the aforementioned symptoms in as little as two weeks, and could be used as an alternative to those who choose or need to avoid anti-allergic drugs (11).

WinterAs snow covers the ground, and people bundle themselves up, the dangers of outdoor allergies seem like a distant memory. Now those whose allergies are triggered by flowers blooming and decaying can find some comfort as this time of year encourages everyone to stay indoors. Relief at last, they think, just as they feel a tickle in the back of their throat and can’t seem to stop rubbing their eyes. Animal dander, mold, cockroach droppings and dust mites can corner the sufferer in their own home and leave them experiencing some of the very same symptoms they have been battling all other three seasons. Until Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica, provides relief. Used since Medieval Europe to support joint health, stinging nettle has a long history of medical use (12). Now, it has been proven to be fairly effective for hay fever.

In an in vitro (outside of the body) study conducted in 2009 by HerbalScience Group LLC, researchers concluded that stinging nettle shows the ability to inhibit proinflammatory pathways related to seasonal allergies (13). Results of this study show for the first time the ability that the plant has to reduce allergic and other inflammatory responses, though outside of the body. Other research such as one preliminary human study suggested that nettle capsules helped reduce sneezing and itching in people with hay fever (12). “Some doctors recommend taking a freeze-dried preparation of stinging nettle well before hay fever season starts,” says University of Maryland Medical Center’s article on the plant.

“For seasonal allergies, beginning natural treatments (e.g., Stinging nettles) 1–2 months before the season starts can help reduce the severity of symptoms,” says Dr. Lisa Lewis, ND, LAc (14).

Allergy season can be any time of year, and can be insufferable for those who experience it. However, there are many options out there to naturally treat the symptoms that manifest—whether it be sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, or worse. These herbs can be incredibly useful on their own or in conjunction with other remedies. Of course, before taking these herbs, consumers should consult with a doctor or allergist first. They can point their patient in the right direction when it comes to dosage, expectations, potential side effects and being mindful of how theses herbs and plants interact with medication and other health history.WF

  1. “Allergic Rhinitis” Accessed February 16, 2018
  2. “ Eyebright Benefits & Side Effects: Eyebright Eye Medicine Uses” Accessed February 23, 2018
  3. “Homeopathic composition for alleviating allergy symptoms” Accessed February 23, 2018
  4. “Eyebright” Accessed February 23, 2018
  5. “The Benefits of Galphimia Glauca as an Herbal Remedy” Accessed February 23, 2018
  6. “A homoeopathic proving of Galphimia glauca” Accessed February 23, 2018
  7. “ The Ugly Truth About Summer Allergies Accessed February 23, 2018
  8. “Quercetin” Accessed February 23, 2018
  9. “Quercetin and Its Anti-Allergic Immune Response.”  Accessed February 23, 2018
  10. “ Four Things You Might Not Know About Fall Allergies” Accessed February 23, 2018
  11. “Herbal treatment of allergic rhinitis: the use of Nigella sativa” Accessed February 23, 2018
  12. “Stinging Nettle” Accessed February 23, 2018
  13. “Nettle extract (Urtica dioica) affects key receptors and enzymes associated with allergic rhinitis.” Accessed February 23, 2018
  14. “Natural Treatments for Your Seasonal Allergies” Accessed February 23, 2018
  15. “Eyebright: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, and Warnings” Accessed February 23, 2018
  16. “The Benefits of Galphimia Glauca as an Herbal Remedy” Accessed February 23, 2018
  17. “Quercetin: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, and Warnings” Accessed February 23, 2018
  18. “Black Seed: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, and Warnings” Accessed February 23, 2018
  19. “ Stinging Nettle” Accessed February 23, 2018
Published in WholeFoods Magazine April 2018