8 types of natural allergy treatments
These days, you can find natural allergy relief beyond the traditional pill or spray.
If you’re suffering from allergies, there are several natural remedies to take and lifestyle modifications you can make to support improved quality of life and reduce allergen exposure and symptoms.
As more research becomes available, many of these natural modalities are also now well-supported by evidence-based studies.
Natural allergy treatments may provide long-term relief of symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, watery eyes and nose, itching, inflammation and redness.
Complementary health approaches (more commonly referred to as “natural treatments”) are treatments used often in conjunction with more traditional medical treatments, “that are not typically part of conventional medical care or that may have origins outside of usual Western practice.”
These treatments are often called natural, alternative or complementary treatments. Natural allergy treatments are alternatives to medications, including antihistamines or steroids.
Patients that opt for these treatments may want to avoid side effects (such as drowsiness or dry mouth) of prescription allergy medication or save money on prescriptions.
Not all natural allergy treatments are created equal. Before swapping your antihistamines and steroids for home remedies or supplements, you may need to do some research. And before starting any natural allergy treatment (or going ceasing prescription treatments), you may also want to talk to your doctor first, too.
One downside to allergy medications, such as antihistamines and nasal steroids, is that they may cause uncomfortable side effects. Some of the most common side effects associated with both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medications include:
Patients may avoid such uncomfortable side effects by opting for natural allergy treatments (though many natural treatments may cause their own side effects, too!).
Natural allergy treatments that generally don’t cause harsh side effects may include lifestyle changes, such as exercise and changes in diet. While many patients don’t experience side effects after acupuncture, some common side effects may include:
Side effects of vitamins and supplements may include:
Allergy medications may be more expensive than natural allergy treatments.
Natural treatments, such as lifestyle changes (including exercise and dietary changes) generally don’t cost anything at all! Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day may be free if you opt for exercises, such as a brisk walk or resistance training.
OTC allergy medications may cost upwards of $25 to $30 for a 30-day supply. Prescription medications may cost even more (especially if you don’t have health insurance).
Other natural allergy treatments, such as supplements and vitamins, may only cost a fraction of the price of medications.
Allergy immunotherapy may cost more upfront but may then diminish in costs over the course of time (depending on whether the patient chooses sublingual or subcutaneous immunotherapy).
Depending on the treatment, patients may be able to get treated at home — instead of in a doctor’s office — with natural allergy treatments.
You may want to consult with your doctor before taking supplements or herbs to rule out any medication interactions or possible side effects; however, you may be able to consult with your doctor via telehealth appointment (video, email or phone consultation) instead of making an in-person appointment.
Some sublingual immunotherapy patients may be able to take daily doses orally at home (instead of making an in-office appointment with a doctor or allergist for subcutaneous immunotherapy or allergy shots).
Natural allergy treatments may come with a few downsides, too.
If you’re used to treating allergy symptoms with antihistamines and nasal steroids, you may be used to fast-acting allergy relief. Many natural allergy treatments take time to ease symptoms and treat the source of allergies.
Some treatments may not be right for every patient, either; many natural treatments come with their own side effects or cause interactions with other medications.
One of the benefits of allergy medications is that for the most part, they work fast to reduce symptoms. Antihistamines may start to relieve allergy symptoms in less than an hour, and nasal steroids may take up to two weeks to relieve symptoms.
On the other hand, natural treatments may take months to ease symptoms (depending on the treatment). Most allergy immunotherapy patients report a reduction of 60% of symptoms after six months.
You may need to continue taking antihistamines while waiting for natural treatments to work.
You may want to schedule an appointment with your doctor before starting natural treatments (especially if those treatments are not administered by a medical professional).
Some supplements and herbs should not be taken in conjunction with other medications, as these treatments may interact with certain medications; supplements may also cause uncomfortable side effects, and you may want to weigh the side effects of supplements against those of allergy medications.
Allergy immunotherapy also isn’t right for everyone. You may be advised by a doctor against immunotherapy treatments if you have a history or high risk of anaphylaxis.
Allergies share symptoms with other conditions, so you may want to rule out other medical issues before taking any allergy medications. You may also want to find out which allergens cause the most uncomfortable symptoms; simply avoiding some allergens may be easier than starting natural allergy treatments or allergy medications.
You may make an appointment with a doctor or allergist to get a skin scratch test, or your doctor may recommend getting a blood test at a lab.
Curex’s at-home allergy testing is also now available. Simply order a testing kit, get your kit in the mail, follow the instructions and mail your sample to the lab.
All of these treatments have been proven effective in studies and may help reduce allergy symptoms over time. You may not experience immediate relief from allergy symptoms, but you may experience symptom relief after trying these treatments for an extended period of time.
You may want to talk to your doctor before trying any self-administered allergy treatments.
If you’re allergic to honey, eating local honey may help reduce allergy symptoms. Sadly, there’s not enough research to prove that local honey has any effect on allergy symptoms over time.
One 2013 study found, “Ingestion of honey improves the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.”
The hypothesis behind eating local honey to treat allergy symptoms is that local honey contains pollen of local flowering plants. If small amounts of an allergen are introduced to the body over time, the immune system may not see the allergen as a threat anymore.
Yet, a 2002 study on the effect of ingestion of honey on symptoms of rhinoconjunctivitis gave participants in a case group, “1 g/kg body weight of honey daily in separate doses for the four-week period.” The study found, “Neither honey group experienced relief from their symptoms in excess of that seen in the placebo group.”
Acupuncture may also help ease allergy symptoms.
One 2013 study on acupuncture in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis found the case group experienced, “small improvements favoring real acupuncture” over the placebo group after eight weeks.
Lifestyle changes, such as increased exercise, changes in diet and avoiding pollution and chemicals may also reduce allergy symptoms.
Simply avoiding allergens has also been shown to help ease symptoms. Avoiding the outdoors on days where the pollen counts are high or regularly cleaning your home may also help patients avoid the uncomfortable symptoms of pollen, pest and animal allergies, too.
Reducing exposure to allergens doesn’t just mean avoidance. It also means actively removing the culprit allergens.
For example, you might be allergic to tree pollen in the spring, which brings on classic symptoms of intensely itchy watery eyes, sneezing, and nasal congestion.
Let’s say you go on a hike or garden during peak tree season. By the end of the hike, microscopic pollen residue will have now settled in the mucous membranes of your nose and eyes.
A shower alone won’t do the trick: you need a more focused, localized saline spray for the nose and a rinse for the eyes.
Saline is a mixture of salt (sodium chloride) and water, often buffered with sodium bicarbonate to provide a more gentle delivery.
Physiologically, saline has been shown to thin and remove mucous, clear proteins that cause inflammation and flush out nasal allergens, irritants and bacteria from the nose and sinuses.
Nasal saline rinses may also come in different forms, including Neti pots, squeeze bottles and sprays. When used correctly, these may help alleviate the symptoms of allergies.
Consistency is key. Daily use — especially at the end of the day when allergens have accumulated — is most effective.
Studies have shown that adding saline to an allergy regimen can lead to symptom relief, more efficient delivery and increased effectiveness of concurrent allergy therapies.
Recent studies have found a connection between low vitamin D levels and increased prevalence of allergies, including allergic rhinitis, asthma, food allergies, anaphylaxis and atopic dermatitis — particularly in children.
While there are currently no standardized guidelines recommending vitamin D to prevent or treat allergies, this vitamin may play an essential part in natural allergy relief.
So much so that allergists often include checking vitamin D levels and supplementation before treating allergies.
Similarly, vitamin C has also been shown to have antihistamine and anti-inflammatory effects associated with allergy symptom relief. The combination of both of these vitamins in supplements and within a proper diet are key components to a strong immune foundation against allergies.
Peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil have been shown in studies both to have protective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Both may dampen allergic responses and offer natural allergy relief.
They are also notable decongestants that may help ease allergy symptoms in conjunction with sinus, nasal and chest congestion.
As such, they can be used topically on the chest, sinuses and nasal area. Or, they can be distilled into humidifiers for soothing inhalation therapy.
Because essential oils are potent, they shouldn’t be applied directly to mucous membranes, as they can be irritants if not used properly.
Certain herbal extracts have been found to mimic the mechanism of medicines we use every day for natural allergy relief.
This includes butterbur (also known as Petasites hybridus) which has been shown to be a natural antihistamine with efficacy similar to over-the-counter oral antihistamines.
Similarly, spirulina has been found to down-regulate IL-4 (interleukin 4), a key component that drives the allergic immune cascade and may exacerbate symptoms.
Bromelain, quercetin and n-acetylcysteine are also herbal extracts that may provide allergy relief.
Allergen immunotherapy, available through doctors’ offices and through the Curex platform, involves treatment with extracts derived from natural allergens.
Allergen immunotherapy is offered through shots, tablets and oral solutions. Small doses of a particular allergen are introduced to the body, allowing the immune system to develop an immunity or tolerance.
The latter two are available through Curex and can be taken at home after initial video consultation with an allergy specialist.
Allergy shots may be administered by a doctor or allergist in person.
Allergy immunotherapy is unique as a treatment as it doesn't just temporarily treat symptoms but can lead to long-term changes in allergy symptoms and natural allergy relief. While patients may still need to take allergy medication while receiving immunotherapy, they may be able to reduce doses or even stop taking allergy medication altogether over time.