Allergy season is here. But you may be surprised to learn all that itching, sneezing, runny nose and coughing can actually occur at any time of year, according to Angela Hardin, N.D., a resident at the National University of Natural Medicine. Hardin says these symptoms are a common complaint in her practice—and one that can often be treated successfully with natural allergy remedies.
Allergy symptoms occur when levels of histamine, a chemical released by mast cells, increase and become overactive as a defense against allergens. It’s common to develop seasonal allergies over time (after a year in a new location, for instance), and as we age, due to immune system changes, Hardin says.
To keep allergies at bay, Hardin recommends regularly washing bedding and bath towels, vacuuming, sweeping and cleaning dusty surfaces daily, using a nasal rinse, and investing in a high-quality indoor-air filter. Additionally, she suggests several natural supplements for allergy relief, which decrease symptoms without the typical side effects associated with antihistamines.
“These products all work similarly, largely by controlling inflammation and supporting a balanced immune response to allergens, so that the body doesn’t go haywire,” Hardin says. Here are her top picks.
A flavonoid found naturally in foods—such as onions, apples, raspberries, tomatoes and broccoli—as well as in black tea and red wine, quercetin is a mast-cell stabilizer that reduces allergic symptoms. It also helps control inflammation by inhibiting leukotrienes and prostaglandins, inflammatory chemicals designed to protect us from foreign particles but which sometimes get out of hand and cause uncomfortable symptoms, Hardin says. Nettle, which contains quercetin, is also effective for natural allergy relief in all the same ways, Hardin says.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
“NAC is a potent anti-allergic supplement for many reasons. It inhibits three types of signals in the body that can cause allergy or inflammation—TNF-alpha, IL-1 and IL-4—and it may help reduce symptoms of cough, asthma and runny nose,” Hardin says. Additionally, NAC has been studied in clinical trials for its benefits in asthma sufferers because of its mucolytic (mucous-dispersing) effects.
An enzyme found in pineapple, bromelain is another potent anti-inflammatory, Hardin says. Similar to quercetin, it reduces inflammatory prostaglandins and may also change the behavior of leukocytes (white blood cells), some of the body’s main immune system response cells, she says. Studies have found bromelain to be effective in a range of inflammatory diseases, from allergy and asthma to rheumatoid disease, and in inhibiting airway inflammation.
Featured in many combination supplements for allergies and viral illnesses, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, qualities that may explain its role in modulating the immune system and managing allergic symptoms, Hardin says. Indeed, a 2018 study found that oxidative stress is a factor in allergic disease and that vitamin C can help. Additionally, having a vitamin C deficiency can also lead to allergy symptoms.
Supplements to try: