Do your eyes and nose start itching and watering with that first whiff of pollen? If you are not looking forward to spring because of the allergies it brings, here are some natural remedies that might help you give non-stop sneezing the flick.
What is hay fever and why do only some of us experience it?
Amongst the countries with the highest rates of allergies are Australia and New Zealand.
Allergic rhinitis, which we commonly call hay fever, involves the nasal airways becoming inflamed, and is one of the most common allergies in Australia. Here are a handful of factors that might result in its development,
• Family history – a child has a 33% greater likelihood of developing nasal allergies if one of their parent’s has an allergy; if both parents have allergies, the likelihood is nearly 70%.
• Early life factors – such as being born premature or with a low birth weight, being bottle-fed, having exposure to tobacco smoke and being born in a high allergen season.
• Allergen exposure – this can range from pollution to house dust, pollens and grasses.
• Age – those aged between 15 and 64 are more likely to experience hay fever.
• Gender – females have a greater likelihood of allergic rhinitis than males.
• Geographic location – in Australia, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory have the highest allergic rhinitis rates; New South Wales and Queensland have the lowest rates.
While allergies such allergic rhinitis may sound like a small inconvenience, they can lead to varying complications, each of which may impact quality of life, such as –
• Disturbed sleep or sleep apnea
• Trouble concentrating
• Reoccurring ear or sinus infections.
What are some evidence-based natural remedies that may reduce hay fever?
Perilla (Perilla frutescens): The value of perilla lies in its rosmarinic acid content, which may calm the immune and inflammatory response. According to studies, perilla may reduce the rhinoconjunctivitis symptoms of an itchy nose and itchy, watery eyes. This is via mechanisms which decrease the actions of allergic antibodies (immunoglobulins, which fight foreign substances) and inflammatory mediators (leukotrienes). In a rhinoconjunctivitis study, 50mg of rosmarinic acid relieved symptoms in 55.6%; even more significantly 200mg relieved symptoms in 70%.
Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis): A potent antioxidant, the role of rosemary can extend beyond the kitchen if you take it as an herbal remedy. Antioxidants lessen damage by free radicals, including cigarette smoke, pollution and pesticides, to which allergy sufferers may tend to be sensitive. Rosemary additionally contains the rosmarinic acid, the anti-allergenic compound also in perilla.
Albizia lebbeck: This ancient Indian Ayurvedic herb has a history of being used to alleviate allergies such as allergic rhinitis and the itchy skin condition, eczema. Research shows that albizia may stabilise particular immune cells (mast cells) that line blood vessels in certain areas of the body, such as the eyelids and nose. As well as this, albizia may help inhibit early processes of sensitisation, and decrease levels of allergy-inducing antibodies and certain white blood cells (T cells and B cells) involved in immune reactions.
Baical skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis)
The potency of this herb is thanks to its active flavonoid constituents (baicelein and luteolin). Studies demonstrate that these flavonoids are able to prevent the immune system from making antibodies (IgE) that mediate allergic reactions. Baical skullcap may also decrease the amount of the chemical histamine, which is released from certain immune cells (‘mast cells’) and results in allergenic symptoms.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)
Within its role in providing broad spectrum support for our immune systems, vitamin C may aid allergy-alleviation. This is due to its anti-histamine action, with low vitamin C status being linked to raised levels of blood histamine.
This antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic nutrient might help keep hay fever at bay thanks to its anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory actions.
Studies show that quercetin stabilises mast cells and white blood cells (neutrophils and basophils) involved in immune reactions, in turn preventing histamine release following allergen exposure. Quercetin additionally inhibits other inflammatory mediators, such as inflammatory, pain-producing prostaglandins, which are formed at the site of the allergy.
Although this nutrient may not immediately come to mind as a treatment for hay fever, low levels of vitamin D have been associated with a greater allergy risk.
In a study of over 3000 children and adolescents, those with a low vitamin D status had a larger likelihood of sensitivities to 11 out of 17 allergens, including environmental allergens which trigger hay fever. These findings were confirmed by a Harvard study, which suggested that sun exposure, the best natural source of vitamin D, could help reduce the risk of allergy development in children”.
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 Australasian society of clinical immunology and allergy (ASCIA). Economic impact of allergic disease in Australia: not to be sneezed at, 13 Nov 2007. Viewed 22 May 2013, http://www.allergy.org.au/images/stories/pospapers/2007_economic_impact_allergies_report_13nov.pdf
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Allergic rhinitis (‘hay fever’) in Australia November 2011. Cat. no. ACM 23. Canberra. Viewed 12 May 2013 at http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=10737420519
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 Takano, H, Osakabe N, Sanbongi C, et al. Extract of Perilla frutescens enriched for rosmarinic acid, a polyphenolic phytochemical, inhibits seasonal allergic rhinoconjunctivitis in humans. EBM 2004:229:247-254.
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”/>12 Litonjua AA, Weiss ST. Is vitamin D deficiency to blame for the asthma epidemic? J Allergy Clin Immunol 2007;120(5):1031-1035.
Always speak to your healthcare practitioner when considering supplementation. When taking supplements, make sure to always read the label and use only as directed. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare practitioner. Supplements should not replace a balanced diet.
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