By Richard Firshein, DO, Physician Practicing complementary medicine in New York. Author of A Guide to Nutrititional Therapies.
More than 20 million Americans suffer from springtime allergies. Over-the-counter and prescription antihistamines, decongestants and steroid nasal sprays may help but they can cause drowsiness and nasal bleeding and may have other yet unknown effects.
Here are some natural remedies that can often be used instead of or in conjunction with medications. Consult a doctor before trying any of these, especially if you are pregnant, planning surgery or taking other medications.
*Quercetin. This supplement is a bioflavonoid; the component in fruits and vegetables that gives them their vibrant color. It has natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory effects.
Typical dosage: Start taking quercetin when spring weather begins, and continue through the end of June. Take 300 milligrams (mg) twice a day for one week. If that doesn't work, increase to 600 mg.
If you also suffer from fall allergies, begin again in mid-August and continue through the first frost. In hot climates, you may need to take quercetin year-round.
*Stinging Nettles. Like quercetin, this plant extract is an excellent antihistamine and anti-inflammatory. It can be used in conjunction with quercetin or on its own.
Typical dosage: 400 mg twice a day during allergy season.
On-the-spot treatment: If you find yourself in the throes of an allergy attack despite taking quercetin and/or stinging nettle regularly, take an extra dose. I tell my patients to reach for these remedies whenever they would take an antihistamine.
Most allergy sufferers find quercetin and/or stinging nettle highly effective. But if they don't work for you, one of the following natural antihistamines and anti-inflammatories may help either in conjunction with each other or alone. Try them in this order, but, of course, talking with your doctor first.
*Vitamin C. Take 1,000 mg once or twice a day during allergy season. This should be reduced or eliminated during the off-season. Recent studies suggest vitamin C in high doses may cause thickening of arteries and interfere with certain cancer therapy. Caution is advised for patients with these conditions.
*Pycnogenol, an antioxidant derived from the bark of pine trees. Take 50 mg twice a day.
*Ginkgo biloba. Take 60 mg twice a day. Once symptoms subside, stop taking this herb. Used in excess (more than 200 mg per day), it can cause diarrhea or sleeplessness.
Caution: People using blood thinners should avoid ginkgo biloba.
*Feverfew. Buy a product standardized to contain at least 0.7% parthenolide. That is the component of this herb that reduces swelling in the sinuses. Take 500 mg two or three times a day.
By Michael F. Roizen, MD,
professor of anesthesiology
and internal medicine
at State University of New York
Upstate Medical University, Syracuse.
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