ashley englishsmall measures

small measures: DIY seasonal allergy treatments

by Ashley

*Image from Science Daily.

As the days become shorter, cardigans and scarves begin returning to wardrobes, seasonal apples make their welcome reappearance (we stopped at an orchard and picked up a bushel of Cortlands yesterday, along with apple cider donuts-the best!!!), and leaves begin to color, crinkle, and fall. Parallel with all this crispness and beauty and splendor, however, is the reemergence of a not-so-welcome feature of autumn-seasonal allergies.

When I was younger, as everyone around me succumbed to sneezes and runny noses and itchy, watery eyes, I was thrilled beyond measure that such a state never seemed to be my lot. And then I moved to western North Carolina, whose mountains possess one of the most biologically diverse regions on earth, and the tables were turned. Along with so much biological diversity (the area is part of a temperate rain forest, one of only a handful in North America) came plenty of organisms to have allergic reactions to. Suddenly I was part of the stuffed-up, wheezy, sneezy herd, feeling miserable for a few weeks every spring and autumn.

To combat my condition, I opened up my DIY arsenal. For today’s “Small Measure”, I’d like to share with you what I learned. I found several things to do, sip, eat, and take for seasonal allergies that have helped beyond compare. As I write this, I’m in my forest-situated house, with the windows open, positively surrounded by allergens in every imaginable form, from goldenrod to ragweed, mullein to innumerable pollens (not to mention oodles of pet hair and dander from my 2 dogs and 5 cats). Owing to my allergy-combating efforts, however, I’ve got nary a sneeze, wheeze, sniffle, or itchy eye to attend to.

CLICK HERE for ashley’s DIY allergy tips after the jump!

*Image from The Chopra Center.

If you, too, suffer from the ravages of seasonal allergies, perhaps these simple, do-it-yourself tips might assist you, as they did me.

To Do:

Neti Pot=If you’ve never experienced use of a neti pot before, you might think at first read that it sounds like a form of torture best avoided by anyone with a mind to think. I’d urge you to reconsider, however. A neti pot is a ceramic pot with a spout used for nasal irrigation. That’s right-you put the spout into one of your nostrils (stick with me!), tilt your head to the side, pour a blend of salt water (1/4 tsp. salt to 1 c. warm water) into that nostril, and watch it pour out the other side. This is best done over a sink, in the shower, or over a large basin or bowl. While this might, at first, feel a bit like getting water up your nose when swimming, it’s not as bad as it sounds. The warm water, if the neti pot is correctly positioned, will trickle easily out your other nostril. It’s really rather straightforward when you think about it-you’re having allergic reactions based on allergens that enter via your nostrils. When we keep our nostrils flushed and clear, pollen and other allergens don’t stand a chance.

To Sip:

Nettles Tea=Nettles are natural antihistamines, making them nature’s version of Benadryl. Sipped regularly (I sip a large infusion most mornings), and especially in advance of allergy season (although it works well once the allergens are here, too), nettles can bring easy, affordable, lasting relief. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make nettle tea (which can be done with either fresh or dried herb; I use dried), or just don’t like the taste, capsules and tincture form are also available.

Chamomile Tea= Long touted for its sedative properties, chamomile is also a known anti-inflammatory. If you’re having difficulty breathing or have chest tightness, sipping chamomile tea may bring relief. It can also be used in inhalation form, via essential oil (around 5-10 drops) placed into a bowl filled with warm water. Those with known ragweed allergies, however, should avoid chamomile, as the plants come from the same family.

Ginger, Honey, & Cayenne Tea=Heat producing foods like ginger and cayenne can help in breaking up mucus congestion, as they clear mucus membranes. Whenever I feel the first hint of congestion or a pending allergy attack, I make a big pot of fresh ginger tea, to which I add loads of local honey (more about honeybee products ahead), a generous amount of fresh lemon, and a hearty pinch of cayenne. Does the trick, every time.

*Image from Women’s Day.

To Eat:

Local Honey & Bee Pollen=As honey bees fly about during these final days of summer, they’re gathering up good quantities of pollen and the last available sources of nectar to store as food for the coming seasons ahead. The pollen, along with the honey they make inside the hive, contains a fair quantity of the exact same allergens causing reactions in seasonal allergy suffers. So why would taking honey or bee pollen bring relief then? That’s on account of a theory that ingesting these allergens in minute doses over time makes our bodies acclimated to their presence and less likely to cause an allergic response (in which chemicals called “histamines” are released to ward off what are deemed foreign interlopers, hence the use of substances deemed “antihistamines”, which deactivate the histamine response). Eating locally sourced honey and bee pollen is key, though, as what might trigger an allergic reaction in my area won’t necessarily be what does it for someone in, say, Oregon. Begin with small quantities, around 1/2-1 tsp. and gauge your body’s reaction. As the dose will be small, and the concentration of the allergen so minute, there shouldn’t be any negative reaction. That said, everyone is different, so go easy and increase as you see fit.

*Image from Burleson’s.

Quercetin-containing foods: Quercetin is a substance found in a number of foods that is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which help prevent the release of the aforementioned histamine. Onions, green/black tea, berries, cranberries, citrus, and apples are all great sources of querctin. It can also be purchased in supplement form.

Omega 3-containing foods: Omega 3’s are one type of Essential Fatty Acid (EFA). These fats, in addition to a wide range of additional benefits, offer anti-inflammatory protection. Salmon, mackerel, and sardines, eaten in their whole form or as capsules, are rich in Omega 3’s. Vegetarians can take a veggie EFA blend, eat nuts and seeds (which also contain magnesium, another natural antihistamine), and add ground-up flaxseeds to their diets (flax seeds must be ground to access their beneficial properties, otherwise they pass through the body whole).

To Take:

Homeopathic Remedies=I’m a huge proponent of the use of homeopathic remedies. In its most basic explanation, homeopathy uses small doses of specific substances to treat conditions that, in larger quantities, would produce symptoms similar to what patients are being treated for. It’s like taking honey, mentioned above, in small quantities to stave off histamine reactions in the long run. I’ve had remarkable success using homeopathic treatments in a wide range of applications, including seasonal allergies. Typically, I take bioAllers products in spring and autumn, but as they’re based in alcohol and I’m prego, I’ve instead been using King Bio products, which, in addition to being alcohol-free, are genius in that they are regionally formulated.

I would like to mention that I’m no health professional, simply a nutrition consultant with a penchant for “Homemade Living” and DIY solutions, working hard to find natural relief to life’s challenges by any and every means possible. Those with severe allergies should be under the care of a physician or other health professional (I know of many who have found relief for their allergies through acupuncture, sublingual allergy immunotherapy, and other healing modalities). If you’ve got a go-to remedy for putting the kibosh on all things inflammatory, I’d love to hear about it. Otherwise, may your sinuses be clear and your eyes remain ‘a shining! –ashley

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  • Thanks so much for these great tips, Ashley! I’m a fellow allergy sufferer, and swear by the neti pot. Another great product that was recommended to me by my allergist is Sinol – it’s a homeopathic nasal spray – one of it’s active ingredients is pepper, so it gives you a little zing, but works miracles!

  • Hi Ashley

    My father recommended local honey to me a few years ago for allergies, and I can’t remember what the radius was he gave for “local” but I seem to remember it was something like 4 miles. Do you know?

    Luckily, I can find local honey made within 2 miles from my house, but when it’s not available I look for one that’s made in an environment that’s similar to where I live (all within 40 miles of my house anywhere). It has worked very well for my husband!!

    Can you tell us a bit more about choosing the honey if we don’t have a good local source though?


  • Kristina-As long as the honey comes from your region, you’re in good shape. The flora and fauna of where you live don’t vary too widely in the most immediate vicinity. Meaning, if you live in Florida, you can eat any honey produced in Florida and still be ingesting the allergens which affect folks in Florida, no matter where in the state you are situated. For huge states, like California, or entire countries, however, like Italy, I’d look for a producer somewhere between your immediate neighborhood and 50-75 miles away.

    Hope this helps!

  • I’ve never had autumn allergies before, but this year for some reason, the sneezing, itchy eyes and runny nose have hit with a vengeance. (Could be the addition of a very fuzzy doggy to the household). With the help of your post, I’m now plotting my battle plan to fight back. Thanks!

  • i couldn’t get the neti pot right – not sure why – but have GREAT success each night with the AYR squeeze bottle. It does the same thing except you squeeze the bottle and it gently sends the water up into the sinus cavities. I think there are a few brands out there and i can’t tell you how much it helps.

  • thanks for this post! very helpful info.

    to all the allergy suffers out there – i started the local honey routine about 5 years ago. i try to eat a little every day, even during the non-allergy winter months. it took about a year to make a difference but i no longer have to take ANY allergy medication! if you suffer, i highly recommend trying this remedy but please be patient and stick with it!

    good luck!

  • I also have severe allergies and these are great tips. I’d also add:
    – when you are congested drink LOTS of water. Nothing helps move the mucous out faster.
    – try to do some cardio or yoga exercise in the morning. Deep breathing helps open your sinuses and lungs.
    These two things have gotten me completely off decongestants, which I used to take twice daily.

  • i am so thankful for this post right now. it’s strange i only started to have allergies the last 5 years of my life. currently living atop kleenex mountain. thanks ashley!

  • For those who like to find relief from tea but can’t have chamomile because of ragweed allergies, try herbal blends with lavender because it has similar effects. A couple other things to look for in a tea blend are peppermint, eucalyptus, liquorice root. I work at a loose tea shop so I have people asking about this kind of thing all the time. :)

  • wow! i love all these helpful hints. i wanted to comment that you can go straight to the source for omega 3 fatty acids and eat seaweed. that’s where the fish get it from, so we can certainly cut out the middle man, er, fish, and get it there too.

  • I am an allergy sufferer and have chronic sinus infections, so I feel your pain! I LOVE my netti pot! When I first starting using it (at the advice of my MIL – who is a nurse) I thought I was drowing! However now I am used to it and it is my go-to when I start to feel the symptoms!

  • I have a rough time in the Fall with allergies ever since I moved to the Midwest. They never bothered me back in New York! Thank you for the great tips. I’m totally on board with the Neti Pot and suggest it to anyone with allergies. It seems crazy at first but helps more than you can imagine.

  • Thank you so much for this post!!! I just recently got anti-allergen covers for my pillows and that seemed to help a lot! But I will be sure to try some of your tips too!

  • Thank you so much! I went upstate this last weekend and well, you could have just called me Sneezey. It was horrible. Even with allergy medication. I will try ALL of these suggestions!

  • Terrific post, and the photos included here are really lovely! In addition to these fabulous tips I have found essential oils to really help as well.

  • Ashley,
    Thanks for your homeopathic remedies for allergies. I have them all year round, so bad that they have come to suppress my immune system. The sublingual allergy immunotherapy has really been helping. I aslo have found that the netti pot has been a life saver, as sinus issues are my main symptom. My advice for anyone first trying the netti pot> give it a few tries. it doesn’t feel quite right having salt water go up your nose the first few times, but you’ll get used to it and once you’ve nettied, you’ll never go back! The tea remedies work really well for me as well. I use an organic echinacea tea as well as another organic one you can find in the grocery called “Breathe Easy”. Love the Homeopathic suggestions…Keep ’em coming!

  • Another vote for the neti pot here! It was first recommended to me by a doctor when I went in with cold symptoms that were so bad I would have taken any kind of meds to help me.

    Instead, he recommended a neti pot to help the symptoms, as well as recommending a nightly neti session to clear allergens and other yucky stuff once I was well.

    I now use the NeilMed sinus rinse squeeze bottle and sachets, which are easy to travel with, but the principle is the same.

    Excellent stuff. (And I drink nettle tea just because I like the stuff. :) ) Thanks for the other suggestions as well!

  • Awesome list–and add me to the neti pot lovers here!

    3 Things for those who are thinking about trying the neti for the first time:

    1) Check out YouTube. Seriously, there are a bunch of different instructional videos on there, and it helped me immensely.

    2) Keep in mind that you have to at least be able to breathe through your nostrils in order to be able to use the neti most effectively. If you’re completely stuffed, see if you can blow your nose enough times in a row to open it up enough to neti quick.

    3) Make sure the water is warm enough. That initial “water up the nose” feeling you have at first is just something you get used to, fast. The “this water isn’t warm enough” feeling isn’t something you can get used to, IMHO. It literally hurts. :(

  • I’ve used the neti pot a few times and I have a problem. It works through one nostril (in my right, out my left), but when I reverse the process (left to right) it gets caught up in my nasal cavity creating an intense, blinding pain. Why does this happen? I internally broke my nose six years ago, and it might not have set quite right when it was healing. Could this have anything to do with it? It’s unbearable so I don’t use the neti.

  • I grew up in Oregon, but never suffered from allergies there, but when I moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico, I suddenly had a full-blown case of allergies which was first diagnosed as a cold. After taking everything they could throw at me (I was also pregnant), an astute doctor decided it was allergies and gave me a mild antihistimine. I got over the cold in 4 days, but got hooked on antihistamines. I took them for 12 years, using higher and higher doses, until someone told me about the honey. I bought local honey, and took 2 T. every morning. In about 8 months, I was off the antihistimines. I took honey for several years, but lately havenĀ“t done that, and no longer have allergy problems. I tried the propolen, but my lips swelled up….I think it was too strong. The honey will work, you just have to be patient.

  • I love ginger tea.
    My father who is really famous doc of oriental medicine in Korea, suggested for weight loss treatment to take red tea with ginger and brown sugar. It helps to circulate your body and warm your body.
    Also he always advice to me “Keep your head cool, and your feet warm!”
    I always talk same things to my wonderful patients.

  • During fall allergy season, I suffer from very bad swelling around my eyes. I haven’t been able to identify a good natural remedy for this. Any ideas?

    Also, regarding the netti pot – love it. It does feel a little weird at first, but after a few times it actually feels nice. I now describe it as a “spa treatment” for your sinuses! I also find that nasal irrigation helps me fight off nasal and sinus infections much quicker.

  • Charla-The eye swelling sounds like a histamine response. Were it me, I’d start drinking nettle tea everyday and see if that doesn’t improve things.

    Abigail-Hmm..that’a a good question, and honestly beyond the scope of my expertise. Sounds like you might want to have an exam from an ear, nose, & throat doctor to determine the exact physiological cause of the pain. In the interim, stick with the nostril that feels right!

  • Fabulous tips! I love natural living too and these are some great preventative measures :) I just wanted to share too that our family takes a good probiotic to help boost our immunities as well. Our little boy has so many allergies and food intolerances that caused eczema, and his Belly Boost chewable was the one and only thing to really help him get better! Thanks for all these ideas – would love to try the Neti Pot!

  • When I saw the subject of your post, I immediately thought: two words — NETI POT! I’m so glad you mentioned it. I used to have frequent sinus headaches and infections, but I can’t remember having even one since I made the neti pot part of my daily routine two years ago. I use it in the shower every morning & it’s become as automatic as brushing my teeth. A few tips for newbies: The ceramic pot will eventually break, especially if you have children and hard tile floors. The eco-plastic pot is especially nice for travel. Kosher salt seems to work as well as the special neti salt. It is usually additive-free and less expensive. Also, if you cover the pot’s openings with your hands, you can shake it to dissolve the salt. That way, your salt spoon stays dry. Lastly, I find that doing the toe-touching exercise is an important step for success. I recommend watching the video at netipot.com).

  • great post. last year i discovered nettles, and they have absolutely changed my life. i have had allergies my whole life and tried so many remedies, but they either didn’t do much or had too many annoying side effects. after a few weeks of drinking strongly brewed nettle infusion (overnight brew of one ounce of dried nettle to a quart of boiling water, a la susun weed), i had hardly any seasonal allergy symptoms for the rest of the year. AND i moved in with my boyfriend and his two cats – would have been inconceivable! now i drink nettles every once in a while, sort of maintenance. still feeling great!

  • thanks for the tips! i have year-round allergies that really kick it up a notch in the spring and fall, and i’m always on the look-out for natural remedies. i’m already medicated to the point that the next stop for me on the traditional treatment train would be allergy shots, and that just seems like a big pain.

    i’m a fan of the neti pot, and i’m an even bigger fan of a big squirt-bottle-like-thing that i picked up at walgreens on the advice of my allergist. i think it’s a little easier to use than a neti pot, and, for me anyway, it’s a little more comfortable.

    i have also had a lot of luck with inhaling lavender essential oils. i just put a few drops of the floor of my shower before i get in, and the heat dissipates the scent throughout the bathroom. the lavender/neti pot combination has greatly lessened the severity of my bi-annual sinus infections.

    first-time commenter, long-time fan :)

  • great post, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector don’t notice this. You should continue your writing. I am confident, you’ve a great readers’ base already!

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