Herbs for Allergies: 6 Natural Remedies for Allergy Sufferers
Ah, springtime! There is nothing quite like watching the world come alive again after a long winter. The birds are singing, baby animals are plodding about, flowers are opening their petals, and… achoo!
It’s allergy season again.
Pollen is inevitable when spring rolls around, an unfortunate reality for many allergy sufferers. Even more, as we turn on our air conditioners as the temperatures rise, it can stir up dust mites, mold spores, and pet dander, all of which can trigger allergic reactions in many people.
Our immune systems react to allergens in strange ways, causing all sorts of sniffling, sneezing, and even swelling. Though the best way to save yourself the grief of severe allergy symptoms is to avoid allergens completely, this is usually not feasible for most people, especially if you’re allergic to tiny particles in the air.
If you are an itchy-eyed, runny-nosed allergy sufferer this spring, here are some of the best herbs used to combat allergies.
Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is a large-leafed plant native to Europe and Northern Asia that produces beautiful and strange purple flowers. Butterbur has been used in traditional medicine throughout the ages and has been found to be especially effective in preventing migraines and tension headaches. In fact, butterbur’s derivatives appear in many pharmaceutical medications.
As a flower growing outside, butterbur is an allergen that triggers reactions in those who are sensitive to ragweed, daisies, marigolds, and other similar plants. Funnily enough, when ingested, butterbur is a natural antihistamine, combating the allergic reactions it can cause. One 2003 study found that butterbur had an effect on allergy sufferers with itchy, watery eyes that is similar to over the counter antihistamines like Benadryl.
Butterbur supplements come in many forms, the most common being capsules.
The luffa plant (Luffa aegyptiaca) grows a vegetable that can be eaten, but may be more commonly seen in your shower—a luffa sponge!
The luffa plant is commonly used in traditional medicine for combating allergy symptoms like hay fever. It contains numerous active compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties, making it a great choice for allergy sufferers.
We do not recommend eating your luffa sponge, as it probably won’t be comfortable. However, luffa supplements can be taken in both capsule and liquid form.
A delicious herb, peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a hybrid between two other types of mint, watermint and spearmint. Though it may be a bane to gardens around the world, peppermint has seen many uses in traditional medicine.
Peppermint contains menthol and menthone, both of which are common ingredients in nasal sprays. Paired with peppermint’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a solid herb for allergies.
Peppermint is popularly used as an essential oil, as it allows you to take full advantage of its inhalant benefits.
Rather than being its own plant, bromelain is a specific enzyme that is found in tropical fruits such as pineapple or papaya. It has anti-inflammatory properties, which are especially effective on the sinuses, which is why many people drink pineapple juice after surgery.
This 2013 study found that, due to its anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory compounds, bromelain can actually make you less susceptible to allergic reactions, making it easier to enjoy the springtime outside.
Bromelain is one of the tastiest herbs for allergies, as you can reap the benefits by eating products with pineapple or papaya. That being said, you can get bromelain supplements in liquid or capsule form.
Stinging Nettle Root
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) gets its name from the painful sting one receives from touching the plant. Like butterbur, stinging nettle is an allergen, but takes this to extreme by injecting histamine and other irritants into the skin through tiny, hollow hairs along the plant.
Surprisingly, this painful plant has been used for centuries as an herb for allergies due to its anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties that lie within the plant’s makeup. A 2017 study found that stinging nettle root extract has been successful in alleviating the sinus-related symptoms caused by allergies.
Fortunately, you do not need to be stung to reap stinging nettle’s benefits. The majority of stinging nettle supplements are derived from the plant’s roots and are most commonly found in capsule form.
You will not find spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) growing in your herb garden. Instead, spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that thrives in alkaline brackish waters. Since eating algae found in the sea is not recommended, most spirulina we eat or take as herbs for allergies is grown in labs.
Like the other herbs on this list, spirulina has both anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy properties. One older study found that patients taking spirulina supplements had significantly lessened allergy symptoms, such as runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing. Another 2015 study showed that eating spirulina not only lessened the severity of allergy symptoms, but may even make you less susceptible to allergic rhinitis (allergies) symptoms in general.
Since spirulina can be eaten, supplements come in many forms. If you are feeling bold, you can eat spirulina raw. However, it has a very salty, sea-like taste, so we recommend taking spirulina as an herb for allergies in the form of a powder, which has a far less oceanic taste and can be mixed into drinks and smoothies.