8 Natural Remedies for Hay Fever

Ragweed leaves close up

Let's look at 8 natural remedies for hay fever that will help you breathe easier, clear your head, and allow your immunity and energy to build up. You can even dare to be outside this fall, and enjoy the beautiful colours and brisk air.

If you are sniffling and coughing and rubbing your itchy eyes, it must be fall, and there must be ragweed growing in your vicinity. It is possible that you are already taking various over-the-counter (OTC) medications for your sinuses, or some antihistamines of various strengths. But I'm guessing you are still experiencing uncomfortable symptoms, and feeling discouraged.

Seasonal allergic rhinitis (or hay fever) troubles one in five, or maybe one in four people by now, zooming the totals into the millions! The culprits are the pollens in grasses, trees, and ragweed plants. Since ragweed is the worst, we generally talk of it as if it represents all sources.

"Over-the-counter and prescription allergy remedies can help, but sometimes cause side effects of their own," says Honolulu naturopathic physician Laurie Steelsmith, N.D., author of Natural Choices for Women's Health (Three Rivers Press). “They speed you up, slow you down, make your head feel fuzzy, dehydrate your sinus membranes and give you cotton mouth,” she adds.

All the more reason to check into natural, herbal remedies. You will find they are more gentle and can reduce your symptoms with far less side-effects. Some are fortunate enough to become rid of their hay fever altogether.

[Did you miss the article that came before this one? You can go back to read about Ragweed, the Hay Fever Villain.]

What Jethro Kloss Wrote About Hay Fever

Let's see what Jethro Kloss of the 1800s taught and used with those who came to him for help, according to his book, "Back to Eden."

He said that hay fever would rarely happen to those who had a good digestive system in a healthy condition. He felt that wrong eating habits had a lot to do with this allergy.

Kloss offered several remedy suggestions. One, was to relieve the irritation in the nasal passages by snuffing salt water up the nose. He advised to dissolve one heaping teaspoon of salt in a pint of warm water. Then to gargle with this solution and blow the nose clear of mucus before snuffing it up the nose.

His second remedy was to put a rounded teaspoon of golden seal powder and a heaping teaspoon of borax into a pint of boiling soft water. Next, to shake it well, and let it stand for a couple of hours, shaking occasionally. Then to put some in the palm of your hand and snuff it up into your nostrils. Kloss wrote that this would be soothing and healing to your nasal membranes, and could be repeated four or more times in a day.

Jethro Kloss described three more concoctions like this, but since it appears to me that it would be harder to find some of those herbs, I'll skip them here. (If you are interested you'll find them on page 481 of Back to Eden.)

Ready for the more common and readily available remedies?

8 Common and Readily Available Remedies

stinging nettle closeup

1. Stinging nettle - best known as a weed, it has been discovered to have as much beta-carotene and vitamin C as spinach and other greens. In the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries it has been known to reduce inflammation from sprains and arthritis, and it contains about 20 chemicals that have positive uses. While your body produces histamines when attacked from without, which cause hives, constrict your bronchial vessels, and inflame your skin, the histamines that nettle produces attach themselves to the receptor sites in your cells and protect your cells from the attack of your body's histamines. Generally, these histamines are too weak to cause your body bad reactions. However, some people have found that they are allergic to nettle. Probably because their immune system is already seriously compromised.

So I would suggest you try your first effort with a nettle tea or capsule very cautiously. Just in case it makes your symptoms worse. If that works okay, then proceed with more.

I have found nettle growing merrily on a relative's farmyard where they didn't bother to mow their tall grasses. It is easy to wash, dry, and crumble nettle leaves for making tea, or you can buy it in a health food store, already powdered. Some say the freeze-dried type is best.

2. Eat Onions. Some limited studies have shown that when people with an allergy induced headache eat onions their headache will clear up. This has not been studied thoroughly enough, but it's worth a try. I like a slice of raw onion when I do a quick bake of open-faced onion, tomato and cheese sandwiches. (A quick lunch ready in 5-10 minutes). But sometimes the raw onion gives me gas. However, when I do a stir-fry meal I start with a chopped clove of garlic in the frying pan, and about a quarter of a large onion chopped up. The garlic cancels out the gas-producing power of the onion. Then I add whatever else I want in that meal, cooked rice or potatoes, zucchini, left-overs like hamburger, or stew, and some herbs, etc. Then the onions can only help, not harm me.

3. Spicy foods may clear your drippy sinuses. This doesn't work for everyone, but if you have a mild case of runny nose, try eating a clove of garlic, or a bit of horseradish direct from a bottle. (Yuk! I can't see myself doing that). But you might try a light sprinkle of cayenne pepper on your food. I've tried that, and have been amazed at how quickly my head clears, and my bowels want to be emptied. That helps with losing a bit of weight as a side-benefit.

common butterbur (it comese in various colours of flowers)

4. Butterbur. This is an herb from the daisy family. Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is one of the most time-tested European allergy remedies. It’s been used since the 17th century to stop coughs and treat upper-respiratory symptoms. Several studies have confirmed that butterbur is effective in relieving allergy symptoms - without making you drowsy as the OTC drugs often do. Butterbur did better than a placebo in a German study, that was published in Phytotherapy Research.

“Human studies suggest that there is good scientific evidence to support the use of butterbur for the prevention of allergic rhinitis,” is a quote from a 2009 report by the National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health.

I don't see this herb very readily in drug stores or even health food stores, but if you do find it, you can take a 50 mg to 75 mg capsule two times a day, and see results. By the way, you should check the bottle to make sure that it is an extract without "pyrrolizidine aklaloids" as that can be toxic, and might be carcinogenic (cancer-causing). In other words, don't go looking for this herb and take it straight.

5. Bromelain. This is a natural enzyme, found most often in pineapples, and is a great anti-inflammatory that will cut down on swelling in your nose and sinuses, even in your joints. (Take note of that if you have arthritis). Sadly, just eating some slices of pineapple, or drinking the juice isn't quite enough to cure your allergy attacks. Try to find it in capsule form with at least 80 mg to 320 mg strength Bromelain. You could have a capsule 2 to 3 times a day for relief.

6. Quercetin. You get this simply by eating certain fruits and vegetables, and some plant-based foods. (Think, onions, apples, red grapes and grapefruit.) Quercetin keeps your immune cells from releasing histamines, those inflammation-causing chemicals that trigger your allergy symptoms. This is a natural antihistamine, antioxidant, and decongestant. Some folks call quercetin their most favourite herbal remedy for allergies.

Just eating the right fruits and vegetables will help - but if you have a bad allergy attack you may want to have some supplements on hand that include quercetin. Melissa Josselson, N.D., who is the director of the Wellness Institute in Sewell, N.J., says to try a 500 mg capsule three times a day on an empty stomach for the best absorption and results.

There is one warning though. If you are on prescriptions for blood thinners, on chemotherapy, or taking corticosteriods, or cyclosporine (they may have been prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis), then you better talk with your doctor first.

7. Vitamin C. This may be the first remedy many of us think of when an allergy attack comes on. The ascorbic acid in C is a natural immune booster, and does act as a mild antihistamine. However, my personal experience has led me to put it further down the list. At the beginning of my allergies, I did suck on a lot of chewable Vitamin C tablets, but then I got a very itchy mouth, and everything I ate when straight through me - fairly fast!

After some research I discovered that too much Vitamin C at once will rinse the B vitamins out of our body. That's what caused the itching mouth. Not only that, but over time, the Vitamin C can eat the enamel off our teeth, weakening them and making them more susceptible to cavities. I lost some molars that way on both sides of my mouth.

It is better to to take the bioflavoniods, especially found in citrus fruits, and the buffered tablets you swallow, and do not keep for an extended time in your mouth. I still tend to keep Vitamin C on hand for occasional crisis times when I want to clear my sinuses in a hurry, or I'm having coughing fits that needs to be stopped. Now, however, I get my C in citrus juices or fruits which I eat between meals for the most part.

8. Eucalyptus. this plant or tree from the southern hemisphere is now often found as a house plant in the northern hemisphere. The leaves have a sharp fragrance that clears the air, thins the mucus in our sinuses and gets rid of a deep, deep cough. You can take it in many ways; as a lozenge, cough syrup, tea, a salve or ointment. In the case of an allergy, you could just put 5 drops of the eucalyptus oil into some boiling water, or a vaporizer, throw a towel over your head for a bit of a tent effect, and lean forward to breathe in the fragrance.

Some doctors warn not to do this for children under six. I don't know just why. But even as an adult, if your doctor has prescribed for you 5-Flurouracil (5-FU), pentobarbital, or amphetamines (oh, wait, that is found in some ADHD medications; maybe that's why young children should not try this remedy) - apparently these three prescriptions can interact in a negative way with eucalyptus, so you ought to check with your doctor before you try this remedy.

Hopefully, the remedies listed above give you some options to try, and soon you'll be able to latch onto one that is just right for you. I sure hope so. I know how limp and exhausted and discouraged we can get from an attack of hay fever!