Spring has arrived. For some, it's a time when seasonal allergies come to the surface causing itchy eyes, runny noses and headaches. At this time of year people with seasonal allergies usually reach for antihistamines and various over the counter remedies. But there is another way to treat this irritating condition without drugs. Acupuncture, diet and essential oils can be used as a natural alternative to alleviate many of the symptoms associated with seasonal allergies. In a study, published in the Feb19 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, scientists recruited 422 people with seasonal allergies and assigned them into three groups. One group received 12 acupuncture sessions over 8 weeks. Another was given sham acupuncture and the third group had no treatment at all. Each group also had access to an antihistamine. After eight weeks, the acupuncture group had a greater improvement in their symptoms, compared to the other groups. It was also noted that the acupuncture group used the antihistamine less frequently.
Seasonal allergies kick the immune system into overdrive, attacking allergens to keep you safe–and causing familiar allergy symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, runny nose, rashes on the skin, asthma and swelling. The following tips can help you survive the seasonal change by helping you to prevent or manage your allergies smartly.
If acupuncture is not for you consider trying acupressure. There are acupoints that can be used for self-help by applying gentle pressure. One point, in particular, is Large Intestine 4, commonly used by acupuncturists to treat many conditions such as headache, runny nose, constipation, sinusitis, rhinitis and toothache.
To locate this point feel around the fleshy area between the index finger and thumb. When you feel the tender area that's the point you want to apply pressure to. Feel for tenderness at the point on both hands, if one side feels more tender focus more on the tender side. Apply pressure for about 30 seconds and release, repeat a few times. Another point to help during allergy season is Large Intestine 20. I use this point in the clinic and find that once the needles are inserted patients can feel their sinuses draining.
You can work on this point without needles! Feel for a slight indentation on either side of the nostrils and apply firm upward pressure directed towards the eyes. Apply pressure for about 30 seconds and release, repeat a few times. You can try these self-help acupressure treatments throughout the day. Although not the same as an acupuncture treatment these exercises will offer some temporary relief of symptoms.
Food As Medicine:
Ginger has been used as a natural remedy for a number of health problems, such as nausea and joint pain. It also contains antioxidative, and anti-inflammatory phytochemical compounds. Experts are now exploring how these compounds may be useful for combating seasonal allergies.
Surprisingly Bee pollen can help prevent allergic reactions. This mixture of enzymes, nectar, honey, flower pollen, and wax is often sold as a curative for hay fever.
Research shows bee pollen has anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antimicrobial, properties in the body. In one animal study bee pollen inhibited the activation of mast cells, these VIP mast cells are key to preventing allergic reactions.
It is important that the honey is sourced locally, this will ensure the same local pollen your body is allergic to is contained in the bee pollen.
Eating foods high in vitamin C has been shown to ease the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. The irritation of the upper respiratory tract is caused by pollen from blooming plants.
Increase your consumption of high-vitamin C citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, sweet peppers, and berries.
Turmeric is well-known as the anti-inflammatory A-lister for a good reason. Its active ingredient, curcumin, has been linked to reduced symptoms of many inflammation-driven diseases and could help reduce the swelling and irritation caused by allergic rhinitis.
Tomatoes are another excellent source of Vitamin C. One medium-size tomato contains about 26% of your recommended daily value of vitamin C.
Additionally, tomatoes contain lycopene, another antioxidant compound that helps quell systemic inflammation. Lycopene is more easily absorbed in the body when it’s cooked, so choose canned or cooked tomatoes.
There’s some evidence that the omega-3 fatty acids from fish could assist your allergy resistance and even improve asthma.
A German study from 2005 found that the more eicosapentaenoic (EPA) fatty acid in a person's bloodstream, the less their risk of allergic sensitivity or hay fever.
Omega-3s’ anti-inflammatory properties were confirmed in a more recent study that showed fatty acids helped decrease the narrowing of airways that occurs in asthma and some cases of seasonal allergies.
Onions are an excellent natural source of a bioflavonoid called quercetin. Some research suggests that quercetin acts as a natural antihistamine, reducing the symptoms of seasonal allergies. Onions also contain a number of other anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, including them in your diet during allergy season to help relieve symptoms.
Raw red onions have the highest concentration of quercetin, followed by white onions and scallions. Avoid cooking as this reduces the quercetin content of onions, for optimal results, eat onions raw.
Peppermint essential oil is known to reduce inflammation. Its anti-inflammatory properties could make breathing easier by diffusing the oil in a diffuser or even applying it on your skin after it’s diluted with a carrier oil.
Frankincense reduces inflammatory activity in the body. One study reports that frankincense exhibits anti-inflammatory effects in bronchitis, which causes inflammation of the airways, and sinus infections. It may also be beneficial for people with asthma.
In one study, it was found that a lemon-based nasal spray helped in the treatment of perennial and seasonal allergic rhinitis. Lemon essential oil can also inhibit bacterial activity.
Lavender naturally reduces inflammation, inhibits anxiety, and promotes deep sleep, all of which benefit people with allergies.
In a review of the properties of chamomile oil, it was reported that chamomile is an effective anti-inflammatory that can treat skin conditions, inflammation of the mucous membranes, and symptoms of sinusitis.
Essential oils are very potent. Always seek professional advice regarding the use and application of essential oils. It is not recommended to apply citrus-based essential oils to the skin before exposure to the sun. These oils can cause the skin to become more sensitive to sunlight, increasing the risk of harmful blistering or burning. Use caution when using oils around pregnant and breastfeeding women and children, especially young children.
Adding some of these tips to your self-care routine could change your reaction to allergy season. So, now is the time to "spring" into action and tackle those symptoms before they take hold.
*Point location images from A Manual of Acupuncture.