May 24, 2011

Herbal Remedies for Seasonal Allergies

When allergy symptoms are taking you under, be aware that you are not alone. Every spring, over thirty five million Americans are affected by seasonal allergies. Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to certain substances (called allergens) by the onset of cold-like symptoms such as itchy eyes, sinus congestion, and hives. Seasonal allergies are typically caused by pollen.

Over the counter allergy medications are the most common forms of treatments patients use to cope with their allergies. Anti-histamines are the most effective type of medication one can use for their allergy as anti-histamines inhibit the actions of histamine; the substance released by the immune system which causes all allergy symptoms. For best results it is recommended to take anti-histamines before allergies occur, this is why patients with year-round allergies take anti-histamines daily when advised by their doctor. Two herbs have been found to have the same properties of anti-histamines: butterbur and stinging nettle.

How can herbs such as butterbur and stinging nettle relieve my seasonal allergies?

Butterbur was found to be as effective as cetirzine (the medicinal ingredient in Zyrtec in a Swiss study. Butterbur has the same characteristics of chemical anti-histamines without the drowsiness. Stinging nettle has anti-inflammatory properties and also prevents the body from producing histamine. Stinging nettle also does not cause drowsiness. It is best to take these herbs as supplements (they are available in capsules) a week or two prior allergy season.

Are these herbs safe?

Butterbur and stinging nettle have been confirmed safe for use. Pyrrolizaldine alkaloids found in butterbur are known to cause liver and kidney damage, however, there are tablet preparations available which have these compounds removed. Butterbur does belong to same family as ragweed therefore it is recommended to talk to a doctor to avoid an allergic reaction. Other possible side effects of butterbur include nausea, diarrhea, indigestion or constipation. Possible side effects with stinging nettle include possible drug interaction (especially when taking NSAIDs, hypertension medication or medicines for diabetes), frequent urination, or adverse effects during pregnancy. As with any treatment, patients are strongly encouraged to talk to their doctor before taking any of these supplements especially when determining the appropriate dosages.

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