• Allergic Conjunctivitis, Allergic Pharyngitis, Allergic Rhinitis, Allergic Sinusitis, Hay Fever, Pollen Allergy, Seasonal Allergy
About 7% of all Americans suffer from hay fever, an allergic condition that can cause runny nose, sneezing, and teary eyes. It is known officially as
allergic rhinitis, allergic sinusitis,
Here's how hay fever works. In response to the triggers noted above, an individual prone to allergies develops an exaggerated immune response. Substances known as IgEs flood the nasal passages, white blood cells called eosinophils arrive by the millions and billions, and inflammatory substances such as histamine, prostaglandins, and leukotrienes are released in massive amounts. The overall effect is the familiar one of swelling, dripping, itching, and aching.
The mechanism of allergic response is fairly well understood. Why allergic people react so excessively to innocent bits of pollen, however, remains a complete mystery.
Conventional treatment for hay fever primarily involves nonsedating antihistamines and nasal steroids and is usually quite effective.
Principal Proposed Natural Treatments
butterbur is best known as a promising new treatment for
In a 2-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 186 people with intermittent allergic rhinitis, use of butterbur at a dose of three standardized tablets daily, or one tablet daily, reduced allergy symptoms as compared to placebo.
In another double-blind study, 330 people were given either butterbur extract (one tablet three times daily), the antihistamine fexofenadine (Allegra), or placebo.
A previous 2-week, double-blind study of 125 individuals with hay fever (technically, seasonal allergic rhinitis) compared a standardized butterbur extract against the antihistamine drug cetirizine.
Two much smaller studies produced inconsistent results.
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full
An alternative to allergy shots known as
If SLIT is effective, it may require 2-3 years for significant benefit to develop.
One study suggests that SLIT is not only effective for treating allergy, but may be useful in preventing the development of new allergies or mild persistent asthma in children with allergic rhinitis or intermittent asthma.
While SLIT is fairly well accepted in conventional medicine, another form of “alternative” allergy shots remains firmly in the alternative medicine field:
Other Proposed Natural Treatments
Several natural products have shown potential benefit for allergic rhinitis in one or more preliminary controlled trials. These include a water-extract of
, a freeze-dried extract of stinging
One rather unusual study tested a nasal spray containing capsaicin, the “hot” in
A 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 40 people tested the supplement
Test tube studies suggest that flavonoids—biologically active compounds found in many plants—may help reduce allergy symptoms.
Tomato extract has been advocated for the treatment of allergic rhinitis, but the one double-blind study said to demonstrate benefit actually proves almost nothing at all due to major flaws in its statistical analysis.
The last several substances discussed (vitamins E and C, flavonoids, and OPCs) are
It has often been suggested that consumption of
Acupuncture has also shown some promise for allergic rhinitis.
This topic is also discussed in the
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51. Rak S, Yang WH, Pedersen MR, et al. Once-daily sublingual allergen-specific immunotherapy improves quality of life in patients with grass pollen-induced allergic rhinoconjunctivitis: a double-blind, randomised study. Qual Life Res. 2006 Oct 11. [Epub ahead of print]
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Last reviewed September 2009 by EBSCO CAM Medical Review Board
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