Want natural allergy relief without relying on pharmaceuticals? This post provides home remedies for seasonal allergies, including herbs and supplements that help with seasonal allergies, simple tips to help with hay fever symptoms, food that reduce allergy symptoms and foods that may make allergies worse.
What Causes Seasonal Allergies?
Discovery Health estimates that 36 million people suffer with seasonal allergies (also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis). Pollen counts go up, and your immune system releases histamines. Histamines are naturally occurring and perfectly normal – except when your body over-reacts to non-harmful substances. Then you end up with itchy, watery eyes; runny nose and/or sinus drainage; sore or scratchy throat; and chest tightness, cough or difficulty breathing. If you're faced with real toxic substances, this reaction helps keep them out of your body. When it's just pollen, strong reactions pretty much only serve to make you feel miserable.
But don't worry – we've got help!
Home Remedy for Seasonal Allergies #1 – Honey
Local, raw honey is a wonderful allergy fighter for many people. I've seen recommendations ranging from teaspoons to tablespoons per day, once dose to three or more doses. I've been gnawing my way through a honeycomb and taking about 3 teaspoons per day, spread throughout the day. Bee pollen is also commonly recommended.
Home Remedy for Seasonal Allergies #2 – Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine, antioxidant and antitoxin. I've increased my vitamin C intake, along with my local raw honey intake, and it is working as well or better than the Allegra with no side effects. I've been using a combination of Ester-C and Emergen-C.
During acute flare-ups, take 1,000 milligrams five times a day for four to five days. Follow this with 1,000 milligrams three times a day for three weeks; then take 1,000 milligrams a day for two months. Some people with allergies find mineral ascorbate vitamin C or esterified vitamin C (Ester-C) easier to tolerate than simple ascorbic acid.
Some of the best food sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit and lemons; papaya, bell peppers, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (sauerkraut and kimchi are great!), strawberries, pineapples, kiwifruit and cantaloupe.
Home Remedy for Seasonal Allergies #3 – Stinging Nettle
Common Nettle – Nettle is a natural antihistamine. A number of sources recommend regular use of nettle tea or nettle capsules leading up to and continuing through allergy season. Learn more about nettles in the Weekly Weeder #16 – Common Nettle.
Home Remedy for Seasonal Allergies #4 – The Neti Pot
Use a neti pot or saline rinse bottle to rinse irritants out of your sinuses. Note: Make sure to use only purified water in your neti pot or saline rinse. Although rare, some people have been infected with a brain eating amoeba from contaminated tap water while using a neti pot.
Home Remedy for Seasonal Allergies #5 – Reishi Mushrooms
Reishi Mushrooms – Studies have shown the reishi mushrooms may be effective against allergic reactions as well as other health problems.
In the article Benefits and Side Effects of Reishi Mushrooms, Livestrong.com notes:
Reishi reduces symptoms of seasonal allergies by acting as an expectorant, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory agent. In addition, the ganoderic acids contain anti-allergenic agents that inhibit histamine release and improve liver functions. Anti-allergenic properties are also found in the immune-boosting ling zhi-8 protein.
Home Remedy for Seasonal Allergies #6 – Flavinoids
Flavonoids are mostly found in plants. The term apples to over 6000 substances, many of which give plants their bright, beautiful colors. Some of the best food sources of flavonoids include: apples, apricots, blueberries, pears, raspberries, strawberries, black beans, cabbage, onions, parsley, pinto beans, and tomatoes. Flavonoids also enhance the effects of vitamin C. (Read more at The World's Healthiest Foods.)
Think fresh, clean and less processed. Load up on the fruits and veggies, which are high in antioxidants and water. Leafy greens – including edible weeds – are loaded with nutrients and trace minerals. The brighter the color of foods, the better the odds of it being high in antioxidants.
Home Remedy for Seasonal Allergies #7 – Add Some Spice!
Pour on the spices and seasoning – Turmeric is one spice that relieves inflammation. Cinnamon and licorice root (most commonly used in teas) may also ease breathing. Onions, garlic, ginger, horseradish, hot peppers, hot mustard – if it's strong enough to make you pay attention to the flavor, chances are it has compounds such as sulfur, quercetin and other anti-inflammatories. Homemade medicine recommends supplementing with 500 milligrams of turmeric three times daily for seasonal allergies.
Home Remedy for Seasonal Allergies #8 – Aromatherapy and Essential Oils
Mint oils and heat from mint tea or inhaling mint steam help to relax airways and may make breathing easier.
Modern Essentials recommends the use of lavender, eucalyptus, rose or peppermint essential oils for hay fever symptoms.
- For lavender and peppermint essential oil, dilute 1-3 drops of EO in 1 tablespoon of carrier oil. Apply to sinuses and bottoms of feet.
- For eucalyptus and rose essential oils, diffuse into the air or inhale oil applied to a tissue or cotton wick.
Home Remedy for Seasonal Allergies #9 – Herbal Remedies
The Herbal Academy of New England also recommends elderflower and goldenrod for seasonal allergies, in addition to nettle. Like nettle, elderflower tea can be consumed leading up to allergy season. They explain that: “Goldenrod is an anticatarrhal, an herb which helps the body remove excess mucus. Goldenrod also contains high levels of the anti-inflammatory constituent quercetin, which, along with its astringent action, can help alleviate the symptoms of allergies. Goldenrod tea as a Neti pot sinus wash can provide instant relief (be sure to bring tea to room temperature before using!).” You can learn more about goldenrod in Weekly Weeder #9, and learn more about herbalism with easy to use online courses from the Herbal Academy of New England.
Home Remedy for Seasonal Allergies #10 – Probiotics and Fermented Foods
As we age, we use up our body's stores of digestive enzymes. Many of us are deficient even when we are younger due to antibiotic use, poor diet, stress and other issues. Live culture foods are loaded with easy to digest nutrients to boost our immune systems and promote healing!
What's a “live culture food”? Live culture foods are those that are fermented (or lactofermented), either using salt or a starter culture, to help preserve them and create a great assortment of tasty food options. Think kimchi and sauerkraut, yogurt and kefir, wines and fermented condiments. By rebuilding the beneficial bacteria in our guts, we help our bodies better utilize the food we eat to promote healing and wellness. You can find several recipes for live culture foods on the recipe page. If you don't yet have access to live culture foods that you have made yourself, many natural food groceries are now carrying them. Probiotic supplements are another source of healthy bacteria to help jump start your digestive system to get the most out of your food.
Home Remedy for Seasonal Allergies #11 – Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are also naturally anti-inflammatory.
Some of the best sources of omega 3s are:
- flax seeds
They can also be found in other seafood and in pastured animals and products from pastured animals.
Home Remedy for Seasonal Allergies #12 – Avoid Foods That Make Allergy Symptoms Worse
While every person is different, the following foods may contribute to excess mucus production, worsening allergy symptoms. (From the Holistic Herbal.)
- Dairy products, including goat's milk and yogurt
- Grains, especially gluten rich ones
- Potatoes and other starchy root vegetables
- Deep fried foods, processed foods
Home Remedy for Seasonal Allergies #13 – Keep the Pollen Out of Your Home
Limiting your exposure to allergens can also help alleviate symptoms. Try the following:
- Wash pollen out of your hair and off your skin after being outside. Eyes may be rinsed with cool water.
- Skip line drying of clothes and bedding, which may lead to pollen accumulating on the fabric.
- Wash your pets. If you have pets, washing them may help, too, as pollen and other allergens can get caught in their fur (animal dander may also contribute to allergy attacks).
- Get rid of carpet. Hard floors are easier to keep clear of allergens than carpets. Mop or vacuum frequently, and make sure your vacuum doesn't recirculate the dust (HEPA filters are our friend). I love our Cyclovac Central Vac. It vents outside, so I know the dust is gone – at least for while!
- Try an air filter. Portable air filters can clear out your most used living areas, while whole house filters work throughout your home. Make sure to clean or change filters regularly.
Home Remedy for Seasonal Allergies #14 – Drink Plenty of Water
It's hard to go wrong drinking ample water and eating foods that are loaded with water such as plenty of fruits and veggies. Stayed hydrated helps to thin secretions, making them easier to clear. It also helps your mucus membranes stayed hydrated, reducing that dry, scratchy feeling.
Home Remedy for Seasonal Allergies #15 – Apple Cider Vinegar
Last but not least, let's not forget our perennial favorite home remedy for just about everything – apple cider vinegar! The article “The Top 5 Natural Allergy Fighters” suggests, “Mix 1 tablespoon ACV with 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon raw bees honey and drink three times a day.” Like many natural remedies, this option may take several weeks before you feel the full affects.
Be well! Let me know if you've been using a home remedy that I've missed. 🙂
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Originally published in 2012, updated in 2017.