May 2023

Natural Medicines to Battle Spring Allergies

Spring allergies are in full bloom. Finding relief can be difficult for some patients. Get ready to answer questions about popular supplements and natural remedies.

Butterbur is a popular choice. There’s a decent amount of clinical evidence showing that taking a specific butterbur leaf extract called ZE 339 (Tesalin) reduces hay fever-related nasal symptoms – some research shows that it’s as effective as fexofenadine 180 mg daily. But this specific extract isn’t available in the US. If patients want to try butterbur, advise them to look for products that are standardized to contain 8 mg petasin. This is similar to the product used in most clinical research. But make sure patients only use butterbur products that are certified as pyrrolizidine alkaloid (PA)-free. Butterbur naturally contains PAs which can damage the liver and lungs.

Stinging nettle is also popular. Proponents believe it might benefit allergies due to its quercetin content, which is thought to have anti-inflammatory effects. While there’s a lot of buzz about its benefits online, it’s not clear if it actually helps. Some early research shows that it might offer some relief when taken at the first sign of symptoms, but it doesn’t seem to help people who are already taking allergy medications. For now, tell patients there isn’t any strong clinical data supporting its use for seasonal allergies.

Nasal irrigation is a good option for people looking for non-pharmacological remedies. When done properly, there’s evidence that it can reduce common allergy symptoms like itching, sneezing, and runny nose. It works by flushing out mucus and allergens and often improves airflow. It can also reduce the need for allergy medications. If patients want to give it a shot, tell them that it’s likely safe for most people – the amoebic brain infections some people might ask about are very rare and avoidable. Advise patients to use only water that is boiled (for 3-5-minutes and then cooled down to lukewarm), distilled, or sterile. Irrigation pots should also be washed after every use and replaced every few months.

In addition to these remedies, many other natural medicines and modalities have been studied for allergic rhinitis. Several probiotics in particular continue to grow in popularity. Check out our comparative effectiveness chart to learn more about what may and may not help.

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