May 2014

Natural Medicines for Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergies affect a large percentage of the general population every year. Most allergies are inherited, which means they are passed on to children by their parents. Although people inherit a tendency to be allergic, they may not inherit an allergy to the same allergen.

Allergy treatment depends on the type of allergy and severity of symptoms. Commonly used allergy medications include antihistamines, nasal sprays, decongestants, leukotriene inhibitors and immunotherapy (allergy shots). In addition to commonly used drugs, many natural remedies have been studied for both the prevention and treatment of allergies.

Butterbur: Butterbur is a perennial shrub, found throughout Europe as well as parts of Asia and North America. Comparisons of butterbur to prescription drugs such as fexofenadine (Allegra®) and cetirizine (Zyrtec®) have reported similar effectiveness for allergic rhinitis. These results suggest benefits of butterbur for allergic rhinitis, or nose congestion and inflammation.

ProbioticsLactobacillus acidophilus is one of the most commonly used probiotics, microorganisms that are used to promote health. Animal research suggests that L. acidophilus may reduce allergic immune responses. There is some evidence that milk containing L. acidophilus may relieve hay fever symptoms, but other studies found conflicting results. Research also suggests that Bifidobacterium longum BB536 (BB536), a Gram-positive bacterium that produces lactic and acetic acids, may reduce symptoms associated with Japanese cedar pollen (JCP) allergy. At this time, there is limited information available on other types of allergies.

Stinging nettle: Found in Africa, Europe, the United States and Canada, stinging nettle is a perennial plant that has been used as a medicinal agent since ancient times. The genus name Urtica comes from the Latin verb urere, meaning "to burn," because of its urticate (stinging) hairs that cover the stem and underside of the leaves. For many years, a freeze-dried preparation of Urtica dioica has been prescribed by physicians and sold over-the-counter for the treatment of allergic rhinitis. However, additional study is needed to support the use of nettle in the treatment of allergic rhinitis.

For more information about integrative therapies for seasonal allergies, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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