Itchy, watery eyes. Runny nose and scratcy throat. Endless sneezing and sniffling. Ah, the joyous signs that spring has sprung. Except if you suffer from seasonal allergies, it isn’t so joyous after all. You’d rather shut all the doors and windows, turn on the air purifier, pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep where you can escape the pollen in your dreams.
We are no stranger to the ill effects of high pollen counts here in Texas, where the wind comes sweeping down the plains. Oh wait, that’s Oklahoma. The wind in our neck of the woods doesn’t exactly sweep, it gusts, kicking up dust, dirt, pollen, leaves, trash, the neighbor’s cat, you name it. All of those swirling allergens tend to make their way into your nasal passages and eyes where the irritation begins. It starts as a little tickle or itch, and within a few hours, you are a drippy, itchy, red mess.
You have 3 options here: tough it out and suffer, pop a pill with side effects (increased heart rate, drowsiness, dry mouth, headache, lethargy, etc.), or try a more natural approach. I myself have tried all 3 options and much prefer to use natural remedies wherever I can. I am not completely against medication, but I do my best to try every natural remedy first before resorting to pharmaceuticals. I feel that the less I expose my family to medication the better it will work when we ABSOLUTELY need it. Call me a hippy, but it has been working well for us so far.
As a former asthmatic, I have dealt with seasonal allergies for many, many years. So needless to say, I have tried it all when it comes to allergy relief. I have found the key to beating allergies is to maintain a healthy immune system, as allergies are a disorder of the immune system. A weakened immune system mistakes pollen or other allergens as dangerous and amps up your defenses to protect the body from what it sees as harmful invaders. This heightened immune response can also leave you vulnerable to illness because your body is so busy fighting allergens that it lets viruses slip by. While allergy medications just mask the body’s histamine response, natural remedies will help support the immune system and actually take care of the issue at its root cause.
Here are the 9 natural remedies I run to first when the pollen count starts to rise. Grab a snack, because there’s a lot of information here!
Diet: This is the number one factor to your body’s allergy response. Any nutritional deficiencies or inflammation in the body will further weaken the immune system, leaving it more vulnerable to allergens. Eating more fruits and vegetables will help fill nutritional deficiencies, while removing inflammatory foods will calm irritation in the body and allow the immune system to function properly. Inflammatory foods include refined sugar, dairy, alcohol, refined/processed carbohydrates, and oils. When I get hit with allergies, my diet is the first place I check and tighten up.
Gut Health: Along with a proper diet, you can support your immune system by eating probiotic rich foods to balance your gut flora. Probiotics help to increase the beneficial bacteria in your intestines. About 70% of your immune system is actually located in your gastrointestinal tract! That is why diet and gut health are the most important factors in maintaining a healthy immune system. Probiotic rich foods include fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi (please check that it’s vegan), miso, and drinks such as coconut kefir and kombucha. All of these are available at your local health food store such as Whole Foods or Sprouts. If you’re not into eating fermented foods (they can be an acquired taste for sure!), you can also look for a good quality dairy-free probiotic. Jarrow Formulas makes great ones for the whole family (some are even shelf stable which is great for travel).
Neti Pot: Back before I got serious about by health, I was teaching at a Montessori school in California. I had terrible allergies as the school was located in a canyon surrounded by nature, and I caught EVERY cold that the kids passed around. The school’s owner was a wonderful woman from Sri Lanka who always lovingly nagged me to eat better and try her natural remedies. Being 20 and stubborn, I only gave in when I was on my 4th cold of the year and miserable. She sent me off to buy a Neti Pot. I carefully boiled and cooled water, added about ¼ teaspoon of Himalayan sea salt, and then poured the water in one nostril and let it drain out the other. To my surprise, it didn’t burn! The theory is, the warm salt water will flush out the allergens in the sinus cavity and it works! You can do this 2 times a day with no side effects. I recomend getting one made out of ceramic (similar Neti Pot). My kids are still a little to young to use the Neti Pot, so when they get a bit sniffly (with pollen or a cold), I use a nasal spray called Xlear Kid’s. It contains xylitol to help keep the sinus passages moisturized (and gives it a slightly sweet taste when it inevitably runs down the back of their throat). Make sure to gently blow the nose afterward.
Nettle Leaf Tea: Nettle leaf is a natural antihistamine. It naturally blocks the body’s ability to produce histamines, which is fantastic during the height of pollen season. I often combine nettle leaf tea with peppermint tea, which is also a natural antihistamine. I will make a mug of tea with one of each tea bag and let it cool, pour it over ice and sip on it throughout the day (can you guess what I’m drinking now?).
Local Honey: Raw, unpasteurized, unfiltered honey that was produced in the area near you will contain pollen that you are constantly exposed to. The thought is, that regularly consuming raw local honey will help your body adapt to the local pollen and not treat it as a threat to your immune system. Raw honey is also packed with b vitamins, antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties that help boost the immune system, thereby calming allergies. It is recommended to take a teaspoon or more per day starting a few weeks before peak allergy season for maximum effectiveness.
My friends over at Busy, Bold, and Beautiful have a fantastic post all about raw honey and how you can even use it as a face wash! I have been doing this for over 5 years myself, and can attest to the fact that honey is AMAZING for the skin!
Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar, or ACV, has been recommended for hundreds of years for everything from weight loss to heartburn relief. It contains a variety of vitamins including our immune boosting friend vitamin c and it helps to balance the body’s ph level (which in turn calms inflammation). To get all of the beneficial compounds, you’ll want to look for a brand of ACV like Bragg that is organic and has the “mother” in it. Take 1-2 teaspoons per day in some water to help combat allergies (you can add some raw honey to mask the taste if you need to).
Essential Oils: While I never suggest ingesting essential oils, rubbing a mixture of lavender, lemon, and peppermint oils on the back of the neck, behind the ears, on the wrists, and down the spine can be very effective in stopping the body’s allergy response. All 3 of these specific oils have strong anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties. I take a small glass roller bottle and mix a few drops of lavender, lemon, and peppermint EOs with about an ounce of almond oil and keep it in my purse to rub on when I feel a little itchy.
I personally order my essential oils from a company called Eden’s Garden. The oils are all 100% pure therapeutic grade and come at a fantastic (non MLM) price.
Note: Please do your own research regarding essential oil use on children. I feel completely comfortable using lavender and lemon on my children, with proper dilution of course, but peppermint oil is contraindicated for children under the age of 6.
Water: It goes without saying that water is essential for life. However, during allergy season it is even more imperative that you drink extra water to keep your mucus membranes moisturized so that they can do their job! I like to add lemon to my water for an extra dose of vitamin c.
Sleep: Fighting off allergens is a tough job for a weakened immune system. It can zap your energy, leaving you fatigued and ready to grab for the sugar as a boost. Give it a rest (literally) by catching some extra z’s. Try to hit the sack a little earlier or sneak in a catnap in the afternoon if you can. You’re immune system will thank you.
So there you have it. 9 remedies I use to fight seasonal allergies for my whole family. As we have switched our diet to whole food, plant-based, we suffer the effects of allergies a lot less dramatically, if at all. However, if the pollen count is particularly high (and this spring it has been!), I go straight to these remedies to counter the attack!
Do you have any natural allergy remedies? Share your comments below!
**Please read my disclaimer. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I am just a mom who is passionate about health and has done a lot of research!
Full disclosure: This blog post contains some affiliate links. Meaning, basically, if you make a purchase from any of these links, I may make a little money. So thank you in advance for supporting my family 🙂