Natural Antihistamines: Can You Fight Allergies Without the Medication?
Allergies are an increasing problem for many, with air pollution and unavoidable environmental factors often making it impossible to mitigate allergy triggers. We look at natural ways in which you can counteract your body’s allergic response to these triggers.
Antihistamines these days are, for the most part, pretty good, with the second and third generation varieties such as Cetirizine and Fexofenadine offering proven inhibition of inflammation responses to allergies with relatively minimal sedative effects compared to the first generation. However, there are downsides to taking them; for a start, they don’t always work, despite having fairly positive outcomes in double-blind studies and clinical trials, as each person’s chemistry is ever-so-slightly different, as well as their body’s particular response to certain allergens.
This labyrinth of variables means that a person usually has to mix, match and experiment with antihistamines to achieve the desired relief, and such experimentation can cost a significant amount of money and often leave the sufferer confused and frustrated. Secondly, they do still provoke sedative side effects – slight, to be sure, but still noticeable in most people, especially if the dose exceeds the recommended amount.
Fortunately, there exist a number of natural alternatives to these medications that have been proposed to offer similar, if not equivalent antihistamine effects. Let’s have a look at some of these natural antihistamines and the literature (if any) that exists to support any claims of antihistamine benefits.
There have been various natural alternatives proposed to combat allergies over the years, none more prominent than Vitamin C. Research indicates that it does indeed provide some measure of reduction in histamine in the blood levels, as this study indicates. Vitamin C supplementation for a period of two weeks actually decreased histamine levels in the blood by 38%, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at (no pun intended). The recommended amount of Vitamin C to take daily to obtain a significant antihistamine effect is about 2,000 mg, according to the study.
It’s probably a good idea to take at least some Vitamin C supplementation, regardless of your allergies – as it’s a recognized powerful antioxidant and an essential nutrient.
Another alternative that’s been suggested to help fight allergies is garlic. Garlic has been used for over 500 years as a traditional medicine to help combat things such as bacterial infections, bronchial and pulmonary disorders, to varying degrees of success, of course. Several practitioners in alternative medicine also suggest that garlic may have antihistaminic properties as well, possibly related to the various flavonoids found in the garlic herb that have been suggested to help stabilize the body’s production of histamine.
There’s little in the way of scientifically sound studies to prove any possible antihistamine effect, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the claims aren’t true – just that no-one’s been willing to provide the money yet to fund such a study. It can’t hurt to try, though, as garlic has actually been proven to improve blood circulation and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The French consume garlic prolifically, and It’s been touted as one of the reasons why they suffer a relatively low rate of heart disease despite their indulgence in fat-laden foods.
This one is very interesting. Of all of the natural antihistamines available, this one is probably the most well supported by the results of a properly conducted double blind study. The antihistamine effect from the Butterbur plant comes from the root of the plant, which produces a chemical compound called Petasin.
Petasin has been shown to be effective in treating and relieving migraine headaches, allergies, and has a noticeable anti-inflammatory effect. A recent study available here compared the efficacy and tolerability of butterbur (Petasites hybridus) with cetirizine in treating allergy-related symptoms such as hayfever, and the results suggested that the two provided comparable benefits in reducing the allergy response, with butterbur having the added benefit that it did not provoke the sedative effects that some felt whilst on the cetirizine.
You can buy butterbur extract from a variety of health stores online, but there’s a very important thing to note if you’re shopping for butterbur – the raw, unprocessed plant contains dangerous chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids which may cause liver damage. Only buy butterbur products that have been processed to remove these chemicals and are certified pyrrolizidine alkaloid(PA) free.