Oh, seasonal allergies. They truly can make life miserable. The good news is, there are things we can do! Many people unnecessarily suffer from seasonal allergies when a few simple natural remedies can offer a lot of allergy relief.
Studies estimate that over 25% of the population suffers from allergic disorders and climate change theories suggest the problem is growing. Common allergen triggers include pollen from grass and trees, the fecal particles of dust mites, animal dander, certain foods, air pollution, beauty product ingredients, or even insect bites.
As prime allergy season approaches (at least in our area) I’m sharing the natural remedies that I use and work for us when needed. These won’t be as immediately effective as a medication, but over the long-term these methods have lessened my seasonal allergies greatly.
What Causes Seasonal Allergies?
Here’s the deal:
Diet, strong gut health, and health overall can make a big difference when it comes to seasonal allergies because allergic response has everything to do with the immune system.
I like to describe the body as a bathtub. Every time anything enters our bodies — be it from our food, water, air, etc. — our body reacts. This is good and nature’s way of keeping the body in a state of balance (homeostasis).
At a certain point if too much goes into the bathtub, it’s going to overflow. Overloaded and overstimulated, the immune system responds to normally harmless substances as if against a harmful foreign invader.
How Allergy Symptoms Start
The conception that antibodies, which should protect against disease, are also responsible for disease, sounds at first absurd.
Clemens von Pirquet (1906)
Scientists have learned a lot about allergies since Clemens von Pirquet first coined the term.
Defined as “an abnormal adaptive immune response,” allergic disorders occur when the body responds to a usually harmless substance with an increase in IgE attached to mast cells in the body and Type 1 T helper cells (Th1). Reactions such as constriction of the bronchial tubes, mucus secretion, and increased vascular permeability may occur within minutes.
If the exposure exceeds the body’s first immune response, this reaction begins to trigger further activation of leukocytes and Type 2 T helper cells (Th2). This is a stronger immune response the body mounts to things like parasites and physical invaders. This manifests in different ways depending on the person’s genetics and where the body perceives the invasion. Symptoms may include:
- fatigue (sometimes extreme)
- hay fever (runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion)
- nasal drip
- digestive upset and nausea
- even anaphylaxis
When Allergies Become Chronic
With repeated exposure the inflammatory response becomes chronic. A 2008 journal article on the development of allergic inflammation explains this systemic allergic response as:
Persistent inflammation induced by prolonged or repetitive exposure to specific allergens, typically characterized not only by the presence of large numbers of innate and adaptive immune cells (in the form of leukocytes) at the affected site but also by substantial changes in the extracellular matrix and alterations in the number, phenotype and function of structural cells in the affected tissues.
In other words, the misery allergy sufferers feel is very real and more than a case of the sniffles!
Allergy testing may be helpful to determine triggers but typical treatment usually involves routinely taking an antihistimine or corticosteriod which can have undesirable side effects. There are two main ways to help stop allergies naturally:
- Limit exposure to possible allergens (like putting less in the bathtub)
- Support a strong healthy immune system (like increasing the size of our bathtub)
How to Treat Seasonal Allergies and Get Relief Naturally
We don’t suffer from many allergies anymore after our time on the GAPS diet, but I still occasionally get hit with an allergy attack from dust after cleaning though (a reason not to clean? I think yes!) and my hubby occasionally reacts to grass or pollen.
These simple natural remedies have been very effective for allergy relief in our family. Different people seem to benefit from different remedies depending on certain genetic factors and which allergens you are reacting to, so it might be worth trying more than one of these to see which works best for you.
I’ll start with simple suggestions and work up to solutions for more serious allergy problems.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is an age old remedy that is often recommended for a variety of health conditions. I’ve personally used it for allergy relief (and heartburn relief) with great success. The theory is that its ability to reduce mucous production and cleanse the lymphatic system makes it useful for allergies. It is also said to help digestion, weight loss, and more so it is worth a try!
What I did: When allergies hit, I mixed a teaspoon of organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with “The Mother” (that part is important) into a glass of water and drank this three times a day. “The Mother” is simply a colony of beneficial bacteria present in some organic and unfiltered ACV brands. Check the label, it should list if it contains it.
I use this brand but it is also quite simple to make your own. Apple cider vinegar helped me with relief of acute allergy symptoms and seemed to help avoid allergy attacks as well when I do it daily, so if you suffer from allergies at a certain time of year start well before.
2. Wash Your Nostrils
This remedy works by preventing the offending allergen (or at least as much of it) from entering your airways.
It took me a while to try the Neti Pot simply because I’m a big scaredy cat about pouring things in my nose. I’m glad I took the leap though because it’s not half as bad as it sounds! (In fact, I kind of love it!). The basic theory is that you use a Neti Pot filled with a sterile saline solution to flush out the sinuses of allergens and irritations.
Surprisingly, I’ve heard this recommended by conventional and alternative doctors, and it seems that it doesn’t really have a downside. It is recommended to use previously boiled or distilled water, not water straight from the tap (because, parasites … I don’t really like to think about it!)
To use: Either use a pre-made saline rinse or make your own by dissolving 1 teaspoon of Himalayan or just plain sea salt in a quart of boiled distilled water. Cool completely. Put in the Neti Pot and pour through one nostril and let it drain out the other. Get full instructions here.
An option for Neti Pot sissies like me: I like this natural saline spray with xylitol for extra help with soothing inflammation and opening airways. We use it for one of our kids with large tonsils as well to help keep post-nasal drip and sore throats away.
To use: Spray saline into nostrils a few times a week or even daily for routine maintenance (whether or not you have symptoms).
Quercetin is a natural bioflavonoid that is said to help stabilize mast cells to keep them from releasing histamine. It is also a potent antioxidant that is said to help reduce inflammation. It is best used as a long term remedy and many people start taking it about 4-6 weeks before allergy season to help prevent allergy symptoms.
As with any herb, you should check with your doctor before using, especially if you have a liver problem, are pregnant, or are on hormonal contraceptives.
To use: Though quercetin is naturally found in foods like citrus and broccoli, it is very difficult to get the amount needed to relive allergies from food alone. A supplemental dose from a quality source can be helpful for preventing allergies or helping acute symptoms. Start 4-6 weeks before allergy season for best results.
4. Nettle Leaf
Nettle leaf is another natural antihistamine that can be very effective as it naturally blocks the body’s ability to produce histamine. It grows in many places and can be made in to a tincture or tea, but for allergy relief, capsules made from dried nettle leaves are the easiest and most effective option.
Nettle leaf can also be used in combination with other herbs to make a soothing herbal tea for allergy relief. It is often mixed with peppermint leaf and sometimes red raspberry leaf to make a refreshing allergy relief tea. Mommypotamus also has some great info about how nettle tea is one of the most effective and easy to nourish the liver and reduce histamine response.
What I do: I often include nettle in homemade herbal tea during allergy season (recipe at the bottom of this post) and use capsules for acute relief of allergy symptoms.
Allergies are the result of an imbalance in the immune system that causes the body to react too strongly to a stimuli. Many studies link the presence of beneficial bacteria in the gut with reduced incidence of allergies.
Evidence is even emerging that a mother’s gut bacteria during pregnancy and nursing can impact a child’s likelihood of getting allergies throughout life, as can exposure to overly sterile environments.
While we can’t do much about our mothers’ diets while they were pregnant, balancing gut bacteria now and consuming enough beneficial bacteria can have a positive effect on allergies now.
What I do: I make sure we consume a varied diet that includes plenty of fermented foods and drinks which can help boost gut bacteria. We also take a Probiotic.
6. Local Honey
There isn’t much scientific evidence to back this one, but there seems to be a lot of anecdotal evidence from people who have tried it. (Even Mark Sisson weighed in on the subject here). The theory is that consuming local honey from where you live will help your body adapt to the allergens in the environment there. This is supposed to work like a natural allergy “shot” and doesn’t seem to have a downside.
What I do: Consume a teaspoon or more of raw, unprocessed local honey from as close to where you actually live as possible. Do this one or more times a day to help relieve symptoms. It is often suggested to start this a month or so before allergy season.
7. Anti-inflammatory Foods
Foods, teas, and spices with known anti-inflammatory benefits may play a role in reducing unpleasant allergy symptoms. A 2016 study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that ginger given orally to mice reduced sneezing and congestion as well as lowered mast cell response. Green tea shows similar effects.
What I do: Serve plenty of herbs and spices with meals, as well as green and herbal teas. Also combine three of these tips in one by making this Ginger Switchel drink.
8. Diet Changes
If all else fails, sometimes dietary changes can be the answer to allergy problems. Lots of healing bone broth and conducting an elimination diet are good places to start.
After our experience, I’d definitely encourage this as an option, especially for severe allergies or those in need of gut healing/rebalancing.
What we did: We followed the GAPS diet for several months and had success improving our seasonal allergies and even healing some rather severe food allergies in one of our children.
9. Gut Testing
If you truly suffer with allergies and suspect a comprised gut at the bottom of it, consider getting testing to get clear picture of what is going on in your gut and how to fix it.
Yes, this literally means mailing poop to a lab but I learned so much from this test and still continue to benefit from knowing specific ways to improve my individual gut. Advances in at-home testing mean you don’t need to go to a doctor or a lab.
What I use: Viome is the company I use and trust. See the results of my gut health test here.
In some cases, finding a clean, natural medication can be the last resort. I recommend Genexa for any over the counter needs.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Ernesto “E” Gutierrez. Dr. E is a physician by training and an educator by choice. His training background includes an MD degree and additional degrees in Age Management and Regenerative Medicine.As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Do you have allergies? What has helped you the most? Share below!
Discussion (265 Comments)
The Nedi Pot works for me, not fun but clears out your sinuses.
My husband loves the neti pot!! He seriously is so attached to it lol
Use of a neti pot, while it may take a few tries to get used to, is very effective and actually feels good once you get used to it. I’ve been using it for years at the first hint of a cold/flu and coupled with the right herbs and dietary add-ons I rarely get full-blown sick.
In researching quercetin, however, I’ve found numerous research studies that show that in supplement form it has very low bioavailability in humans, and may even stimulate insuin release. Has anyone found anything to the contrary? I highly believe in appropriately researching before purchasing and ingesting supplements. Love your site, Wellness Mama!
The bioavailability of Quercetin is often boosted with the addition of bromelain. I have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Quercetin has saved me. Before Quercetin, even hot water or sweat would cause me to itch all over. I have used it with no ill effects for about 3 years.
What are the dosages of each?
I like to use apple cider vinegar for a range of issues like dandruff, stomach issues, and allergies. I make a cold funky cider from apple cider vinegar, raw honey, cinnamon, coconut water, and ice.
Can you share your recipe for “Cold Funky Cider”? It sounds interestingly yummy.
There’s also a very popular concoction called fire cider that’s phenomenal for colds/flus!
I also made the yummy cold apple cider vinegar drink. Tastes great but later found it reduced the enamel on my teeth. Now I keep it for emergency relief and use a straw. I also rinse my teeth after with water after drinking cider vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar has helped me with my allergies BIG TIME
I do not like the taste but I do force myself to drink it with water. For some weird reason, I do not like it with honey at all.
My 10 year old son loves apple cider vinegar. He had a fever the other time and we used ACV daily and he felt way better in couple of days.
I use ACV for yeast infection too. If I am starting to get an itch, I fill up the tub with water, add ACV and soak for 20 minutes. Works like MAGIC 🙂
I thought I would comment on the Neti Pot usage. I have used one for a few years. I even keep a small bottle of the solution mixed and ready to use at anytime when my nose is very dry. This really help during the winter months. There are a couple of versions of the pot, too. One is shaped like a mini teapot and the other like a nasal bottle. Because the solution is saline, it doesn’t hurt when in the nasal passage. I would recommend it anyone.
i have also heard of raw milk as being great for allergies! several friends of mine say it completely eliminated their family’s allergies! wish we could find some locally here in south GA
A good friend of mine has said the same thing about raw milk. You have to go to the local farmer, before it is shipped off to be pasteurized. I hope you can find some!
Have you checked out White Oak Pastures?
Where in south GA? I know of one in Gray,GA near Macon.
I use the neti rinse the squeeze bottle not the pot. It took time to get used too. I now use a Himalayan salt inhaler in the morning while doing homework. I think it is helping. I’ve suffered with allergies all my life. all natural diet now doing paleo has helped the most.
Sharon Smead Schwab
My parents opened a salt room recently and it has done wonders for my allergies! Between regular salt therapy sessions (also known as halotherapy) and a grain free diet, I am no longer experiencing seasonal allergies. It also helps with other respiratory issues like asthma and COPD, and is also good for people with skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
Can you please provide information regarding salt room. What is it and how can someone can it up?
What is a salt room? I have allergies year round.
What is salt therapy?? Super curious! I’m a nutritionist and health coach & love learning about new underutilized practices! I’ll google it, but would love to get some links from someone who knows all about it!
The whole idea of the neti pot kinda freaked me out for quite a while until I had a terrible cold this past Christmas and I was willing to try anything to be able to breathe through my nose again. I boiled some water and let it cool, giving myself pep talks the whole time about how I could be a big girl and handle this. I was surprised at how bizarre it felt going through my skull, and at how quickly and effectively it opened up my breathing passages. The feeling that my brain had been replaced with wet cotton had disappeared and I no longer needed to breathe through my mouth. The effects only lasted a few hours, but it was enough to give me some relief and afer repeating it again before bed (with cold water, what a strange feeling!), I was actually able to sleep comfortably for the first time in two days. Ever since, I’ve been recommending it to my pregnant and breastfeeding friends as well as my friends who are trying to avoid OTC meds for minor complaints.
I love my neti pot and have used it many times for allergies and when I’ve had infections. Although making a quart of the solution is way too much. I used to have a recipe for 2 cups and only used about half so 1 cup is really all you need to make. Here’s a link to a recipe I found in our local magazine that I love. https://www.alive.com/health/sinus-flushing/
I completely understand if you want to erase my comment because of the link. You just really don’t need to make that much. Love all the suggestions, especially probiotics. I really need to add those to my everyday for so many good health reasons.
I am a fan of the neti pot! The key is to use as a preventative tool for allergy relief, as you e recommended. Once you have major congestion/sinus infection, it is too late. Using the neti pot at this point could push the infection further into sinuses and to ears.
The first few times I used it, the sensation of pouring water through my nose was weird, to say the least. After just a few tries, it becomes almost normal to do!
I would fight for my nettie pot. I use the teapot type. I fill the pot with warm water, about one cup, and add 1/8 teaspoon of PLAIN table salt. Works great, especially if I have been outside for a while.
ow really?it helps to get rid of your allergy naturally for a while??
I am also a fan of the Neti Pot. I was diagnosed with Chronic Rhitinis after coming up negative from allergy testing and suffering from constant sneezing and runny nose for 8 months straight! It was miserable. I tried all kinds of meds and nose sprays. You name it Ive tried but nothing cleared up my systems like the neti pot.
When I first bought it I did it once everyday for the first three days. And now I only use it as needed. But dont waste your money on the meds try the Neti pot. It is a little nerve racking at first but after a couple of tries it is comfortable.
I definitely made the mistake of waiting until I was congested to use my Neti Pot. I didn’t realize that the congestion had already moved into my ears, and as soon as I started to cleanse, a pain shot through both my ears that immediately dropped me to the floor. The pain was so intensely agonizing. I certainly learned my lesson!
Please Tell in simle english how to use neti pot because i am not familir in english,
OtherWise explaine in Tamil.
A neti pot is a small tea pot used to pour water into the nose.
Try looking up instructions for Neti pot use on YouTube. That’s how I learned. Good luck!
What is neti pot ?? Plz explain. I have allergy problem with air ..and sneezing all the time…even in classroom.
A netti pot is a little pot that you u put water in with the saline solution it comes with and then you let the water run through your nose ( one nostril at a time) while tilting your head.
So if you have the tip of the pot running through your right nostril, you tilt your head down to the left.
If you have the tip of the pot running through your left nostril you tilt your head down to the right. Basically, you let the water drip down and it will clear the nasal passages.
Google netti pot and you will see images 🙂
I hope this helps.
I use a sinus rinse bottle as it is easier to use than a Neti pot. (well, for me anyway) I have a question about water. Can it be boiled water or is distilled water better?
I agree with you Lynn. I also use the sinus rinse bottle. I lean over so my head is down, open my mouth exhale & squeeze half the bottle in each nostril.
Hi!! To clarify… DO NOT USE TAP WATER EVER!! Can introduce amoebas into sinuses, which border your brain and this could be FATAL!! Per MD!! Has to be STERILE… Ie distilled!!! Per my ENT!! Also, if you do get a sinus infection, my ENT orders IV solution w/ Abx in it (compounded…mixed in a Pharmacy in mini tubes that require refrigeration) add 1 mini tube to Saline Distilled water mix and wash the nasal sinuses! No need to put your WHOLE body thru exposure to Abx if not necessary. I have several Abx allergies, do don’t want to be on Abx 4-6 times a year! He uses Impris Pharmaceutical out of Penn. good luck to all! I’ve lived thru THREE R/ maxi facial sinus surgeries. I know your pain! PS: in making my own “packets of saline… Use UNiodized salt (1/8 tsp) and a pinch of baking soda + 10 mls of warm,sterile/ distilled water. It neutralizes it so as not to sting the sinus tissues. Happy breathing!!
Me too! My husband and both girls also use the sinus rinse bottles. My husband accidentally bought the Neti pot and tried to use it, but for us, the squeeze bottles work better.
I also use the 6 ounce sinus squeeze bottle. I use one bottle per nostril. Rather than boiled water (our water is so hard, I’d rather not put all those minerals up my nose), I always use distilled. I heat 12 ounces to just warm in the microwave, then pour into the bottles, where I’ve already put the salt (I use canning salt). Shake to dissolve the salt, lean over the sink, and firmly squeeze until the bottle is empty. Switch to other side for second bottle.
I prefer to use it about 2 hours before bedtime. Clears the day’s gunk out, and the 2 hours gives me plenty of time to snort out any residue salt water.
Between the neti bottles, occasional use of thyme tea as a sinus dryer, and honey, sinus distress is quite minimal.
I use distilled water. Recommended by doctors. It’s safer than just using tap water & faster than boiling water. I just microwave it for abot 20 seconds.
I use eucalyptus oil , just boil water add a few drops in a basin place at your bedside or bathe with a few drops at night .
In regards to the first question, I definitely look and feel better, and maintain a healthy weight easily, by direction first on nourishing dense food for thought. I was vegetarian for a lot of years, and vegan for some of that. Equally an generally raw vegan, my stomach was always full but I didn’t feeling gratified. At present I am gratified and satiated. I weigh a few more pounds but my abdomen is always flat and my skin and haircloth are much healthier. I’ve done it both ways…nourishing density is the direction to go!
I use a netti pot all the time it helps with everything from allergies to colds! Highly reccomend!
What I do is take a shower in the early morning. A really hot one. That clears up my sinus’ really good. But the only thing it doesn’t help is the head ache.
Do you now anyway to fix things once you have manger congestion/sinus back up. It seems all my ENT knows to do is surgrey.
Sinus massage helps to move things along and allow your sinus cavity to drain. Look for Chinese massage therapist’s.