Friday, April 4, 2008

10 Ways to Alleviate Seasonal Allergies

1. Avoidance tactics: The first line of defense for any allergy sufferer: Steer clear of any known enemies such as pollens, molds, pet dander, and dust mites. (Consult an allergist-immunologist if you haven't yet pinpointed your exact allergen.) Regular vacuuming, efficient ventilation, and air conditioning all help fight foes on the home front.

2. Vitamins: Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine, according to many nutritional-medicine experts. This theory is borne out by research published in the Journal of Nutrition. In a study of 11 allergy sufferers, blood histamine levels dropped in those who took 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C for three days.

3. Supplements: Quercetin can help prevent ragweed reactions, according to America's most vocal alternative-medicine advocate, Andrew Weil, M.D., a seasonal-allergy sufferer himself. He takes 400 milligrams of the antioxidant twice a day between meals about two weeks before — and throughout — the ragweed season. Quercetin (pronounced KWER-seh-tin) is available at most health-food stores.

4. Traditional herbs: According to Weil, the herbal answer for allergies is stinging nettle. "I use it myself during the spring ragweed season in southern Arizona," Weil says. And a study at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon, supports his view: Sufferers who took 600-milligram capsules of freeze-dried nettles experienced far fewer hay-fever symptoms than those who took a placebo. Buy the capsules at health-food stores, or brew a tea from the dried leaves (also available in health-food stores) and drink three cups a day.

5. Ayurvedic medicine: Ayurvedic physicians attribute hay fever to ama, a toxic by-product of sluggish digestion. To purge the body of the poison, they recommend drinking eight to 10 glasses of warm water with lemon juice a day, as well as replacing dairy foods and wheat with fruits and vegetables.

6. Traditional Chinese medicine: Ma huang, a.k.a. Chinese ephedra contains two potent decongestants, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. (The latter is found in over-the-counter products like Sudafed.) The herbalist James Duke, Ph. D., recommends this simple regimen: Simmer one teaspoon of dried ephedra in one cup of boiling water for 10 minutes and drink up to two cups a day. Don't take more than two: It could trigger insomnia, elevated blood pressure, or heart problems.

7. Acupressure: Acupuncture is recommended for hay fever by the United Nations World Health Organization, no less. So why not try the at-home version, acupressure self-massage? For quick relief, press on the point known as Large Intestine (LI) 4, between the fleshy webbing near the base of the thumb and the index finger. Breathe deeply and hold the point for one minute. (Pregnant women should not stimulate this point.)

8. Homeopathy: In a study at the University of Glasgow, a homeopathic preparation of mixed grass pollens cut antihistamine use by 50 percent. Dana Ullman, M.P.H., author of The Consumers Guide to Homeopathy (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1995) also recommends Allium cepa (onion), Sabadilla (cevadilla seed) and Arsenicum (arsenious acid).

9. Herbal bath: To calm an overactive immune system, Lisa Meserole, N. D., chair of the department of botanical medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle, suggests a 20-minute soak with two or three of these flowers: calendula, lavender, lime, eyebright, and German chamomile. Soak one-quarter cup of the herbs overnight in four cups of cool water. The next day, bring to a boil. Remove from heat; let steep, covered, for 15 minutes. Strain out plant material and add liquid to bath.

10. Aromatherapy: Here's a fragrant remedy from Kathi Keville and Mindy Green, coauthors of Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art (The Crossing Press, 1995). Place one tablespoon of rock salt in a small, capped vial. Add two drops each of eucalyptus and rosemary oil, and one drop of peppermint oil. The salt will absorb the oils. Inhale as needed.

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