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Hay Fever

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If hay fever’s making your life hell, these natural remedies are not to be sneezed at

Your eyes are sore and streaming, your throat is itching and your nose is constantly running: it must be hay fever season.

Hay fever-or ‘seasonal allergic rhinitis’ as it’s medically known-affects around 15-20 per cent of people in the UK, and if you’re one of them, you’ll know just how misery-making the symptoms can be. As well as sneezing, a stuffed-up nose, and itchy eyes and throat, sufferers also report trouble sleeping, daytime drowsiness, poor concentration and problems just doing everyday activities.1

The usual treatment is oral antihistamines, available both on prescription and over the counter, but these can cause a long list of unwanted side-effects like drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, impaired thinking, headaches and blurred vision. Even the so-called second-generation antihistamines, which are supposedly non-sedating and better tolerated, can cause drowsiness and fatigue,2 and some have even been associated with ‘cardiotoxicity’-causing heart muscle damage or dysfunction.3

Pregnant women especially should avoid antihistamines, as none have been classified as safe for use during pregnancy.4

The good news is that natural medicine has plenty to offer-from pineapple-derived enzymes and plant pigments to Ayurvedic herbs and green tea. Check out the following nine natural remedies for hay fever to see if any of them can sort out your symptoms for good.


Found in citrus fruits, onions, black tea, apples and lettuce, this powerful plant pigment suppresses the release of histamine, which contributes to symptoms like a runny nose and watery eyes.5 It’s almost twice as effective as the histamine-inhibiting drug sodium cromoglycate, at least in lab studies, reducing histamine activity by an impressive 46-96 per cent.6

Suggested dosage: 250-600 mg three times a day, five to 10 minutes before meals7


This pineapple-derived enzyme reduces levels of inflammatory prostaglandins, a key cause of swelling, redness and itching.8 It also enhances uptake of quercetin,9 which is why you’ll often find the two together in supplements.

Suggested dosage: 400-500 mg three times a day [potency of 1,800-2,000 MCU (milk-clotting units)];7avoid if you’re allergic to pineapple

Vitamin C

Good old vitamin C seems to be another natural histamine suppressor. In one study, 2 g/day of the vitamin lowered blood histamine levels by nearly 40 per cent in just one week.10 In another study, vitamin C sprayed up the nose three times a day reduced allergy symptoms (runny nose, stuffiness, swelling) in 74 per cent of sufferers compared with only 24 per cent with a placebo.11

Suggested dosage: 2 g/day


Trials show that this herb (Petasites hybridus) is more effective than a placebo for easing hay fever symptoms and just as effective as antihistamine drugs.2,13 Unlike some antihistamines, butterbur has no sedative side-effects like drowsiness and fatigue, but choose formulations free of alkaloids as these can be toxic to the liver.

Suggested dosage: 1 tablet containing 8 mg of petasines (the active ingredient) two to three times a day


Better known as a weight-loss aid, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)-found naturally in dairy products and beef-is now showing promise as a supplement for hay fever. In a placebo-controlled study of 40 people allergic to birch pollen, those taking 2 g of CLA per day reported less sneezing and a greater overall feeling of wellbeing during the pollen season.12

Suggested dosage: 2 g/day


This patented blend of seven standardized herbal extracts (Phyllanthus emblica, Terminalia chebula, T. bellerica, Albizia lebbeck, Piper nigrum, Zingiber officinale and P. longum) has proved safe and effective for hay fever. In a three-month trial of
more than 500 patients, Aller-7 significantly
reduced symptoms of sneezing, runny nose and
nasal congestion.16 You can buy it online from

Suggested dosage: four capsules of Aller-7 daily (1,320 mg total)


According to test-tube studies, nettle extract can inhibit several key inflammatory events in the body that cause symptoms of hay fever.14 In one clinical trial, 58 per cent of hay fever sufferers rated nettle as “effective” in relieving their symptoms, while around half found it as or more effective than their previous medication.15

Suggested dosage: 400-800 mg nettle leaf every four hours, or 2-4 mL of nettle leaf tincture three times a day

Green tea

The antioxidant compounds in green tea called ‘catechins’ have proven anti-allergic effects.20 In one study, drinking benifuuki green tea containing a specific group of catechins (O-methylated catechins) before and during the cedar pollen season led to a significant improvement in hay fever symptoms.21

Suggested dosage: 2-3 cups a day


A daily dose of ‘good’ bacteria seems able to change the immune system’s response to grass pollen and so could ease hay fever symptoms.17 In one of the latest studies to investigate probiotics’ potential, people taking the antihistamine loratadine along with supplements containing Lactobacillus paracasei LP-33 reported a reduction in eye-related symptoms (such as itchy, watery eyes) as well as a boost in quality of life.18 In another trial, supplementing with Bifidobacterium longum strain BB536 during the (cedar tree) pollen season significantly improved nasal symptoms like sneezing, a runny nose and nasal congestion compared
with a placebo.19

Suggested dosage: a probiotic drink or multistrain supplement (according to label instructions)

Joanna Evans



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