If you're one of the 15 to 20 per cent of the population who suffers from hay fever, you'll know just how much of a nightmare the symptoms can be. As well as sneezing, a blocked nose, and itchy eyes and throat, sufferers also report trouble sleeping, daytime drowsiness, poor concentration and problems just doing everyday activities.
Over-the-counter or prescription oral antihistamines are the usual treatment, but these can cause unwanted side-effects like drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, impaired thinking, headaches and blurred vision. Certain antihistamines-anticholinergics like chlorphenamine maleate (Piriton)-have even been linked to an increased risk of dementia, as was widely reported in the news earlier this year.
Happily, there are a number of natural remedies that can help manage the symptoms and provide relief-many with good evidence of success. Here are some of the best all-natural solutions available from health shops and online.
Bio-Kult Advanced Multi-Strain Formula, lb14.95 (60 caps)
www.bio-kult.com; tel: 01460 243 23001460 243 230
Taking a high-quality probiotic supplement like Bio-Kult may help ease hay-fever symptoms, as these 'good' bacteria seem able to change the immune system's response to pollen. In one trial of people allergic to cedar tree pollen, supplementing with the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum significantly improved nasal symptoms like sneezing, a runny nose and nasal congestion compared with a placebo.4 Bio-Kult contains B. longum along with 13 other strains of live bacteria, and is suitable for vegetarians.
Organic Drug-Free Allergen Barrier Balm (Pure), lb6.99 (5 mL)
www.haymax.biz; tel: 01525 406 60001525 406 600
Simple yet effective, this 100 per cent natural, organic balm is a blend of sunflower oil and beeswax that you apply along the rim of the nostrils to reduce the amount of pollen you breathe in. In two independent trials by the UK's National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit, HayMax was found to trap significantly more pollen than uncoated nostrils (see www.haymax.biz/info/product-trials/). As well as this 'Pure' formula, HayMax is also available in three other blends: one with frankincense essential oil, one with lavender essential oil and one with aloe vera juice powder. Try the aloe vera blend for some serious skin soothing as well as pollen-trapping action.
Bromelain 500 mg, lb9.49 (30 vegicaps)
www.nutricentre.com; tel: 0345 2222 828
This pineapple-derived enzyme has been found to reduce levels of inflammatory prostaglandins, a key cause of swelling, redness and itching. It also enhances the uptake of quercetin (see Terranova's Quercetin Nettle Complex). Viridian's Bromelain is an additive-free formula extracted from pineapple stems that's suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Try taking one capsule three times a day for relief of hay-fever symptoms.
Organic Nettle Tea, lb1.43 (20 bags)
www.nutricentre.com; tel: 0345 2222 828
According to test-tube studies, nettle extract can inhibit several key inflammatory events in the body that lead to symptoms of hay fever. In one trial, 58 per cent of hay-fever sufferers rated nettle "effective" for relieving their symptoms, while around half found it as good as or better than their previous medication. Nettle tea, like this Clipper Organic one, is an easy way to get a dose of nettle. Try combining it with nettle leaf extract (see Terranova's Quercetin Nettle Complex) to help keep your symptoms at bay.
Have a complex
Quercetin Nettle Complex, lb15.75 (50 vegicaps)
www.bodykind.com; tel: 0161 974 00660161 974 0066
Containing no fillers, binders or excipients whatsoever, this supplement is a synergistic combination of quercetin, bromelain, vitamin C, nettle leaf, turmeric root and elderflower-all useful for combating hay-fever symptoms. Quercetin, for example, is a pigment found in citrus fruits, onions and black tea that suppresses the release of histamine, which contributes to symptoms like a runny nose and watery eyes, whereas turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Terranova recommends taking one or two capsules once or twice a day.
Easy on the eye
Eye Balm, lb29.50 (10 mL);
Eye Revive, lb22.50 (10 x 5 mL)
www.dr.hauschka.com; tel: 0800 055 66040800 055 6604 FREE
Sore, red, dry and tired-looking eyes usually go hand-in-hand with hay fever. Thankfully there are products to help, like Dr.Haushka's Eye Balm and Eye Revive. The Eye Balm is a soothing blend of plant oils and extracts, with a generous helping of beeswax and cocoa butter, designed to moisturize, smooth and protect the delicate area around the eyes. Eye Revive is a refreshing herbal solution-including eyebright, anthyllis, chamomile and black tea-that comes in little ampoules that you empty onto a cotton pad and place over each eye. The ingredients are all natural and dermatologically tested for sensitive skin.
Bee Prepared Daily Defence,
lb9.99 (30 caps)
www.revital.co.uk; tel: 0800 252 8750800 252 875 FREE
This 'wellness formula' contains extracts of bee propolis, black elderberry and olive leaf as well as beta-glucans-all chosen for their immune-boosting properties. Elderberry is especially useful for hay fever as it's rich in vitamin C and quercetin, both of which are natural antihistamines. Unbeelieveable recommends taking the product in the lead up to hay-fever season before symptoms start for best results.
On the nose
Nasal Hygiene Spray, lb7.99 (100 mL)
www.boots.com; tel: 0345 609 0055
Deemed an 'Allergy Friendly Product' by Allergy UK, this 100 per cent natural sea water nasal spray flushes out pollen and other allergens from nasal passages to effectively relieve symptoms. In fact, this product has proved to be beneficial for a variety of infectious and allergic nasal conditions, including hay fever, in several clinical trials (see www.sterimarnasal.co.uk./about/sterimar-clinical-studies). Sea water is rich in natural minerals and trace elements, and contains the same salt content as the cells in the human body-which, according to St'erimar, means it's extremely gentle and unlikely to cause irritation.
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