Hay fever (also called allergic rhinitis) is a real problem for many people, ruining their summers. When everybody else is making the most of the beautiful weather, hay fever sufferers tend to try and stay indoors, away from the dreaded pollen. It’s either that or put up with streaming eyes, blocked nose, sneezing and the rest.
While you can protect your eyes to a certain extent by wearing wraparound sunglasses, the other symptoms can make you feel like you have a heavy cold, not really conducive to fun in the sun, but there are many different remedies that have been used with some success over the centuries. Here is a rundown.
The “immunisation” approach to hay fever treatment
An old remedy which some people still swear by is to take a spoonful of local honey every day, both in the run up to hay fever season and right through to its conclusion. This is believed to work by “immunising” you against the pollen produced nearby. But the honey you buy in your local supermarket probably won’t do the job, unless you’re very lucky, and it’s hard to find local beekeepers with honey for sale.
Another idea on the same lines that is sometimes suggested is to take bee pollen. To my mind, this suffers from the same problem as honey – mostly bee pollen is imported from places where the local flora are completely different to the ones that are causing your symptoms. But it’s tasty and nutritious in its own right, so you might want to try it on the basis that “it can’t hurt”.
There are also homeopathic remedies such as Pollenna®, which are specifically created to fight hay fever symptoms. Like the honey, you start taking this a few weeks before the beginning of the season, and continue until the end. This is definitely worth a try, as people who use it often swear by it.
Food for hay fever sufferers
Three foods have a particularly good reputation for helping get hay fever symptoms under control:
Moringa is a very strong antihistamine. This is a superfood which contains all 9 essential amino acids, and is high in fibre and protein. It is often added to smoothies, dairy or non-dairy milk or fruit juice. It can also be used in other recipes. If you haven’t used it before start with half a teaspoon a day and increase gradually to a maximum of 4 teaspoons a day.
Hot peppers are a decongestant. The dried version may be labelled cayenne pepper or chilli powder, but be careful with “chilli powder” and check the ingredients. Some chilli powders contain other seasonings that won’t help and make working out how much to use difficult. Fresh chilli pepper is just as good, possibly even better, but the dried powder can be used by people who can’t tolerate the fresh product.
Garlic is antihistamine and decongestant. It’s important to use it freshly crushed unless you buy the frozen type which is ready to use. Garlic granules and similar dried seasonings are not medicinally active.
Other foods that have antihistamine properties that you might have in your fridge or kitchen cupboards include ginger, tarragon, thyme, turmeric, onions, watercress, apples, peaches and pomegranates as well as proper Chinese bean sprouts grown from mung beans.
Try and eat some of these every day. At the very least they’ll give you a wide range of nutrients that will help to improve your underlying health.
Herbal teas for hay fever
Several herbal teas have been recommended for hay fever, the most frequently suggested being German chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Others include elderflower, nettle, tulsi (holy basil), ginger and apple, green tea and green tea with ginger.
All these are natural antihistamines, so you can mix and match your afternoon herb tea and know you’re helping to relieve your symptoms.
Supplements for hay fever
Vitamin C, quercetin and garlic are all recommended for their antihistamine effects. You may also be able to find single herb remedies like German chamomile, turmeric, thyme, elderflower, nettle and tulsi.
Essential oils for hay fever relief
The following essential oils can be used in burners, added to the bath or used in steam inhalations to help with symptoms:
German (blue) chamomile – antihistamine
Eucalyptus blue gum
Hay fever blend
Other hay fever treatments
Leaving aside prescribed medication, there are two main alternative therapies that some people have found to be helpful. These are acupuncture and hypnotherapy. I have no experience with either of these, but they have some good reports.
Hay fever can be distressing, but there are many lines of attack you can take to gain control. You have nothing to lose but your sneeze!
Remedies mentioned in this post
I offer the following remedies in my online shop:
Eucalyptus blue gum essential oil
German (blue) chamomile essential oil
ground ginger, various ginger tea blends
nettle tea, nettle juice
rose essential oil
dried thyme, thyme juice, thyme tea
turmeric, turmeric capsules