Many natural remedies are recommended for hayfever – here is a summary of some of the evidence and my own investigation.
There are no studies on whether regularly using honey can prevent hayfever, but anecdotal evidence abounds. The proposed mechanism is that honey contains small amounts of the pollen that can cause hay fever, and so ingesting it desensitises the immune system to the allergen. Local honey is the best option as it should contain the pollen that is also causing symptoms (regional is local enough in the UK).
Verdict: Not great for weight loss, but natural and generally safe. Probably better to start before the hayfever season.
Studies have shown that his herb, used as a traditional hayfever remedy, can protect the mucosa and also suppress cough, although there are no studies specifically showing reductions of hayfever symptoms directly.
Verdict: Little direct evidence, but easy to obtain and has much anecdotal evidence.
Creating a barrier against the pollen with a powder or gel has been shown to be effective in reducing the amount of pollen reaching the mucosa. There are no studies on salt water sprays, but common sense would indicate that removing pollen from the nose by washing would be helpful.
Verdict: Avoiding contact between the pollen and the mucosa makes sense if you suffer from hayfever. This starts with changing clothes after being outside and showering before bed. Pollen barriers may help, as may salt water nasal sprays.
Subject of 1 direct study (Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2004 Mar;229(3):247-54.) , also mentioned as part of a systematic review. Shown to reduce symptoms in a small group of hayfever sufferers. Its active ingredient, rosmarinic acid was also shown to be effective when purified and used alone. A mechanism of action involving decreased infiltration of the mucosa by white blood cells is proposed and supported by the results of the analysis of nasal washings.
Verdict: Sounds promising, but further studies are needed.
As well as other health benefits, certain probiotics have been shown to reduce hayfever symptoms in a number of studies. It is important to use a good quality probiotic containing L.acidophilus and B. lactis (the product should state the activity level in CFU and give an expiry date) – inferior products and sugary “probiotic” drinks are less likely to be effective. Alternatively you may wish to try a natural source of friendly bacteria, such as kefir, although dosage and activity level is less assured with these.
Verdict: Definitely worth a try – evidence to support use and probiotics have many other benefits.
Small number of studies showing the effectiveness of modified quercetin and of a formula containing (amongst other components) quercetin for reducing hayfever symptoms, a study from 1982 explains its mechanism of action. Quercetin is related chemically to cromolyn, a compound used medically to treat allergies and asthma.
Verdict: Again, promising, but more studies are needed. Anecdotal evidence seems to be strong, and the product is easily obtained. Quercetin is present in many foods, including apples, onions and tea.
Apparently a “natural antihistamine”, there is some evidence for it suppressing bronchial hyper-reactivity. There are hints to a more central role in the titles of some older papers (e.g. from 1942).
Verdict: A generally useful vitamin, water soluble so difficult to overdose on it. If you don’t already supplement with extra vitamin c, may be worth a go.
After using 1 tablespoon of local honey every day for a few days, my “scratchy throat” symptoms improved. After a few days of using high dose vitamin C and marshmallow root capsules, feelings of congestion had also improved. Both of these improvements could have been a coincidence, however, and I still needed to use antihistamines on some days. I found salt water spray useful for reducing nasal congestion. I didn’t try barrier creams for long enough to see if they made a real difference.
Overall, it is definitely worth trying out some of the natural therapies – they may not cure your hayfever, but could reduce the need for medication. If started early enough in the season, some of them could have a dramatic impact. I’d advise trying probiotics first, as these can have a multitude of other benefits.