Stuffy nose, scratchy throat, and itchy eyes–if seasonal allergy symptoms are stopping you in your tracks (and using up endless boxes of tissues), these supplements may give you some much-needed allergy relief.
The king of cold remedies, vitamin C helps your body regulate histamine levels. Histamines are chemicals in the immune system that tend to get a bad rap, as they’re responsible for all those allergy symptoms.
But histamines aren’t generally the bad guys; in fact, they’re more like your immune system’s security guards, protecting your body from irritants like pollen and grass particles. Sometimes, however, they kick into overdrive, producing excess mucus and triggering inflammation in order to wash out substances your immune system sees as a threat–like allergens.
That’s where vitamin C comes in: it regulates the histamine your body releases, reducing allergy symptoms while giving your immune system an extra boost.
Vitamin C works best when taken with bioflavonoids, natural pigments found in fruits and vegetables that enhance vitamin C’s activity. Some bioflavonoids include flaxseed, ginkgo biloba, licorice root, St. John’s wort, bilberry, and spinach.
Spirulina is a blue-green freshwater algae hailed as a superfood for its high nutrient and antioxidant content.
In one double-blind study, it was found to reduce histamine levels and significantly improve symptoms of allergic rhinitis, including runny nose, sneezing, itching, and nasal congestion. It’s rich in B vitamins, which contribute to healthy immune function.
Another plus: spirulina is also packed with protein, minerals, and contributes to a healthy heart.
Fish oil contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DCHA), two types of polyunsaturated fats (healthy fats). EPA and DCHA have been found to regulate leukotrienes, chemicals in the body that, like histamine, cause allergy symptoms. By lowering leukotriene levels, fish oil may provide allergy relief.
An added bonus? Fish oil is incredibly healthy for your heart and brain, and may serve as a mood booster.
Quercetin is a flavonoid, a pigment found naturally in leafy greens and foods like tomatoes, berries, and broccoli. Flavonoids are antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatory agents, meaning quercetin fights inflammation caused by allergies and colds.
Like fish oil, quercetin has been found to stabilize the release of leukocytes and histamines–which means you can say goodbye to congestion and sneezing once spring rolls around.
Echinacea is a flowering plant native to the plains and wooded areas of North America. The flower is closely related to the daisy, with a spiny center that resembles a hedgehog. (The word “echinacea” comes from the Greek word for hedgehog, ekhinos).
Used as a medicinal herb by Native Americans for centuries, echinacea contains anti-inflammatory flavonoids and polysaccharides–carbohydrates that trigger immune activity. It’s often taken as a tea but can also be added to juices, tinctures, capsules, and more.
Also known as milk vetch or goat’s thorn, astragalus is an herb native to China, Mongolia, and Korea. Its roots have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries.
Astragalus contains polysaccharides that studies suggest may significantly reduce symptoms of allergic rhinitis, especially nasal congestion. Polysaccharides are also believed to have antiviral and antimicrobial properties, meaning they both treat and help prevent colds and allergies.
Astragalus also contains compounds called saponins, which research shows may boost immune health, lower cholesterol levels, and boost cardiovascular health.
Green tea is made from Camellia sinensis, a shrub or small tea native to Asia but now cultivated all over the world.
Green tea contains a natural plant antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC). Research has found that ECGC naturally soothes sore throats and reduces mucus production caused by seasonal allergies. It works best when taken with ginger, which helps the ECGC in green tea fight inflammation.
If you take green tea for your allergies, you’ll also be reaping a slew of other health benefits: it’s packed with antioxidants that curb the effects of aging and optimize healthy brain and heart function. It may also boost your metabolism, helping you burn fat faster and more effectively.
The next time you’re reaching for antihistamines when your allergies strike, consider these supplements instead. They not only soothe pesky allergy symptoms, but also benefit overall health and wellness. Your nose will thank you.