Seasonal allergies are miserable and disrupt daily life. You may not be aware that many plants and natural antihistamine remedies can go a long way to helping you manage your seasonal allergies.
First, I will describe what histamine is so that you can be informed about how various products work. Read on to see if they are right for you and if you can trade in your conventional antihistamines soon.
What is Histamine?
Did you know that histamine works in your body as a neurotransmitter? Histamine functions to also get allergens, like pollen, and other triggers out of your body. This is important to know because when you take medications for allergies, they can disrupt these normal processes.
Brain histamine function is important for keeping us motivated and helps us be goal-directed. Histamine functions to also control appetite, controls our body’s responses to foods as well. Histamine acts to reduce appetite.
Histamine also plays a role in the sleep-wake cycle in the body and also is a major regulator of the part of the brain called the hypothalamus.
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What Are High Histamine Causes?
High histamine levels result in symptoms of discomfort in the body, even though we need it to be healthy. Histamine can rise to high levels if you have any of the following conditions:
- Poor digestive function
- Imbalanced diet
- Food sensitivities
- Environmental triggers
- Altered digestive bacteria
What Are Allergy Causes?
Histamine is a natural substance and we need it for normal function.
Sometimes the body overreacts to a substance and makes too much histamine; this is when you feel the discomfort of allergies; sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, fatigue, altered breathing, and more.
Allergies can be mild or severe, depending on your body’s immune system and tolerance. According to the National Institute for Allergic and Infectious Diseases, allergies are a loss of immune tolerance.
Through restoring natural processes in the body using a functional medicine approach, allergies can be managed more effectively than just taking medication.
How Do Conventional Antihistamines Work?
Our body has 4 types of receptors for histamine called H1, H2, H3, and H4.
Drugs classified in the first generation of antihistamines (sometimes called “classical” antihistamines) act non-selectively to block all of these receptors.
Newer antihistamines only block H1, which has LESS crossing of the blood-brain barrier while still blocking histamine from uptake into cells.
Dangers of Antihistamines
First-generation antihistamines also block muscarinic, adrenergic (or adrenoreceptors) and dopaminergic receptors, which can cause heart, urinary, and gastrointestinal adverse reactions.
They also cross the blood-brain barrier, causing sometimes dangerous side effects like drowsiness, decreased focus, reduced ability to learn and more.
Second generations drugs, by blocking only H1, have generally less side effects.
However, some of them could cause other serious adverse reactions, including weight gain and memory processing speed.
According to Healthline.com, other side effects are drowsiness,excessive tiredness,dry mouth, stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Do Natural Antihistamine Remedies Work?
It is important to know that you have options for helping treat allergy symptoms naturally. Early research shows that you have many natural options that can help give you symptom relief and even reduce inflammation.
Here are 13 options for you to try. They can be combined for additive benefits as natural antihistamines.
1. Stinging Nettle
Stinging nettle may sound scary, but it’s actually a very nutritious and healthy herbal antihistamine when deactivated by drying or steeping into tea.
Nettles work in 3 ways to help reduce the allergic response in the body. They:
- Reduce inflammation
- Block H1
- Stabilize mast cells which release histamine.
Supplements of 600 mg nettles daily reduced allergy symptoms better than standard antihistamines in a randomized, double-blinded clinical trial of 90 patients.
No known side effects of taking supplements of nettles have been seen in research. In fact, nettles supplements may additionally reduce symptoms of:
As with anything, check with your doctor before drinking nettles tea or taking nettles supplements. Nettles have a high safety profile for use as a natural antihistamine remedy.
Quercetin is a great natural antioxidant, or polyphenol, that is found in foods like onions, apples, grapes, and broccoli.
How Does Quercetin Reduce Allergy Symptoms?
By improving immune balance (TH1/TH2 ratio) and reducing antigen-specific antibody IgE formation, quercetin helps prevent our body from over-reacting to allergens in the air.
Quercetin stabilizes mast cells by reducing their release of compounds that cause inflammation in the body.
This results in less:
- Contact dermatitis
- Sun sensitivity
Quercetin reduces inflammation compounds in the body, including lipoxygenase, IL-8, IL-6, eosinophils, and peroxidase.
Quercetin helps late-phase bronchial asthma responses as well as nasal symptoms of allergies.
It also reduces the body’s gene expression of H1 type of histamine in cell study.
Many natural allergy supplements include quercetin. It does not cause drowsiness like typical antihistamines.
Studies have used doses of 500 mg twice daily. Supplements of quercetin are safe, but make sure you check with your doctor before taking quercetin because it could interact with other medications.
Stress is known to ramp up the body’s production of histamine.
Lavender may help the body fight symptoms of histamine by working to reduce the stress response in the body. In fact, clinical study finds that lavender reduces anxiety as well as prescription medication for mild anxiety.
In asthma, allergy symptoms make lung function worsen. Lavender was able to reduce allergic inflammation and mucous cell stimulation in mice.
Lavender reduces histamine release from mast cells in a mouse model.
Supplements of lavender or inhaling lavender essential oil may be helpful as a natural antihistamine. Caution if you are allergic to the lavender plant.
As part of the citrus family, lemon contains a high amount of a healing compound called limonene. Limonene is found in highest amounts in the lemon rind.
Lemon essential oil has anti-inflammatory effects. It may reduce the body’s production of inflammatory compounds and immune cell migration, which are problematic for allergies.
Forty-three patients with grass pollen allergy found benefit from a nasal spray including lemon. Lemon helped the nasal symptom score and nasal air flow compared more than placebo.
Lemon may also reduce release of histamine from mast cells.
Lemon may also reduce allergy symptoms indirectly because they help improve the production of mucin in the lining of the digestive tract. By strengthening the gut barrier wall, our body is able to reduce the allergic response.
Probiotic use in pregnant women may reduce chances of eczema in infants based on a review of current research. Eczema is an allergic type of skin response.
The use of probiotics improve digestive tolerance of antibiotics, so may prove to be beneficial for allergies in the future. Research is preliminary for treatment of allergies with probiotics at this time.
The effects of peppermint aren’t fully understood, but it is thought that by cooling the skin, menthol reduces the itching caused by histamine.
Peppermint reduces smooth muscle contractile response to histamine in the digestive tract as well. The muscle contraction is part of why people feel discomfort with allergies.
Because peppermint has many components, it has many actions at play. Here are a few.
Menthol activates TRPM8: a voltage-gated ion-channel protein : this allows entry of calcium ions on sensing the change in temperature.
Whenever there is a drop in temperature, the voltage on TRPM8 changes so that it allows calcium ions to flow into the nerve cell. This triggers the current to flow from the membrane of the nerve cell and you then sense coolness.
By bringing down the perceived temperature, peppermint helps to bring down inflammation.
Peppermint oil can provide immediate symptom relief for allergy symptoms when used topically and when using Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade orally. Dosing information can be found on my peppermint blog.
Butterbur, also known as petasites hybridus is a shrub that grows in wet marshland, and damp soils of forest and riverbanks.
Butterbur has been used traditionally for many conditions, including migraines, wounds, cough, allergies, stomach ailments, headaches, infections, and was even used to fight the plague.
I found 4 double-blinded clinical trials that compared the use of butterbur to over-the-counter antihistamine drugs. Here is what they discovered:
- Butterbur supplements in a large study were as effective as Fexofenadine (aka Allegra) in reducing allergy symptoms
- As effective as cetirizine (aka Zyrtec)
- As effective for allergies as cetirizine and had much less side effects in 121 people
- Reduced hay fever as much as cetirizine without the side effects in 125 people
- Butterbur helps to reduce spasms and inflammation, even in conditions like asthma. The benefits of butterbur are additive to medication effects in this case.
Bromelain is an enzyme that is primarily found in pineapple. It is an appealing option because it is very safe and may reduce excessive clotting, improvesinusitis, and help bronchitis symptoms as well as improve absorption of food and medications.
The actions of bromelain are numerous and include reducing inflammation in the body.
Bromelain reduced allergic airway disease in an animal model. Bromelain research as a natural antihistamine is considered preliminary, but since it is beneficial for health in other ways, it could benefit you.
9. Vitamin C
Vitamin C reduces histamine levels as well as chemostasis. A clinical trial giving high dose of intravenous vitamin C resulted in allergy symptom relief.
The authors noted that vitamin C was able to reduce excessive inflammation without reducing immune function.
Vitamin C helps bust stress, which may also indirectly reduce the feelings of allergies in the body.
10. Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a role in regulating the development and function of mast cells where hitamine is produced. Vitamin D deficiency results in mast cell activation, which can increase histamine release in the body.
Vitamin D may reduce allergy symptoms because it has anti-inflammatory effects and can also reduce IgE activation of mast cells, which release histamine.
Itching is often a symptom of allergic diseases and patients with long-term itching, or chronic spontaneous urticaria, have very high rates of vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D supplementation reduced itching symptoms when given high dose vitamin D2 daily for 6 weeks. Vitamin D also improved quality of life in these patients with chronic itching symptoms.
The vitamin D was given as add-on to usual itching therapies and had additive benefits.
Using honey for allergies could be a benefit as a natural antihistamine, especially if it is from your own region. A study of honey users of birch pollen honey had less allergy symptoms and used less allergy medicines than those who did not in a clinical study.
Regular honey also was beneficial for allergies in this study.
While results are considered preliminary for allergies, honey is very safe to incorporate into your allergy routine. Do not give honey to infants younger than 1 year of age.
Astragalus is also known as bei qi, huang qi, and milk vetch. It is a type of legume that has over 2000 species in nature.
Astragalus may help allergies by reducing inflammation in the body. Topical astragalus for allergic rash reduced skin irritation and improved skin healing in mice.
It even reduced IgE immune blood levels.
Use of astragalus reduced nasal dripping in a small group of people with allergies and people generally felt better than those on placebo.
Astragalus decreased histamine release from mast cells in a rat study.
13. Homeopathic Natural Antihistamines
I’ve suffered from allergies my whole life. Vitamin C has minimally helped my symptoms, while a combination therapy of peppermint, lavender, and lemon helps me tremendously. That supplement is called TriEase and you can find it on my website.
I’ve also used quercetin and nettles in combination with good success. Butterbur holds a lot of benefit for allergies as well.
Plants can help with allergy symptoms as noted above. However, if you are allergic to any of the listed plants, please do not use. As with any new supplement, please discuss with your healthcare provider before using.
Natural remedies for allergies can work as well as antihistamine drugs and have less risk of side effects. Studies are generally small but demonstrate a high safety profile.
Studies have only determined safety in relatively shorter term duration, so do not take natural antihistamines for more than 4-6 weeks in a row.
I have had allergies all of my adult life. I took antihistamine drugs and felt many of the side effects. I never felt great symptom relief and had dry mouth, altered sleep as well as drowsy, hangover feelings every day.
By managing my diet, my stress, and by using natural histamine stabilizers from plants, I feel great and have a lot more energy. And the silver lining: no side effects for me.
I recommend starting the natural antihistamines at least a week before reducing your antihistamine drug dosage.
As with any change in your regimen, make sure to check in with your healthcare provider first. The risk of side effects of any of the plants as medicine listed above are low, but could be possible if you are sensitive to any of them.
Want a great kit for optimizing health? You can feel great by choosing certified pure products at The Healthy RD.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 20 years, has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. Has researched supplements and plants as medicine throughout her career. Loves helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.