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Alternative Therapies for Allergies

The content below is part of the “Health Library” and is not indicative of services available at the facility.

Sneezing. Itchy, watery eyes. Irritated throat. Runny nose. Whether you have one, two, or all of these, allergy symptoms can make you feel miserable and run down. The first sneeze or tingle in the throat may send many of us running to the nearest pharmacy for antihistamines and other over-the-counter medications. But alternative remedies are also promoted as providing relief from allergies.

Getting to Know Herbs

When we think of alternative treatments, we often think of exotic herbs with potential healing powers. But it can be hard to tell what has been shown to work as well as conventional treatment and what is sham. Several small studies may help shed light on the effect of medicinal herbs in treating allergy symptoms. One study looked at a combination tablet containing Cinnamomum zeylanicum, Malpighia glabra, and Bidens pilosa versus a well-known antihistamine, loratadine. The researchers found that both loratadine and the combination herbal tablet reduced nasal symptoms.

Another small study evaluated the effectiveness of a Chinese herbal treatment against allergic rhinitis. Participants taking the Chinese herbs reported significant symptom improvement compared to those who did not.

Other herbal remedies that may be effective against allergic rhinitis are:

Pass the Butterbur

Larger studies show that the herb butterbur may be helpful against allergic rhinitis. Butterbur was shown to reduce allergy symptoms compared to placebo.

Another study compared butterbur against fexofenadine (an over-the-counter allergy medication) and placebo. Butterbur and fexofenadine were found to be equally effective, while both were more effective than placebo.

On Pins and Needles

If needles do not scare you, then acupuncture may be an option in the line of alternative treatments against allergies. But before you rush to an acupuncturist, be aware that most systematic reviews of acupuncture studies show that there is either limited or conflicting evidence that acupuncture works in improving symptoms. However, one small study did show acupuncture to be more effective than sham acupuncture for persistent allergic rhinitis.

There are options for those seeking allergy relief outside of the pharmacy aisle. Talk with your doctor first before taking any herbal remedy. Some herbal therapies may interact with medications you may already be taking or may cause undesirable side effects.

  • American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology

    http://www.aaaai.org

  • Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

    http://www.aafa.org

  • Allergy Asthma Information Association

    http://aaia.ca

  • Calgary Allergy Network

    http://www.calgaryallergy.ca

  • Allergic rhinitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116217/Allergic-rhinitis. Updated November 22, 2016. Accessed May 2, 2016.

  • Allergies, respiratory. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/biomedical-libraries/natural-alternative-treatments.. Updated August 2013. Accessed May 1, 2016.

  • Corren J, Lemay M, Lin Y, Rozga L, Randolph RK. Clinical and biochemical effects of a combination botanical product (ClearGuard) for allergy: a pilot randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Nutr J. 2008;7:20.

  • Guo R, Pittler MH, Ernst E. Herbal medicines for the treatment of allergic rhinitis: a systematic review. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2007;99(6):483-495.

  • Lee MS, Pittler MH, Shin BC, Kim JI, Ernst E. Acupuncture for allergic rhinitis: A systematic review. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2009;102(4):269-279.

  • Passalacqua G, Bousquet PJ, Carlsen KH, et al. ARIA update: I—Systematic review of complementary and alternative medicine for rhinitis and asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006;117(5):1054-1062.

  • Schapowal A. Butterbur Ze339 for the treatment of intermittent allergic rhinitis: Dose-dependent efficacy in a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2004;130(12):1381-1386.

  • Schapowal A, Study Group. Treating intermittent allergic rhinitis: A prospective, randomized, placebo and antihistamine-controlled study of Butterbur extract Ze 339. Phytother Res. 2005;19(6):560-537.

  • Xue CC, An X, Cheung TP, et al. Acupuncture for persistent allergic rhinitis: A randomised, sham-controlled trial. Med J Aust. 2007;187(6):337-341.

  • Xue CC, Thien FC, Zhang JJ, Da Costa C, Li CG. Treatment for seasonal allergic rhinitis by Chinese herbal medicine: A randomized placebo controlled trial. Altern Ther Health Med. 2003;9(5):80-87.