Natural Antihistamines for Allergies: Types, Benefits, and Side Effects
What are Antihistamines?
Antihistamines are substances that can block the action of histamines in the body. Histamines are chemicals the immune system releases in response to an allergen, such as pollen or dust. They can cause itching, sneezing, scratchy throat, runny nose, coughing, congestion, and watery eyes.
Antihistamines bind to histamine receptors, preventing the histamines from causing a reaction. They can be found in medication and certain natural foods, herbs, and supplements. Antihistamines help treat symptoms from allergies, hay fever, and other conditions associated with histamine release.
How Do Natural Antihistamines Work?
Natural antihistamines are becoming increasingly popular as they offer an alternative to conventional treatments. An antihistamine blocks the action of histamines in the body. Natural antihistamines reduce inflammation and strengthen mucous membranes, limiting the release of histamine into the bloodstream and reducing unpleasant symptoms like itching or sneezing.
People take nutrients such as quercetin, bromelain, enzymes, and probiotics through natural sources to aid these processes.
Some natural remedies can help with conditions such as hay fever, asthma, headaches, and arthritis. Natural antihistamines provide a healthy alternative to pharmaceutical drugs and may be suitable for people suffering from mild symptoms.
Types of Natural Antihistamines
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin found in many fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, kiwi, cauliflower, melon, tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that helps reduce histamine levels by acting as a natural antihistamine and stabilizing mast cells.
This can help alleviate allergy symptoms such as runny nose, itchy eyes, and wheezing. While it's best to get vitamin C from a balanced diet, supplements are also available.
Bromelain is a type of enzyme found in pineapples that has been recognized for its anti-inflammatory properties. One of the lesser-known benefits of bromelain is its potential as a natural antihistamine.
Bromelain works by breaking down proteins that cause inflammation and swelling, which can help alleviate allergy symptoms like nasal congestion and sinus pressure. It's available in supplement form, but consuming fresh pineapple may also provide some benefits.
Quercetin is a flavonoid, a plant pigment with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It's commonly found in apples, dill, asparagus, lettuce, berries, red onions, and black tea. Quercetin is also gaining attention as a natural antihistamine because it can inhibit the release of certain inflammatory chemicals, which can help alleviate allergy symptoms.
Stinging nettle, also known as Urtica dioica, is a shrub native to Europe, Asia, and North America. While it's often thought of as a pesky weed, stinging nettle has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments, including allergies.
Stinging nettle contains several active compounds that may help alleviate allergy symptoms, including histamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine. It works by inhibiting the production of inflammatory chemicals that cause allergy symptoms like itching and sneezing.
Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae considered a superfood due to its rich nutritional profile. It's also gaining attention as a natural antihistamine. Spirulina contains compounds like phycocyanin and carotenoids, which have anti-inflammatory properties and may help alleviate allergy symptoms.
It works by inhibiting the release of histamine and other inflammatory chemicals that cause symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, and itching. You can take spirulina in supplement form or add it to smoothies and other foods.
Butterbur, also known as Petasites hybridus, is a perennial plant native to Europe, Asia, and North America. It's gaining recognition as a natural antihistamine due to its ability to reduce inflammation and inhibit the release of histamine. Butterbur contains compounds called petasins that block the production of leukotrienes, which are inflammatory chemicals involved in the body's allergic response.
Butterbur can help alleviate allergy symptoms like nasal congestion, hay fever, migraines, sneezing, and itching. Butterbur is available in supplement form as well.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. While they're often associated with gut health, they're also gaining recognition as a potential natural remedy for allergies. Research suggests that certain strains of probiotics can modulate the immune system and reduce inflammation, which can help alleviate allergy symptoms.
Probiotics increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut, improving immune function and reducing the likelihood of developing allergy symptoms. They may help reduce the severity and frequency of allergy symptoms, particularly those related to eczema and allergic rhinitis. You can find them in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and kimchi, as well as in supplement form.
Benefits and Risks of Natural Antihistamines
While many OTC and prescription antihistamines are available, some people prefer to use natural remedies instead. Here are a few of the benefits and risks of using natural antihistamines:
Fewer Side Effects
One of the main advantages of natural antihistamines is that they tend to have fewer side effects than their pharmaceutical counterparts. OTC antihistamines can cause drowsiness, dry mouth, nausea, and other unpleasant symptoms. However, natural antihistamines like quercetin, stinging nettle, and butterbur are generally well-tolerated and have fewer reported side effects.
In addition to their antihistamine effects, many natural remedies have anti-inflammatory properties. For example, turmeric contains curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. This can be especially beneficial for people with mild asthma or other respiratory conditions as inflammation can worsen these conditions.
Some natural antihistamines also have immune-boosting effects, which can help prevent allergies from developing in the first place. For example, vitamin C has been shown to help strengthen the immune system overall.
Natural antihistamines can be a great option for people who prefer to avoid synthetic medications. Many natural remedies are made from plant-based ingredients, which can be gentler on the body and less likely to cause adverse reactions.
Finally, natural antihistamines can be cost-effective for people on a budget. Many natural remedies can be found in health food stores or online and are often less expensive than prescription or OTC medications.
Although natural antihistamines come with many benefits, there are also risks associated with their use. First, they may not be as effective as traditional medications in treating your symptoms. So it's important to discuss your options with your doctor before deciding which type of antihistamine is right for you.
Additionally, there is no regulation on herbal supplements in the United States. It can be difficult to know exactly what ingredients are in products and how much of each ingredient you are getting in a dose—so make sure to research any supplement thoroughly before using it regularly.
Even better, consider taking an at-home allergy test, like the Wyndly allergy test, which will help you discover what allergies you have. With this information, you can make an informed decision on the best treatment plan for you.
When to See a Doctor
While natural antihistamines can be effective for some people, they may not work for everyone. See a doctor if you've been taking them without experiencing any relief or if your symptoms are worsening. Seek immediate medical attention if you have severe or life-threatening symptoms like difficulty breathing or swelling of the face or throat.
It's also essential to talk to your doctor before taking natural antihistamines if you're pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking prescription medications. If you have allergies interfering with your daily activities or quality of life, it's a good idea to see a doctor. You should also consider seeing a doctor if:
- You're not sure what's causing your allergies, or you're having trouble identifying the allergen
- You're experiencing severe or life-threatening symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or swelling of the face or throat
- You have a history of severe allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis
- Your allergies are affecting other medical conditions you have
- You're taking prescription medications that may interact with allergy treatments
Apart from natural antihistamines, you can try several alternative allergy treatments. Some of them include:
Antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal corticosteroids are commonly used for short-term relief from symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes. It's important to use medications as directed by a healthcare professional and to be aware of potential side effects.
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT)
Sublingual immunotherapy involves administering small amounts of allergen extracts under the tongue to desensitize the immune system. SLIT is effective in treating seasonal allergies caused by pollen, dust mites, mold, and pet dander. SLIT can be administered in the comfort of your home and doesn't require pricey doctor visits or uncomfortable injections.
Take Our Allergy Assessment
At Wyndly, we're committed to helping people with allergies better understand and manage their symptoms. Our doctors will identify what you are allergic to and create a personalized treatment plan for your allergies. If you're struggling with allergies and want to find an effective natural treatment plan, take our online assessment to see if Wyndly is right for you.