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BellaOnline's Allergies and Colds Editor

Natural allergy relief

Treating allergies with prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medicines may not be right for everyone. Sometimes the side effects of these medications make them less than desirable. Some individuals worry about long-term problems associated with over medicating.

What are your options if you decide you want fewer side effects? It turns out there are many choices when it comes to natural allergy remedies as I found out when I was searching for something other than medication to soothe my symptoms. I am one of those individuals who develop unpleasant side effects after taking prescription or OTC drugs for a long period of time.

I found out I am not alone in looking for an alternative way to manage allergy symptoms. About half of allergy sufferers have tried some form of alternative or natural treatment for their ailments, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Some people find they are able to manage their symptoms with natural remedies alone while others use them as a supplement to what they already are doing in hopes of obtaining more relief. A natural product may be all that someone with mild symptoms needs. Alternative treatments run the gamut from herbal medications, nasal washes and elimination of foods that may aggravate allergies to acupuncture, yoga and massage.

What am I trying? I am using twice daily nasal washes with an electronic irrigator. In addition, I follow a strict diet to avoid foods that may aggravate my symptoms, and I practice daily meditation to reduce stress. Iíve tried some of the herbal remedies but they do not work. Do I have allergy symptoms? Yes, I do but no worse than when I was taking prescription meds when you factor in side effects. Here is a run down of the alternatives.

Nasal washes are one of the safest and easiest alternative remedies. Washing the nasal passages with a warm saline solution may clear up some of the symptoms of sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses). A small ceramic pot, called a Neti Pot, or over-the-counter saline sprays may be used to wash the sinuses.

Herbal medications have been reported to help alleviate the symptoms of seasonal allergies in some individuals. They are available without a prescription and can be given to children or adults.

Butterbur, euphorbium, nettle leaf and quercetin are four natural supplements that have been tested in clinical studies and may reduce allergy symptoms for some individuals. As with all medications, there is the potential for allergic reaction. Individuals who have never tried the supplements need to start out with a low dose to minimize the chance of allergic reaction.

Butterbur has some of the best evidence indicating it may be effective at relieving nasal symptoms without causing sleepiness as some antihistamines do. One study showed euphorbium may help reduce the symptoms of chronic sinusitis, including pressure, nasal congestion and headache. In a research study of stinging nettle leaf, participants had a slight reduction in allergic rhinitis symptoms, such as itching and watery eyes, and runny nose. Four capsules (300 mg) of nettle leaf per day is the recommended dose during allergy season. Allergy sufferers should make sure they purchase freeze-dried nettle leaf, start with one capsule and gradually increase the dosage to four capsules. Quercetin, a flavenoid found in a wide variety of herbs and vegetables, may inhibit the production of histamines, associated with allergies. Some individuals experience side effects, including headache, nausea or tingling in the hands and feet. Natural supplements can be found at drug stores and health food establishments.

Eliminating foods from the diet that tend to aggravate symptoms is another avenue to explore in finding allergy relief. Some studies have shown that certain foods may increase allergic rhinitis in individuals with food intolerances. Those who suspect a particular food may be contributing to their symptoms need to try an elimination diet, which involves removing the food(s) for at least one week. Individuals then reintroduce one food at a time and note any increase in symptoms.

Yoga and massage may be beneficial for health and well-being but little study has been done to show they improve allergy symptoms. Acupuncture is a Chinese medical practice that involves inserting needles into the skin at specified points on the body. While it has been used for many chronic diseases, little evidence indicates it helps allergy sufferers.

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