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Sweet Allergy Myth Busted and What 3 Plants to Use Instead



I’ll admit it, I fell for it too.

 

The thought that a sweet, well-known superfood could do it all was, well, appealing.

 

Most of us want that “one thing” that will give us all the health benefits we are looking for.  It was close…so close. 

 

Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, powerful antioxidant, and so much more.  Why couldn’t honey be an effective antihistamine for seasonal allergies, too?

 

The Myth:

 

When I started writing this article, it was going to be all about using honey to alleviate your seasonal allergy symptoms.  Instead, I wound up getting a good dose of education and had to completely change course.

 

Honey does have anti-inflammatory benefits.  I will cautiously go out on a limb here and say that perhaps this benefit is where the myth began.  The ability to reduce sinus inflammation may have been confused with seasonal allergy antihistamine benefits. 

 

Some people believe that the pollen consumed in honey has an immunotherapeutic effect on allergies. What this five-dollar word means is a little dose of pollen, taken consistently over time, would desensitize your immune system to the pollen.

 

Unfortunately, there’s a flaw in the theory.

 

Myth Busted:

 

Master Beekeeper Rusty Berlew did her homework on this subject.  She learned that the pollen that the honeybees pick up from flowers is not the pollen that typically causes seasonal allergies. 

 

There are two types of pollen.  One type is collected by bees when they are gathering nectar from flowers. 

 

The second type is the pollen, that generally causes seasonal allergies.  It comes from trees, grasses, and weeds.  These pollens are windborne, not pollinator borne.

 

So, unless you’re allergic to the flowers the honeybees were in contact with, there is little chance you’ll get immunotherapy benefits from honey.

 

What are Histamines:

 

Histamines are the chemicals your body produces when it detects something harmful.  For some reason, your body has decided that seasonal pollens are the enemy. 

 

You encounter pollen you are allergic to, and your body goes into overdrive to protect you.  The histamines flooding your system cause the symptoms of itchy, watery eyes, sinus congestion and/or runny nose, sneezing, and even rashes.

 

Antihistamines block the ramped-up response your body has to the pollen, allowing you to function normally.  The problem is some antihistamines knock you flat.

 

Time for the Disclaimer:

 

Warning #1:  I am not a doctor.  The information on natural remedies for seasonal allergies that follow is purely informational.  Please discuss the use of any natural remedies with your physician. 

 

Natural Antihistamines

 

If honey is not the answer, what is?

 

There is a lot of information out in internet land purporting the ability of numerous plants that cure seasonal allergies.  Most of them have the same anti-inflammatory ability of honey but no ability to block histamines.

 

After a lot of reading (and perhaps a nap or two), I was able to find three plants that have been scientifically proven to have antihistamine capabilities.

 

1.         Butterbur:

 

Chances are, you’ve never heard of butterbur.  I certainly hadn’t!  Here’s what I was able to learn about it.

 

 It is found in northern and central Europe and northern Asia.  It grows in the United States but is limited to the New York to Ohio region, Illinois, Michigan, and Washington.

 

A study showed that butterbur had the same antihistamine effect as the medication cetirizine, also known as Zyrtec.  The perk is that it does not have the sedative effect that conventional antihistamine medicines often have.

 

Historically, the leaves are better than the roots in helping seasonal allergies.  Whereas the anti-inflammatory effect of the roots has more benefit in treating headaches.

 

I have been able to find Butterbur available in supplement and powder form on Amazon. 

 

Warning #2:  You will want to discuss dosage with your personal physician or allergist.

 

2.        Ginger

 

I am far more familiar with ginger.  I have used it for many things due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea benefits.  What a bonus to learn that it could help seasonal allergies, too!

 

Ginger is often mistaken as a root, but like potatoes, it is a rhizome.  It loves warm, humid climates and can be found flourishing in China, Fiji, Indonesia, and Peru. 

 

In the United States, ginger is cultivated in Hawaii and shipped to the mainland.  You can grow it yourself outdoors in pots in warmer weather.   For it to survive winter, you will want to move it to the warm indoors.

 

A study pitted ginger extract against loratadine, commonly known as either Alavert or Claritin.  Ginger was shown to be as effective as the medication but did better than loratadine regarding not causing side effects of drowsiness, fatigue, and dizziness.

 

Ginger is easy to incorporate into your diet.  It can be added to foods, both fresh and in dried powder form.  The powder can also be used to make a tea.

 

If ginger is a little too spicy for your tastes, you can find it in capsule form.  All forms are carried in most grocery and health food stores in the U.S. 

 

Warning #3:  Check with your doctor to determine the appropriate use and dosage for you.

 

3.        Spirulina

 

Spirulina is one of those plants that has become known as a superfood.  I don’t know who decided chomping on some slimy blue-green algae looked like it would be delicious.  But good thing they did, as it has many health benefits.

 

Spirulina originally grew in the Lake Texcoco region in Mexico and Lake Chad region in north-central Africa.  Today, it is cultivated in Australia, Central America, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

 

This alga is not naturally found in the U.S. but is cultivated in the California desert.

 

According to Spirulina Farm, it is one of the most complete foods available and is used as a nutritional supplement for astronauts.  Pretty powerful stuff.

 

I have used it in smoothies and shakes to get an extra nutritional boost, particularly when I’ve gone off the rails with my diet.  Little did I know it was helping with my seasonal allergies, too.

 

Spirulina was tested against cetirizine, too, and came out a clear winner in comparison.

 

Of note, it is my understanding that spirulina should not be taken year-round.  Sources state that you should not exceed two months of dosing up to 19g per day or six months of dosing up to 10g per day.

 

This little powerhouse can be found in both powder and supplement forms.  It seems every retailer that sells vitamins has a version of it, so buyer beware.

 

Look for brands that are certified organic, non-GMO, as well as free of contaminants.  It’s even better if you can find spirulina that has been tested for purity and potency by a third party.

 

And… Warning #4:  Just like the other two, check with your doctor for safety and appropriate dosage.

 

A Final Word About Honey:

 

Don’t discount honey altogether.  Though it is not an out-and-out antihistamine, it is complementary to it.

 

The anti-inflammatory benefits may give an extra boost to reducing the inflammation that histamines cause.  Honey, paired with a natural antihistamine, may speed up how quickly your body returns to feeling normal during the seasonal allergy times of year.

 

We’d love to know what works for you.  Tell us in the comments about the natural remedies you’ve found beneficial in taming your seasonal allergies.

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