Alternatively Speaking: Spring is in the air

Alternative medicine enthusiast Natalie Marx answers your questions: What foods are good for reducing effects of hay fever?

Young woman sneezing in front of a bouquet of flowers 370 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Young woman sneezing in front of a bouquet of flowers 370
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
With the winter coming to a close, the dreaded hay fever season is approaching, and approximately 15-20 percent of the population will be affected. The symptoms can be unbearable and difficult to cope with.
Whether you suffer from itchy and watering eyes, a runny nose, sore throat or headaches, don't fear as there are ways to deal with each of these symptoms.
Below is information about nutritional and homeopathic alternatives that have proved extremely successful in controlling hay fever. In response to the overwhelming number of emails I received with questions regarding natural alternatives for the treatment of hay fever, I decided to dedicate an entire column to help share my experience of what works. Wishing you all a season free from sneezing with the chance to enjoy the great outdoors.
Q. I am suffering from terrible hay fever with all the sneezing and runny nose that comes along with it. Can you tell me which herbs act as natural antihistamines? Thank you.
A. Hydrastis canadensis, most commonly known as Goldenseal, has strong anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it fantastic in combating the effects of histamine. Goldenseal's anti-bacterial properties work to help prevent sinusitis. I've had good results when using it to soothe the throat and sinus mucous membranes when affected by hay fever.
Combined with Echinacea (which acts as an anti-viral agent) they make a fine combination to add to your treatment regime for hay fever. These two herbs will boost the immune system and release toxic metabolites that build up during prolonged allergic reactions.
The stinging nettle plant can be used to counteract the effects of hay fever since it has strong anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties. The herb helps to open up constricted bronchial and nasal passages, therefore helping ease the nose & sinus type allergies that are so commonly experienced in hay fever.
Another fantastic herb used to relieve the symptoms of hay fever is Butterbur. The British Medical Journal (2002) published a study examining the effect of butterbur on people suffering from seasonal allergic rhinitis. For the duration of two weeks, one group of participants was given one butterbur extract tablet four times daily. A second group was given one tablet of cetirizine - an allopathic antihistamine. Amazing results concluded that butterbur worked equally well for reducing symptoms but without the sedative effects that come when taking cetirizine.
A wonderful Indian herbal medicine is Tinospora cordifolia. This helps to alleviate the sneezing, runny nose and nasal itching symptoms. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found the herb to be successful and recommend using 300 mg of an aqueous extract of Tinospora Cordifolia three times a day for eight weeks.
Q. Hi Natalie, Are there any particular foods that are good for reducing the effects of hay fever? Is there such a thing as a hay fever diet?
A. There are certain foods which can reduce the body's tendency to release histamines. Certain other foods help boost immunity to allergies and improve the health of your respiratory system, helping you to breathe more easily.
The plant life in your environment has a lot to blame for your symptoms, but your diet can also intensify your suffering. Try to include foods which are rich in quercetin since it works to inhibit the release of histamine. Foods rich in quercetin include apples, red or black grapes, blueberries and blackberries, onions, kale and broccoli. In 2003 the Journal of Clinical Immunology published findings to show that quercetin was nearly twice as effective as prescription antihistamine. You can also try taking a supplement of quercetin purchased from any good health food store, follow directions for dosage.
Eating foods that are rich in vitamin C will also help alleviate hay fever symptoms.  Vitamin C is an excellent antioxidant with natural antihistamine properties and works to strengthen your immune system.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found for example in tuna and salmon, are good natural anti-inflammatories which help to support our mucous membranes during the hay fever season. Try to avoid eating cherries, melons and peaches since they are related to the plants that produce ragweed pollen. Try to avoid processed foods, especially those containing trans fats, since they speed up inflammation. Finally you may want to consider reducing your intake of dairy products since they usually worsen production of mucous.
Q. I have tried everything under the sun to try to control my hay fever symptoms! Nothing has worked for me. Since you are a qualified homeopath, can you suggest any specific homeopathic remedies to help? Much appreciated.
A. Acute attacks of hay fever can respond very well to homeopathic remedies. From the remedies listed below, select the remedy that most closely matches your own symptoms. I recommend using a low potency of 6X, 6C, 12X, 12C, 30X, or 30C. If you want to treat the deep issue it is recommended to visit a homeopath so they can prescribe a more constitutional remedy.
Allium cepa: This remedy is indicated when the symptoms include watery eyes and a clear nasal discharge that irritates the upper lip. The symptoms are accompanied by sneezing and a tickling cough. The person usually is thirsty, and feels worse indoors and when rooms are warm, and prefers to be out in the fresh air.
Arsenicum album: This is prescribed when there is a burning, watery or runny nose with a stuffy, tickling feeling. There will often be swelling below the eyes and a wheezy cough. The person may feel chilly, restless, anxious, and very tired.
Euphrasia: This is particularly good for swollen and irritated eyes with acrid tears or pus. The nose is also runny with a more bland discharge. The eyes will be sensitive from too much light. This person may also have a cough in the daytime, which improves at night.
Ferrum phosphoricum: This is very good for the initial stages of hay fever symptoms. There may be a gritty feeling in the eyes with a burning sensation. The face will appear flushed with a watery nose, and short, tickling cough.
Gelsemium: A person needing Gelsemium will feel tired and lethargic during the allergy. A sensation of swollen membranes may be felt inside the nose and the nose may run with irritating watery discharge. There is frequent sneezing. The person will usually feel "flu like" symptoms such as aching in the back of the head and neck and chills along the spine.
Natrum muriaticum: Here the nasal discharge will be very frothy and resemble egg white. There will be a loss of taste and smell accompanied by watery eyes with frequent episodes of sneezing. Dark circles under the eyes may appear. The person will feel a bit sad and withdrawn.
Sabadilla: This should be taken when there are long paroxysms of sneezing and itching in the nose accompanied with irritating runny discharge. There may be a feeling of a lump in the throat. The person may feel nervous during allergy attacks, and trying to concentrate can bring on drowsiness.
Wyethia: This is an excellent remedy when there is intolerable itching felt on the roof of the mouth and behind the nose (occasionally extending into the throat and ears).
This column is brought to you as general information only and unless stated otherwise is not medical advice nor is it based on medical experiments.

This column is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. For more information about specific problems, please contact a doctor.

Ask Natalie: If you have a health query and would like an alternative answer then email Natalie with your question at
Natalie runs a clinic both in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem offering a wide range of natural treatment. Healing is achieved using homeopathy, reflexology, massage, flower remedies and nutritional wisdom.

To make an appointment please email
Someone Once Said: "I used to wake up at 4 a.m. and start sneezing, sometimes for five hours. I tried to find out what sort of allergy I had but finally came to the conclusion that it must be an allergy to consciousness."- James Thurber (American Writer, 1894-1961)