Spring has sprung, and that means allergies have too. As the weather gets warmer and wetter, pollen and molds bloom, and spingtime winds can stir up the allergens.
When it comes to allergies, misery loves company. Roughly 40 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies. Nearly 10 percent of Americans are allergic to pollen. The result is hay fever, whose symptoms include runny nose, sneezing and puffy, watery eyes.
Sales of over-the-counter allergy drugs are through the roof, but some of the best remedies may be in your own kitchen.
Allergist Dr. Cliff Bassett talked about some of the more popular -- and effective -- natural remedies for allergy symptoms on "Good Morning America." Bassett said "natural" does not necessarily mean safe or effective, and people may have unintended side effects. Check with your doctor before trying any natural remedy, especially if you are pregnant or nursing.
Natural Remedies for Allergies
Butterbur: Butterbur is another name for petasites, a shrub with huge leaves. The plant is toxic but some studies show butterbur is effective in treating allergy symptoms.
Quercetin: An herbal supplement that has been shown to reduce sinus pain and congestion. Bassett said vitamin C actually may improve the effectiveness by reducing inflammation. One problem, says Bassett, is it is unclear how much you need to take, so you may have to experiment.
Homeopathic Nasal Mists: Saline and salt water sprays help wash away the pollen from the nose, which can remove the problem and reduce the need for medication. Plus, they are inexpensive.
Antioxidant Fruits and Vegetables: Grape seed extract, which can be found in vitamin or health food stores, has been shown effective. But in your own refrigerator, apples, bananas and onions have anti-inflammatory properties and help to build up your immune system.
Some foods, including apples in some people, cross-react with tree pollen and will cause allergy symptoms. Some of those foods include pears, kiwi, cherries, peaches, nectarines, celery, carrots, parsley, peppers and nuts like hazlenuts, walnuts, and almonds.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: A German study found that people who ate foods high in Omega-3 fatty acid -- like salmon, tuna and walnuts -- had the fewest allergies. You can eat these foods and get supplements at the health food stores.
What About Echinacea?
Echinacea is the most popular supplement in the country, and there is evidence it does build up the immune system and protect against colds. But while echinacea can help prevent colds, it can actually worsen seasonal allergies.