If you're like 30 percent of the population, your body freaks out over spring pollen. The microscopic grains invade your immune system, making your body release histamines, produce excess mucus and subject you to flu-like symptoms without the fever.
Throughout the season change, I've witnessed many friends sniffle through the painful experience. Every year, I watch helplessly as they pop Claritin and blow their noses for relief. Still, they never receive more than a temporary fix for their swollen eyes and itchy throat.
Considering I'm a skeptic of most modern medicine, I often assume there's a natural alternative to soothing spring allergies.
As a champion for the "food is medicine" philosophy, I reached out to Nikki Ostrower, founder of NAO Nutrition & Wellness, to get to the root of the condition. Ostrower used natural remedies to quell her allergies and found she's rarely affected by seasonal symptoms.
"There are all these side effects to synthetic medicines whereas there are virtually no symptoms with natural remedies," Ostrower says.
This allergy season, toss out your Zyrtec and find real relief for your symptoms in your local grocery store.
1. Apple cider vinegar and local honey strengthen your immune system and banish spring allergies.
"Probiotics help heal the gut," Ostrower says. "And when the gut is healthy, it creates a stronger immune system, thus helping fight off allergies."
Doctor's orders: Put one tablespoon of ACV into 8 ounces of water and mix in 1 teaspoon of raw, local honey. Honey harvested in your area contains those pesky allergens you're trying to ward off, but that's OK. By digesting it, your body familiarizes itself with them instead of starting an all-out war. Drink this tonic daily.
2. Ginger and turmeric tea dissolves mucus and fights inflammation.
Severe allergies may cause you to cough up phlegm. Instead of rushing to the bathroom all day to clear slime out of your throat, head to your kitchen to kick the spring allergies out of your system.
Ostrower suggests grabbing ginger and turmeric, a peppery spice, to help dissolve mucus and clear up your sinuses. This allergy-combatting duo is also a powerful anti-inflammatory, which calms inflammatory effects of histamines, she says.
Doctor's orders: Put three slices of ginger into a mug with hot water to make a soothing ginger tea. Then, add a shake of turmeric to your anti-allergy concoction. Drink as needed throughout the day.
3. Nettle leaf tea is an all-natural antihistamine.
For itchy skin from pollen season, reach for nettle leaf tea found in most grocery stores. The leaf can also boost immunity and help with nausea.
"It's been very effective as it blocks the body's ability to produce histamines," says Ostrower. "Get all fancy and add ginger and turmeric to this if you'd like."
Doctor's orders: Whether you're at home or the office, take some nettle tea and let it steep for five minutes. Drink as needed.
4. A sea salt solution clears your sinuses.
Using a saline solution will clear out all the allergens and irritations, and it's also perfect for getting rid of mucus. Major bonus? Since a Neti pot is reusable, it's cheaper than forking over $14 every time you need a nasal spray refill.
Doctor's orders: Add a tablespoon of unrefined Himalayan sea salt to filtered water to make a saline rinse. Do it once or twice a day.
5. Seaweed and daikon radish remove mucus and aid breathing.
Take notice of what you shovel into your pie hole while your spring allergies are up in arms. Foods like tomatoes are rich in histamines, which can worsen your seasonal allergies.
Instead of coughing up a lung and suffering from labored breathing, help your lymphatic system flow more easily with seaweed and daikon radishes. The salt from seaweed breaks down mucus while daikon radish, a root veggie, also removes mucus by drying up excess dampness.
Doctor's orders: Dress up your soups and salads with daikon radishes, or order sushi loaded with seaweed.
Though you may tire of drinking ACV and eating radishes all day, you can't overdose on natural remedies. Ostrower suggests this regimen will help you maintain a variety of natural allergy-fighting solutions and ensure you're healing all your symptoms.
"Start with the ACV and honey remedy when you wake up then rinse with your Neti Pot," she says. "Eat a lunch that can kick your allergy symptoms, then drink nettle leaf tea. When you get home, do another Neti Pot rinse and drink an ACV and a honey tonic before bed."
While spring allergies can never be cured, taking the natural route will largely lessen your symptoms if you let the earth-based antidotes work their magic.