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Herbs for Seasonal Allergies

Experts say that soaring temperatures on the heels of record snows  and heavy rains add up to one of the worst seasons on record for people with allergies to tree pollens.

Without hard data from large clinical trials, it’s hard to make conclusions on the benefits of herbs for allergies. But European studies suggest these widely-available remedies may be worth considering:

Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) blocks the formation of compounds called leukotrienes that promote inflammation. Swiss researchers found that the flowering herb is less sedating but as effective as the OTC antihistamine cetirizine (brand name: Zyrtec). To reduce the risk of liver damage, it’s recommended that butterbur be taken for only six weeks a year.

Rosmarinic acid, a chemical derived from rosemary leaves, reduced seasonal allergy symptoms in a preliminary Japanese study.  The compound seems to have anti-inflammatory properties and also suppress immune cell activity.

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a popular allergy remedy in Europe.  In one study, 58 percent of 69 volunteers reported that a daily 600 mg dose of freeze-dried nettle leaf relieved allergy symptoms—and 48 percent said its anti-inflammatory effect was more effective than standard OTC allergy medicines.

For research-based information on conditions and treatments, including diet supplements and herbs, visit The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine http://nccam.nih.gov/.

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