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If you have seasonal allergies, you know they can be challenging. Sneezing, itchy eyes, nasal congestion, and sinus pressure — these symptoms can become difficult to tolerate.

You’ve likely used many over-the-counter (OTC) solutions to attempt to lessen these seasonal symptoms and may want to try something else. There’s evidence that completely natural solutions may ease your symptoms.

Whether it’s called hay fever, allergic rhinitis, or seasonal allergies, numerous drugs — both prescription and OTC — are available to help combat these cold-like symptoms. But some of these medications have their own lengthy list of side effects.

Understanding how antihistamines work can help you better understand how natural antihistamines can be an ally during allergy season.

Your allergies are an immune response to an otherwise harmless substance. This substance — whether it’s pollen, animal dander, or dust — comes into contact with cells in the mucus membranes of your nose, mouth, throat, lungs, stomach, and intestines. In a person with allergies, this ends up triggering the release of the chemical histamine.

Histamine is a part of the immune system that causes all the symptoms you associate with allergies — the sneezing, itching, and cold-like symptoms you dislike. Antihistamines block histamine activity, seeking to stop the allergic reaction.

Many allergy medications on the shelves of your local drugstore work as antihistamines. But there are also certain foods and plant extracts that may similarly block the effects of histamine.

A common herb in natural medicine, stinging nettle, may also be a natural antihistamine. In a 2000 study, 58 percent of participants found their symptoms relieved with the use of freeze-dried nettles, and 69 participants rated it better than the placebo.

Stinging nettle can be found online and at health food stores. The study participants in question used 300 milligrams (mg) each day.

Shop for stinging nettle supplements online.

Quercetin is an antioxidant found naturally in onions, apples, and other produce. Research has demonstrated the antihistamine effects of quercetin.

A 2007 study found that it even lessened the respiratory side effects of allergies in rats by reducing inflammatory response in the airways.

You can purchase quercetin as a supplement or simply add more quercetin-rich foods to your diet (the better choice of the two).

Shop for quercetin supplements online.

Bromelain is a compound most commonly found in pineapples, but you can also find it in supplement form. It’s said to be effective at treating respiratory distress and inflammation associated with allergies.

A 2000 study suggests taking between 400 to 500 mg three times daily.

Taking in bromelain through pineapple consumption is recommended.

Shop for bromelain supplements online.

Butterbur is a marsh plant that’s part of the daisy family, found throughout Europe and in regions of Asia and North America.

Research has shown it might be effective in reducing the intensity and frequency of migraine attacks, but it may also be helpful in treating nasal allergies.

Other research suggests that people with allergies saw improvement in their symptoms after taking butterbur supplements.

Butterbur can be taken as an oil extract or in pill form.

When you have allergies, relief can seem just out of reach. By combining natural remedies with proper self-care and allergen avoidance (when possible), you can find allergy symptom relief. Proper diet and exercise can help your immune system operate at its highest levels.

Also, remember that while food sources of these antihistamines are natural and safe, supplements aren’t regulated in the United States. So, be sure to get them from quality sources, and check with your doctor prior to using supplements.

Where can I get quercetin?

  • Quercetin is found in grapefruit, apples, and okra.
  • It’s available as a supplement in pill and tablet form, but try to opt for natural sources first.