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Soothe Spring Allergies: 10 Food and Herb Fixes for Allergy Relief

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When talking about natural allergy relief, sometimes you hear more about the foods to avoid than about the ones you should be eating. For instance, about a third of people allergic to pollen deal with an added annoyance called oral allergy syndrome, meaning they experience generally mild symptoms of an itchy, tingly mouth, throat, or lips when they eat certain tree fruits or plants. Someone allergic to tree pollen may experience agitation from oral allergy syndrome when eating apples, cherries, plums, almonds, or walnuts. If ragweed causes you grief each hay fever season, you could also experience sensitivity to melons, bananas, chamomile tea, or echinacea in any form. And you may have heard the suggestion to give up milk and meat during hay fever season because the grass cows eat could stir up your allergies. The good news, though, is that there are lots of foods and herbs out there that can actually help bring you natural allergy relief.

Here are your secret tools for beating allergies, naturally:

1. Broccoli

This precious piece of produce serves two purposes in annihilating your allergy symptoms. It's high in allergy-relieving vitamin C and it's a member of the crucifer family, plants that have been shown to clear out blocked-up sinuses. Researchers have found about 500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C a day can ease allergy symptoms, and just one cup of raw broccoli packs about 80 mg.

2. Citrus Fruits

To hit that 500-milligram vitamin C level from whole food sources, you can also turn to oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes. A large orange contains nearly 100 mg of C, while half of a large grapefruit contains about 60 mg.

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3. Kale

Don't just admire kale as a garnish. Eat it! This superfood packs a one-two punch against allergies; like broccoli, it's a member of the crucifer family, but it's also rich in the carotenoid department, pigments believed to aid in fighting allergy symptoms.

4. Collard Greens

Highjacked by hay fever? Put collard greens on the menu for the same reason as kale. Their phytochemical content, mainly, carotenoids, eases allergy issues. To increase the amount of carotenoids your body absorbs, eat the veggie with some sort of fat source. One idea? Lightly cook it in olive oil.

5. Stinging Nettle

You can't discuss natural allergy remedies without hailing stinging nettle. It helps stifle inflammation that occurs when you're experiencing allergy symptoms. Stinging nettle contains histamine, the chemical your body produces during an allergic reaction, so it helps you acquire tolerance. Look for 500-mg freeze-dried nettle capsules in your natural health store, and take three times a day. That's the best form for allergy relief; it won't sting because it's freeze-dried. Long-term use of the herb is not recommended, since it can deplete your potassium stores.

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6. Butterbur

Leaves and roots of the butterbur shrub contain compounds called petasines, which can block some reactions that spark allergies. Does this plant really work? Science says yes, though its use is not generally recommended for young children, people older than 65, or those with ragweed allergies. A large British meta-analysis of six studies looking at butterbur as an allergy reliever found five studies supported the claim. The roots of the perennial shrub generally contain high levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can damage the liver, so herbalists recommend looking for butterbur products that specify no pyrroli zidines, or ones that use a CO2 extracting process, which limits the amount of pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Swiss and German researchers found that butterbur was just as effective as the prescription antihistamine cetirizine (Zyrtec) after two weeks of treatment. It's also been shown to relieve sneezing, itching, runny nose, stuffiness, and watery eyes in just five days.

7. Elderberries

Immune-strengthening elderberries are often hailed as a natural flu treatment, but the berries serve a purpose in natural allergy relief, too. Try elderberry wine, juice, or jam to tap the fruit's beneficial flavonoids that reduce inflammation.

8. Onions and Garlic

Quercetin is another secret weapon that helps fight allergies by acting like an antihistamine. Onions and garlic are packed with quercetin, as are apples. (If you go with eating apples, just make sure they don't stimulate oral allergy syndrome.).

9. Parsley

According to Michael Castleman, author of The New Healing Herbs (Rodale, 2009), parsley inhibits the secretion of allergy-inducing histamine. (Parsley is a diuretic, so talk to your doctor before taking supplements or eating large amounts of it.)

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10. Anti-Allergy Soup!

There's nothing like a warm bowl of soup when you're feeling sick, and while this usually pertains to chicken soup for the flu, an expert on herbs developed this soup to naturally battle allergies. In The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods: Proven Natural Remedies to Treat and Prevent More Than 80 Common Health Concerns (Rodale, 2008), herb expert James Duke, PhD, recommends this allergy-fighting soup recipe:

  • Boil an onion (with skin) and a clove of garlic.
  • Add ½ cup chopped leaves and diced taproots of evening primrose.
  • After boiling for about 5 minutes, add a cup of nettle leaves and a cup of diced celery stalks, and boil gently for another 3 to 10 minutes.
  • Before eating, remove the onion skins and eat the soup it's while still warm.
  • Season with wine vinegar, black pepper, hot pepper, turmeric, curry powder, or celery seed.

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