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  • sa_2006

    Low levels of fellow antioxidant vitamin E have also been associated with asthma and wheezing illnesses.8 It appears gamma-tocopherols protect against inflammatory cell recruitment and alterations to tissue cells during an allergen challenge;9 allergy treatment with these tocopherols also appears to block certain inflammatory immune cells from entering the airspace and tissue of the lungs, nose and sinuses.10

    Combining antioxidant ingredients provides additional relief. Combining vitamins C and E with antioxidant N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) appears to inhibits pollen-induced airway inflammation by blocking ragweed oxidases that induce oxidative stress and inflammation in the airways.11 On its own, NAC reduces mucus viscosity, protects against lung tissue damage and stymies phagocyte burst during an allergic reaction.12,13,14

    Mixed antioxidant carotenoids, including lycopene, might also be beneficial, according to scientists. Research has shown high plasma carotenoid concentrations, reflecting a diet high in fruits and vegetables, offers protection from allergic rhinitis in adults.15

    In the world of minerals, magnesium is a bronchodilator and antihistamine; and zinc supplementation may reduce inflammatory cells in the airway.16

    Quercetin is another anti-allergy antioxidant, due to its antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. This flavonoid controls mast cell activities and allergy symptoms, inhibiting the release of histamine in nasal mucosa of allergic patients.17,18

    While micronutrients and antioxidants are expected allergy fighters, some specialty natural products should also be in the relief inventory. A study in 2007 found glucomannan can suppress allergy symptoms by taming specific IgE response.19 Prebiotic oligosaccharide lactosucrose also suppresses IgE during allergy challenge, including allergen-specific IgE.20 The fatty acid conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) reduces allergy symptoms such as sneezing by affecting various immune parameters.21 David Cai, Ph.D., senior scientist, Cognis Health and Nutrition, said his team, which has focused mainly on the weight management benefits of CLA, has only recently begun to explore the product’s allergy relieving abilities, finding promising preliminary results.

    One of the biggest arsenals of natural remedies for allergies is comprised of botanicals, which also curtail inflammation and histamine release from mast cells.

    Licorice root and its primary ingredient glycrrhizin (glycrrhetinic acid) offer anti-inflammatory activities, in addition to thwarting IgE in allergic reactions.22,23 Similarly, sculletaria (also known as skullcap, or Huang Qin in Chinese medicine) can restrict inflammatory cytokine production and release by mast cells.24

    Against histamine, the flavonoids in pine bark extract (as Pycnogenol) block release of this allergy troublemaker from mast cells, possibly better than a known pharmacological histamine inhibitor.25 In the same manner, butterbur extract has proven adept at blocking histamine release by IgE-sensitized mast cells,26 relieving allergy symptoms as effectively as drugs, but without the drowsy side effects.27

    There are countless herbal remedies with long histories of use and some preliminary research against allergic reactions and related symptoms. Such is the case with the herbs in Aller Leaf, an anti-allergy formula from Gaia Herbs. This combination features stinging nettles, which may inhibit inflammatory cytokines; turmeric, which contains anti-inflammatory curcumin; goldenseal, for respiratory mucosal function; the astringent herbs bayberry and yarrow flower, which also have anti-inflammatory properties; and the aforementioned anti-inflammatory skullcap.

    Another popular herbal combination is the product Aller-7, a formula from InterHealth USA found in products from various manufacturers, including Natural Factors. InterHealth explained Aller-7 is a “patented blend of seven standardized herbal extracts clinically tested to promote respiratory health and normal breathing seasonally and all year round.” Its roster of herbs—Indian gooseberry or amla (Phyllanthus emblica); Harda or Haritaki (Terminalia chebulat); Bedda Nut Tree (Terminalia bellerica); Indian walnut (Albizia lebbeck); ginger root (Zingiber officinale); Indian long pepper (Piper longum); and black pepper (Piper nigrum)—help to clear airways, stabilize mast cells and neutralize free radicals associated with allergy and respiratory distress.

    A 2004 clinical trial showed Aller-7 improved various immune and allergic parameters, helping more than 90 percent of allergic rhinitis subjects greatly reduce symptoms, including runny nose, sneezing and nasal congestion.28

    While a good diet rich in veggies and fruits may help maintain a healthy immune system year-round, the crux of the allergy products market, even in natural health channels, is symptom-focused. Addressing symptoms is what Sinus and Ear formula from Clear Products aims to do, with its combination of herbal and homeopathic remedies.

    Stas Ozog, herbalist and acupuncturist, said he formulated this product to address the congestion that’s built up during an allergic reaction. “Sinus and Ear is a very mild product, but it helps dry up and get rid of congestion,” he said. “The herbs in the formula have antibacterial and antiviral properties.”

    Based on a 2,000-year-old oriental medicine formula, Clear Sinus and Ear includes licorice, scutellaria, cinnamon, angelica, ginger and magnolia, but it also features homeopathic ingredients such as Pulsatilla, Euphorbium, Hepar Sulphuricum and Calcarea Carbonica. “In school, I remember being told we were not supposed to combine the two modalities (herbs and homeopathy), but we found much better synergistic effects in combining them in this product,” Ozog said.

    Homeopathy has an abundance of natural medicines to offer allergy sufferers. Alissa Gould, public relations manager for Boiron Products, explained homeopathy treats allergy symptoms by providing a plant, mineral or animal component that can produce the same symptoms the allergic person is experiencing. In the case of runny nose or eyes, chopping a red onion produces the same result, so red onion (Allium cepa) in diluted form is among homeopathic medicines for these allergy symptoms.

    Borion offers a large number of such remedies. They each contain one medicinal ingredient and, being regulated as drugs—not as supplements—they list active ingredients and dosage on the tubes. The homeopathic section has a chart which can be used by consumers to match their symptoms with the right medicines that can help. There is even a take-home version of this chart.

    For newcomers to homeopathic medicine, Boiron offers an Allergy Care Kit, which features three of the most popular medicines for common symptoms—Apis mellifica for itchiness, Galphimia glauca for hay fever and Histaminum hydrochloricum for general allergy symptoms. However, the more daring and experienced can try Sabadil, a six-medicine combination featuring red onion, as well as Ambrosia artemisiaefolia for coughing, HPUS for hay fever, Euphrasia officinalis for irritated eyes, Sabadilla for sneezing, Solidago virgaurea for nasal discharge and Histaminum for general allergy relief.

    Gould recommended consumers take any homeopathic remedy at the first sign of symptoms. “These homeopathic medicines are safe, do not cause drowsiness and will not interact with supplements or drugs, so there is no reason to hesitate in taking them at the first sign of symptoms,” she urged.

    A. Vogel also offers homeopathic products for allergy concerns. Pollinosan spray targets hay fever, sneezing, watery eyes and allergic reaction with seven medicines, including Ammi visnaga, Aralia racemosa, Cardiospermum, Luffa operculata, Okoubaka, Larrea mexicana and Galphimia glauca. Swiss research showed allergic rhinitis or pollinosis patients taking this formula experienced a reduction in evening symptoms, although morning symptoms remained unchanged.29 Researchers reported the remedy was well tolerated.

    The company’s sinusitis formulation, Sinna Nasal Spray, might also help allergy suffers, as the four homeopathic medicines involved—Hydrastis canadensis, Kali bichromicum, Lemna minor and Luffa operculata—attend to sinus congestion and inflammation, both which can occur in allergic reactions. In fact, a 2003 Swiss trial found this sinus spray reduced symptoms in both acute and chronic sinusitis patients.30

    Allergies are widespread, disrupting the daily lives of many Americans. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergies and asthma affect six times more Americans than cancer, striking one out of every four Americans. While the sheer scope of potential allergens is hard to plan for, the mechanism of allergic reaction in the body, especially in the upper respiratory system, is becoming more well-known. Natural products can help address these mechanisms and the mediators that choreograph the inflammation and symptoms allergies spawn.

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