Updated 25 May 2017

Hay Fever - natural approach

Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is an inflammation and hypersensitivity of the mucous membranes in the upper respiratory airways.


A natural approach to hay fever

In this series of articles, we take a look at what you can do or take to prevent, alleviate or cure common ailments naturally. As many complementary and alternative medicine therapies haven't undergone rigorous testing, we base the recommendations here on the amount of evidence that is currently available (indicated with asterisks):

Natural Steps for Hayfever (check the Evidence rating)
*** Good Evidence of a health benefit.
** Some Evidence of a health benefit.
* Traditionally used with only anecdotal evidence.

Avoid any possible environmental allergens ***

  • Pollen, grasses
  • House dust
  • Mold, fungal spores
  • Animal dander
  • chemicals, fumes

Avoid foods that sensitise the immune system:

  • Refined and processed foods.
  • Artificial foods that contain sweeteners, additives and chemicals.
  • Dairy and high fat products.
  • Sugar and high sugar products.
  • Allergenic foods.

These nutrients have been shown to help Hay Fever:

  • Vitamin C **
  • Vitamin E *
  • Selenium *
  • Zinc *
  • Vitamin A *

The following herbs are normally used for Hay Fever:

  • Quercetin **
  • Tylophora **
  • Nettle **

Homeopathics remedies to help Hay Fever:

  • Allium *
  • Arsen. Iod *
  • Euphrasia *
  • Sabadilla *

Alternative/Complementary Therapy
The most commonly used Complementary Approaches to Hay Fever are:

  • Acupuncture*
  • Exercise*

Please Note: This natural medicine guide does not replace the assessment and advice of your doctor.

This guide is mainly centered on self care for mild to moderate Hay Fever. Cases of major Hay Fever require professional care.

Consultation with a health professional specialised in respiratory disorders is extremely important if you are experiencing persistent or severe symptoms of Hay Fever.

What is Hay Fever?
Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is an inflammation and hypersensitivity of the mucous membranes in the upper respiratory airways.
Hay fever can be seasonal as, acute seasonal allergic rhinitis (pollinosis); or chronic.
Current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that Antibiotics should NOT be prescribed for symptoms of hay fever or an upper respiratory infection unless symptoms have persisted without improvement for more than 10 to 14 days. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses.

General self care
What follows is a general guide for mild to moderate Hay Fever:

  • Have a look at how, when, where and why you experience Hay Fever.
  • Notice if it is linked to factors in your environment, such as dust, pollen, animals, or chemical fumes; or if it is linked to internal factors such as eating of certain foods or substances within a food or drink, such as red wine, cheese etc.
  • If related to environment, try to avoid the irritating substances.
  • If related to internal factors, try to avoid common allergenic foods.

Avoid Environmental Allergens
The most effective method for controlling symptoms is to avoid the responsible allergens.

  • Stay indoors when pollen counts are high - pollen counts tend to be highest on dry windy days.
  • Keep doors and windows closed.
  • Air conditioning may help, especially if the system features a filtered central system.

Take steps to reduce substances that may aggravate symptoms, such as:

  • House dust
  • Mold
  • Animal dander

Calm your Nasal symptoms
Saline nose drops do not cure hay fever but they may help:

  • Liquefy nasal discharge
  • Relieve nasal congestion
  • Promote nasal drainage
  • Saline solution can be made by mixing 1/4 teaspoonful of common table salt, in one glass of water; OTC saline nose drops are also available.
Hay fever symptoms with a sore throat
  • Gargle with warm salt water (1/4 teaspoon of salt added to 1 glass of water) several times a day
  • Use throat zinc lozenges to soothe inflamed mucous membranes (only give to children over 4 years old). Zinc strengthens the mucous membranes.

Healthy Nutrition
Avoid foods that you are allergic/sensitive to, or foods that are known to sensitise the immune system:

  • Refined and processed foods can contain sweeteners, additives and chemicals that your body develops a sensitivity towards, increasing histamine levels and triggering a hay fever attack.
  • High fat and fried foods, hydrogenated, oxidised and processed oils or by-products can cause Hay Fever symptoms in some people.
  • Dairy products are known to cause sensitivities in some people.
  • Sugar and high sugar products can increase histamine response in some people.
  • Avoid known allergenic foods. They have been implicated as a cause of some Hay Fever.

Recommended supplementation
Over-the-counter (OTC) vitamins and minerals
Consider taking a good multivitamin/ mineral and a specific formula blend for Hay Fever that contains:

  • Vitamin C – improves the resistance of cells and tissues to pollens and foreign protein activity. It regulates the immune system, and calms down unnecessary inflammation. Vitamin C is quickly depleted during times of inflammation and therefore needs to be taken throughout the day.
  • Vitamin E – regulates the action of the immune system, so as to not become hypersensitive to benign proteins.
  • Selenium – alleviates hay fever by increasing the glutathione peroxidase levels, which play a vital role in detoxicating the excess histamine levels.
  • Zinc – strengthens the mucous membranes against foreign protein entry thereby preventing the spread of inflammation throughout the mucous membranes.
  • Vitamin A – plays an essential role in maintaining the integrity of the mucous membranes. Deficiency can lead to hay fever.

Please note that otc vitamin mineral and other supplementation is no substitute for the consultation and advice of a qualified practitioner

Over-the-counter (OTC) herbal remedies
The following herbal remedies are recommended for Hay Fever:

  • Quercetin - Quercetin acts as an antihistamine and has anti-inflammatory properties **
  • Tylophora – contains the alkaloid tylophorine, laboratory research has shown this isolated plant extract exerts a strong anti-inflammatory action. Tylophorine is able to interfere with the action of mast cells, which are key components in the process of inflammation. These actions seem to support tylophora’s traditional use as an antiasthmatic and antiallergic medication **
  • Nettle - Test tube studies suggest the leaf has anti-inflammatory actions. A preliminary trial reported that capsules made from freeze-dried leaves reduced sneezing and itching in people with hay Fever **
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) homeopathic remedies
    The following OTC homeopathic remedies can be used for symptomatic relief:

    • A constitutional remedy, i.e. a remedy suit your individual constitution, can be recommended by a Homeopath.
    • Allium – for hay fever with burning nasal discharge.
    • Arsen. Iod. – for a constant desire to sneeze.
    • Euphrasia – for hay fever affecting mainly the eyes
    • Sabadilla – for hay fever with sore throat.

    Caution: If you have a chronic illness or routinely take prescribed or over-the-counter (OTC) medication, or you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor, or pharmacist before taking any new medications.

    Do not stop taking any prescription medications without the guidance and consultation with your doctor.

    [This article was written by natural expert Dr Chase Webber]


    Read Health24’s Comments Policy

    Comment on this story
    1 comment
    Comments have been closed for this article.

    Ask the Expert

    Allergy expert

    Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies.

    Still have a question?

    Get free advice from our panel of experts

    The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

    * You must accept our condition

    Forum Rules