Not many things beat the first warm breeze of spring—except for maybe that first little flower peeking through the sidewalk crack. But springtime isn’t all a bed of roses. For so many Americans, it’s also the much-dreaded Allergy Season.
According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, more than 50 million Americans experience allergies every year. Some people find relief with over-the-counter allergy medications when itchy eyes and sneezing strike, but for most, OTCs are not a cure-all.
Fortunately, homeopathic medicines can be game-changers for allergy sufferers. Here, experts break down exactly what homeopathic medicines are—and how you can find the right one to help relieve your symptoms.
What Are Allergies?
First, it’s important to understand that there are three different types of common allergies, explains Ronald Dushkin, M.D., owner of Manhattan’s Alternative and Homeopathic Medicine and president of the American Institute of Homeopathy.
There are contact allergies (like allergies to poison ivy), there are bug bite reactions (like when you get a mosquito bite), and lastly, there’s what people refer to as “seasonal allergies,” which are triggered by environmental exposure and result in a variety of allergic responses, including runny nose, watery eyes, and coughing, Dushkin says.
Seasonal allergies can actually occur at any time of year, but they’re most often associated with the period between February and early summer because of the increase in tree, grass, and ragweed pollination, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
Read More: 7 Natural Ways To Survive Allergy Season
As pesky as allergy symptoms are, they occur as a result of our own immune system trying to do its job, says Dushkin. “The immune system is an amazing system; it’s there to protect us,” he says. “However, sometimes it misinterprets what’s a threat or it hyper-reacts to a threat.”
Ironically, the body’s protective instinct is what causes it to feel weaker.
“Your body creates antibodies to fight off the allergens and these antibodies produce histamine, which causes allergy symptoms,” says Karen Cooney, C.N., C.H.H.C., a nutritionist for The Vitamin Shoppe. “The immune system starts a chain reaction that prompts some of the body’s cells to release histamine and other chemicals into the bloodstream. The histamine then acts on a person’s eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, or gastrointestinal tract, causing allergy symptoms.”
In addition to the three common types of allergies, Dushkin notes that some people may suffer from symptoms of an acute situation allergy, whereas others may have symptoms that indicate a chronic situation allergy. An acute situation allergy can last anywhere from a few hours to six weeks, while a chronic situation allergy may last longer than one year and becomes much more difficult to self-treat.
“When it comes to chronic situation allergies, something is stuck in the healing mechanism,” says Dushkin. “That’s when you need to seek a health care professional.”
Homeopathic Medicine and Allergies
Homeopathic medications can offer targeted, natural care for most allergy sufferers. Authorized by the 1948 Food and Drug Cosmetic Act, they’re regulated by the FDA, primarily made from plants and minerals, and formulated in a way that isolates the healing aspects of the substance.
Why would someone turn to plant- and mineral-based options over traditional medication? “In conventional medicine, everyone pretty much gets treated the same way, which misses the individualization of the person,” says Dushkin. “Homeopathy recognizes that difference, even when it comes to allergies. The goal with homeopathy is not to fix somebody but to activate their internal healing mechanisms.”
Read More: Is It A Cold Or Allergies? Here’s How To Tell
Often, people look into homeopathy when conventional medicines don’t work, Dushkin says. Others are simply looking for a more natural solution.
Homeopathy is also useful for groups that may not be great candidates for traditional medicine, like children, pregnant women, and those on medications for chronic conditions, Cooney adds. Not to mention, homeopathic medicines are easily accessible and typically affordable.
4 Homeopathic Medicines for Allergy Symptoms
If you’re interested in trying homeopathy, Dushkin recommends paying attention to the primary symptoms you’re experiencing. “Homeopathy gets into the specifics of what the trouble area is, and how to help people respond,” he says.
Not sure where to start? Here are four effective options.
1. Allium Cepa
The powerful properties of allium cepa date back to ancient India. This homeopathic medicine helps relieve watery eyes, runny nose, and wet cough, says Cooney.
Research backs this up. One animal study published in the Journal of Medical Food found that allium cepa showed promising anti-allergic properties. Specifically, it proved to be antihistaminic and anti-inflammatory, in addition to having antioxidant properties.
If you’re looking to target a runny nose, the Boiron Allium Cepa is a great option. For multiple symptoms that include a runny nose, try Hylands Seasonal Allergy Relief, which features allium cepa in addition to other homeopathic ingredients for a wider range of symptoms.
This particular homeopathic ingredient is typically taken to combat sneezing. “If someone says the main symptom is sneezing attacks, that points us to sabadilla,” says Dushkin.
Sabadilla can also be turned to for a runny nose, tickling inside the nose, and itching or dryness in the mouth, says Cooney. Those who experience headaches and difficulty concentrating as the result of allergies may also benefit, according to Kaiser Permanente.
If sneezing fits and sinus relief are major concerns, Allercetain Allergy and Sinus from Source Naturals may be a good fit for you. This homeopathic blend includes sabadilla plus other homeopathic ingredients.
If you’re finding your nasal congestion is really thick (as opposed to watery), Dushkin recommends pulsatilla.
Boiron Pulsatilla is a good option to target symptoms like a stuffy nose. Genexa Allergy Care, meanwhile, uses a blend of homeopathic ingredients—including pulsatilla, allium cepa, euphrasia, and sabadilla—to relieve common allergy symptoms.
For those who experience watery eyes, euphrasia is a great option, says Dushkin. It’s helpful for irritated eyes, runny nose, and for symptoms that are worse in the daytime or in warm conditions, per Kaiser Permanente.
In a trial published in The Journal of Trial And Complementary Medicine, 81 percent of patients experiencing pink eye associated with an allergy, virus, bacteria, or other irritant who were treated with euphrasia eye drops reported recovery.
If irritating eye discharge is your main allergy concern, Boiron Euphrasia may ease symptoms. RhynAllergy Homeopathic Allergy Relief also uses euphrasia, along with sabadilla and other homeopathic ingredients, to relieve common allergy symptoms.