Spring is in the air, and the flowers are in bloom.
Unfortunately, these blooming flowers can also mean an increase in the pollen count, causing suffering for people with allergies.1 Spring can often bring an increase in the amount of outdoor mold and dust in the air, as well as rainy weather, all of which can also exacerbate allergies.2
It is not unusual for doctors to see an increase in patients suffering from various types of sinus issues as a result of pollen allergies.2 Furthermore, by the time such patients make it to the your office waiting room, they can be frustrated at being unable to find relief from allergy-induced sinus issues.
Do standard treatments work?
While there are a number of over-the-counter or prescription remedies that patients can try, they may find that such remedies may not only be ineffective, but also make them drowsy, interfering with daily activities such as driving or working. The US Food and Drug Administration has issued a consumer warning about the possible dangers of driving while taking allergy medicines such as antihistamines.3 Standard prescription treatments, such as antibiotics, can also become ineffective over time as bacterial strains become more and more resistant.4
The case for natural remedies
Natural relief has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including osteoarthritis pain, bleeding, gingivitis, and wound healing.5 In the case of allergic sinus conditions, there is some interesting preliminary work that may show it to be effective in treating symptoms of rhinosinusitis as a result of allergic reaction.6,7 The bioactive ingredients in stinging nettle include histamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine, which may contribute to its effectiveness.6
A study published in the journal Planta Medica compared the effect of stinging nettle versus placebo in treating 69 patients for allergic rhinitis.7 The study ran from May to July, considered to be peak outdoor allergen months.
All patients were provided with a diary in which to record symptom changes and instructed to take either the stinging nettle extract or placebo at the onset of symptoms.7 They recorded their treatment response within an hour after taking the medication, using the following scale:
- Dramatic improvement: complete or near complete cessation of symptoms
- Moderate improvement: noticeable but not complete improvement of symptoms
- No change: no change in symptoms since the last dose of medicine
- Worse: symptoms have worsened since the last dose of medicine
All patients in the study reported large improvements, 58 percent of patients taking stinging nettle reported complete abatement of symptoms, and 48 percent reported an equal or increased positive response to stinging nettle compared to previous medications they had taken.7 Furthermore, reported side effects were minor and did not include drowsiness.
While some people may find the fragrance of spring to be welcoming, allergy sufferers may feel otherwise. Fortunately, natural remedies may help them be able to enjoy the change of season without suffering from sinus symptoms or feeling drowsy.
- Pollen.com. Accessed 3/9/2016.
- Spring allergies start strong, last long. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Accessed 3/9/2016.
- Allergy meds could affect your driving. US Food and Drug Administration. Accessed 3/9/2016.
- Allergies tied to antibiotic resistance. Medpage Today. Accessed 3/9/2016.
- Stinging nettle. Accessed 3/9/2016.
- Helms S, Miller AL. 2006. Natural treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis. Alternative Medicine Review, 11(3), 196-207.
- Mittman P. 1990. Randomized, double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica dioica in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Planta Medica, 56, 44-47.