Herbal Relief

Alternative medicine for your allergy arsenal

With springtime upon us, are you breaking out your allergy arsenal? Does it include alternative allergy treatments? If so, you are part of the 36-percent of adults that have used some form of alternative medicine in the past 12-months. Despite this turn to unconventional allergy therapies, we’re not completely abandoning our doctors. Instead, many are using alternative products in combination with prescriptions and standard over-the-counter remedies.

The herbal supplements we’re turning to range from foods - such as honey (which is believed to improve the immune system), to chiropractors, acupuncturists and traditional Chinese medicine (also called TCM). However, even while we make more use of alternative and natural remedies, we don’t really know if they’re safe or effective.

The good news is that some researchers are taking notice and exploring non-conventional remedies further. One promising study conducted by a Swiss allergy clinic and another by a U.S. naturopathic physician show that herbs might be truly helpful to allergy sufferers. Beneficial herbs include butterbur and nettle leaves, as well as some herbal blends, which give allergy sufferers some additional options to treat their stuffy symptoms.

Until now science has been slow to look to and acknowledge the benefits of alternative medicine to treat allergies. Recently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has opened a research office on alternative medicine with $2 million funded by Congress. Scientists doing new and novel research on alternative remedies are already getting research grants from the NIH. This should help fill the void in research, and finally provide allergy sufferers with treatments that really work.

One such scientist is Xiu-min Li, a doctor of both Western and Chinese medicine who is studying the effect of a combination of three Chinese herbs on asthmatics. It’s possible the formula could be used widely in treating common allergies as well. With funding from NIH, she has derived the three-herb combination of ling zhi, ku shen and gan cao from a more complex formula typically used in China.

In the meantime, keep in mind that small changes to your daily life can help control your allergies. Some doctors suggest the use of nasal saline washes, which moisturize the nasal surfaces and remove irritants that cause the allergic reaction.

A final tip: close windows and put on the air conditioning during the allergy season. It should help to keep pollen out of your home.

March 23, 2006
Newsfactor Magazine Online

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