Though fall typically conjures warm feelings of sweaters and comfort food, for those who are sensitive to pollen, dust and mold, this can be a difficult time of year. Although we typically think of the spring as the season of allergies, they can be just as bad in the fall. And this time of year, allergy symptoms—including runny noses, scratchy throats, headaches and congestion—tend to linger for a longer period of time.
One of the main causes of seasonal allergies is pollen, with ragweed pollen peaking at the end of summer, and weed pollens like pigweed, lamb’s quarter and sorrel proliferating in September. For people with a heightened sensitivity to pollen, it’s common to experience sneezing, post-nasal drip, runny rose, excess mucus production, scratchy throat, watery eyes and irritation in the ears.
Another cause of fall allergies is mold, which can be a problem this time of year as the summer’s vegetation begins to decay. Then, as outdoor mold peaks, we unintentionally bring it inside our homes with our shoes, clothes and hair. Black mold can also grow in damp areas of your home, like your shower, crawl space or basement, making your systems even worse. If that wasn’t bad enough, people spend more time indoors as the weather gets colder, thus increasing their exposure to molds, as well as dust mites and pet dander.
That said, we all know people who can be bombarded with every known allergen in the world, without experiencing so much as a nose twitch. So why do some people suffer from seasonal allergies while others don’t?
Primarily, any time your immune system is compromised or suppressed, you become more susceptible to allergic reactions. Whether you are recovering from a cold, dealing with a stressful project at work or taking certain medications, When your immune system is weakened, it functions improperly, overreacting to harmless substances that it would normally just block out. Then, your body releases histamine in response to the perceived threat, triggering all of the reactions—sneezing, headaches, runny nose, etc.—that are typically associated with allergies.
So if a weakened immune system is an underlying cause of allergic reactions, it makes sense that the key to fighting fall allergies is to boost your immune system. And this is actually a safer and more effective alternative to over-the-counter allergy medications that typically come with a list of adverse side effects, while still failing to address the root of the problem. As an example, both antihistamines and steroid creams or sprays can have depressive effects; cause sleepiness and an inability to think clearly; stimulate your appetite; and cause mood swings.
If you’re looking for a better way to fight your fall allergies, here are some of the best immune-boosting natural remedies available:
1. Elderberry: Elderberry has the ability to calm your immune system and reduce the inflammation that leads to allergy symptoms, and it’s also commonly used to treat colds, influenza and viral infections due to its immune-modulating and antioxidant effects. You can find elderberry in many forms, from tea, to lozenges, to capsules.
2. Stinging Nettle: The leaves of stinging nettle contain histamine, serotonin and acetylcholine. It may seem counterproductive to use an herb containing histamine to treat fall allergies, but research shows that people with the most severe reactions to allergens have low plasma histamine levels. Studies also show that stinging nettle inhibits pro-inflammatory pathways that cause allergy symptoms and can be used to improve allergic rhinitis. You can purchase freeze-dried leaves from your local health food store or drink nettle tea, which is widely available.
3. Probiotics: Several published studies show that probiotics supplements are beneficial in treating allergic rhinitis. This is due to their ability to interact with your immune system by modifying the intestinal flora in your gut. I recommend taking 50 billion IUs of a high quality, soil-based probiotic per day—that’s between 2 and 6 capsules, depending on the product.
4. Raw Local Honey: Studies show that consuming raw, local honey can improve your allergy symptoms naturally. This is because local honey contains strands of the same local pollen that is causing your allergies. After consuming small amounts of the local pollen that’s found in raw honey you become less sensitive to the pollen and your immune system doesn’t overreact to its presence. In fact, eating a tablespoon of local raw honey every day can work just as well as an allergy shot.
5. Peppermint Oil: Peppermint oil is one of the best essential oils for allergies because it has anti-inflammatory effects that help to reduce your immune system’s response to allergens. Peppermint oil can also be used to relieve fall allergy symptoms like sinus pressure, scratchy throat and runny nose, while working as an expectorant to initiate the discharge of phlegm. As a result, it is commonly used to ease asthma and bronchitis.
Peppermint oil is also a known energy booster, which can be really helpful when you’re feeling groggy and experiencing brain fog because of your allergies.
The best and safest way to use peppermint oil for fall allergies is to diffuse about 5 drops at home. You can also add 2 to 4 drops to warm bath water or combine it with a half teaspoon of coconut oil and apply it to your chest, the back of your neck and your temples.