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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Real Studies on Nature's Antihistamines

Mar 31, 2017 01:12PM

Are Nothing to Sneeze At

by Mary Lehman

Millions of people have been there: every tree in town bloomed overnight, their allergies seem to have tripled and they find themselves standing in a store looking for a natural product that might reduce the symptoms. What to try? Actually, the best thing to put at the top of the list might be this: science-based information.

A growing number of people seek complementary and alternative treatments for allergies, and one of the most valuable things they can do is to explore existing research on potential antihistamines in nature.

Of course, not all research is equal. Criteria to look for when reading scientific research include placebo groups to compare results, a specific percentage of improvement found and actual doses of nutrients used in the study. Studies that list unbranded ingredient names and quantities give the consumer information to help shop for those ingredients later.

The sheer prevalence of seasonal allergies as a human health condition hasn’t been lost on lab researchers. Searching Pub Med, a database of published scientific research, for the words “seasonal” and “rhinitis” returns more than 13,000 references. Digging into them turns up quite a few on the effectiveness of natural, non-prescription ingredients.

Promising Natural Help for the Sneezing Season

Vitamin C in doses of 2 grams per day. Vitamin C is so common in lower doses that it’s sometimes taken for granted. It is even in small quantities in many packaged foods. However, a study used higher doses than that found in lemonade or common multivitamins—2 grams (2,000 milligrams) per day. Human volunteers taking this dose had 38 percent less blood histamine than a placebo group did.

EGCG, a phenol in certain teas. In a study published in Allergology International in 2014, human volunteers who drank tea rich in a phenol called EGCG for 11 weeks during the height of pollen season, had less nose blowing and other nasal symptoms than a control group did. The researchers compared one green tea rich in EGCG with another green tea without it. Volunteers recorded the frequency of symptoms, with the EGCG group logging a score of 38 and the placebo group reaching a score of 43 (higher scores indicating more frequent symptoms). EGCG is sometimes listed on green tea labels, and can also be found in supplements.

Quercetin, a plant flavonol. In allergen-stressed cells, quercetin reduced histamine release by over 90 percent, in a study published in 2003 in Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy. These were single cells, not living, breathing human beings, but a 90 percent histamine reduction makes many people sit up and take notice. More human trials are needed on this promising ingredient, which is found in the peels of certain fruits and vegetables, like onion peels and citrus rind. For those with asthma symptoms triggered by histamine, another study found that quercetin relaxed lung spasms related to asthma. It was a small, unstructured study, but asthmatics might want to take note.

Gamibojungikgitang (yes, a real name). According to a study published in the Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences in April 2005, this mix of 10 herbs reduced histamine in trials, but so far it’s only sold in Thailand. Anyone who can put this magazine down and still spell it should win a free, all-expenses-paid vacation there. In the meantime, vitamin C, EGCG and quercetin may be helpful, not to mention being easier to pronounce.

Supplements may not be the only option. People who prefer to find these nutrients at the dinner table instead of in supplements can check food databases, such as the USDA database ( In many cases, though, the quantities of food needed to obtain the doses in these studies may be quite high: for example, 24 oranges for the dose of vitamin C. Oranges also contain quercetin, but it’s found in the peel, not in the juicy pulp. Historically, preserved fruit compote desserts usually included the peel, a practice in generations past that may have supported the health of our ancestors.


Mary Lehman, of The Natural Microscope, has 20 years of experience analyzing published health studies on natural supplements and ingredients. She locates studies with unbiased design that were done on unbranded nutrients, and lives in Wilmington. Connect at [email protected] or





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