Natural herbs & compounds to combat histamine
Nature has a wonderful way of balancing systems – and that includes producing herbs and natural compounds that help manage the immune
system’s overreaction to pollen, especially the effect of histamine.
What is histamine?
Our allergic response to pollen is driven by the release of histamine. Histamine acts like a guard dog, hustling allergens out
of our body or off our skin. When we are exposed to an allergen our body releases histamine which signals the membranes in the
nose and eyes to make more mucus, so our noses run and we sneeze. Histamine is an important part of our immune response to
allergens but too much can affect our quality of life.
Is there such a thing as natural antihistamines?
Not in the same sense as an over the counter antihistamine you might buy from the chemist. But for sure there are specific herbs and compounds produced in nature that not only have been used traditionally to manage allergy symptoms, they also have been the subject of scientific studies.
Here's our list of the most researched ‘natural antihistamines’.
Several studies link Vitamin C with breaking down histamines faster once they’ve been released into the body. The studies report this natural antihistamine effect occurs with mega doses – around 2000mg daily.
You’d have to eat huge amounts of Vitamin C-rich foods to absorb 2000mg daily, which is where a high strength dietary supplement comes in.
Bear in mind that if you’re considering taking Vitamin C in this amount, that high level may affect your digestive system (think loose bowel motions!).
Food sources of vitamin c include, capsicum, spinach, kale, kiwifruit, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli and stone fruits.
Shop Vitamin C here.
Nettle (Urtica dioca)
Nature is full of surprises and the stinging nettle is one of them! Nettle has traditionally been used to help manage symptoms of hay fever and is a common herb in natural medicine. In one study, 58% of participants reported their symptoms relieved with the use of freeze-dried nettles.
While nettle can be taken as a tea, it’s more potent form can be found in dietary supplements. In the study mentioned, the dosage was 300mg per day.
Quercetin (a flavonoid in fruits, vegetables and grains)
Quercetin is a naturally occurring flavonoid found in many fruits, vegetables and grains. Its potential benefit for allergies is mainly due to its ability to stabilise mast cells and basophils.
Like Vitamin C, you would need to eat huge amounts of quercetin rich foods to absorb the 500-1000mg of quercetin recommended as the daily dose by many dietary supplements. Its bioavailability is relatively low, which means only a small amount gets absorbed into the bloodstream.
To enhance absorption, some quercetin supplements contain bromelain (an enzyme found in pineapples), which is itself a popular natural remedy for nasal congestion.
Bromelain (an enzyme in pineapples)
Bromelain is traditionally used for swelling or inflammation, especially nasal congestion. It’s a group of enzymes found in pineapples, with the highest concentrations in the stem and core – not the tasty bits!
That’s why you’ll find bromelain easiest to source as a dietary supplement with most dosages at around 200mg per serving.
If you have a pineapple allergy, bromelain is not for you.
Baical skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis)
Popular in Chinese traditional medicine as a herb that modulates the immune response, scientific studies show that baical skullcap may stabilise mast cells that produce histamine. Baicalin, a major flavonoid from baical skullcap, is believed to inhibit histamine release from cells and, teamed with another component called wogonin, has shown potential in reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Butterbur (Petastites hybridus)
Several studies suggest that butterbur extracts can be as effective as antihistamines in managing allergic rhinitis. One study published in
the British Medical Journal compared butterbur extract to cetirizine, a common antihistamine, and found both to be similarly effective in
managing hay fever symptoms.
If you are looking into butterbur supplements, it is essential to check that they don’t contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids. These alkaloids are potentially harmful for your liver.
Black cumin seed oil (Nigella sativa)
The oil contains thymoquinone, a compound that may help manage symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion and itching. Some studies indicate that black cumin seed oil extract can restrict the way mast cells work, affecting the release of the inflammatory compounds like histamine that drive allergic reactions.
Healthy gut bacteria makes for a happy human. While research around the effect of specific strains of bacteria on the immune response to allergens is still in early stages, this is an area that’s worth watching (we’re all over it!).
Happy Gut = Happy Human
Disclaimer: This blog post is for educational purposes only. It is not designed to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.