Top ten hayfever remedies
A 1995 study of pollen- sensitive patients found that they did not respond to honey with traces of pollen in it. This could suggest that honey desensitises the body to the pollen, so that it no longer causes a reaction. This in turn reduces hay fever symptoms.
There is a single clinical study hinting that dried nettle extract pills can relieve hay fever, but it was conducted nearly 20 years ago and there are no more recent trials, nor clear guidance on how much to take. There is research that shows it might have an effect on the body's defence mechanisms. A number of experiments on human subjects and in the test tube showed that nettle can reduce the production of some of the chemicals involved in an allergic response, including prostaglandins. This does not mean that it will soothe hay fever, merely that it might be worthy of further investigation
A two-year study, completed in 2005, suggests that self-hypnosis may help hay fever. The patients received between two and five sessions on self-hypnosis and recorded their symptoms as they practised the techniques over two hay fever seasons. In year one the study group showed a significant improvement over the control group, who were not taught hypnosis. In year two, this group were also given hypnosis training and showed the same benefits as the first group.
AVOID THE POLLEN
To stop pollen getting up your nose, a single clinical trial indicated that spreading a blocking cream inside the nostrils, such as Vaseline, can reduce the symptoms. And don't forget to wash the dog after it comes in from rolling around in the grass.
This hot chemical from chillies does seem to ease hay fever. Normally applied as a spray under medical supervision, patients taking it report a rapid and long-lasting relief. Capsaicin taps into a particular cell-signalling system in the human body. There is a considerable amount of research into its many effects and it appears to have the potential to treat a number of conditions, including hay fever. Be warned though; the nasal membranes are very sensitive and snorting ground chilli could be extremely painful and might even cause blistering.
Also known as Petasites hybridus, extracts of butterbur plants are found in a number of herbal hay fever remedies. And there is some evidencea to suggest that it is effective. A review, published last year, examined six clinical trials of butterbur and found encouraging evidence. As always, more research is required, particularly as half the studies had been sponsored by the makers of a particular brand of butterbur extract. All herbal remedies should be taken with care and make sure that you tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking any other medicines
Acupuncture is often offered as hay fever relief but the evidence on whether it works is not clear-cut. A 2006 review concluded, tentatively, that it can have a positive effect. What's more, the researchers found that it might be more effective when combined with traditional Chinese medicine. However, as this uses a large number of plants and herbs, discovering which ones are effective will take a lot of research that has yet to be done. You can have acupuncture both before and during the season.
There is a suggestion that the chemical quercetin, found in many foods, can help to ward off hay fever. Onions contain a particularly high concentration of the chemical. There is no evidence that eating lots of onions is harmful.
A common method of easing hay fever is to desensitise the sufferer with regular vaccinations of pollen about eight weeks before the season starts. A newer technique is sublingual immunotherapy (Slit), in which drops are placed under the tongue. The membranes in the mouth allow the active ingredients to penetrate, preparing the body for the pollen onslaught. It is not yet widely available.