For an estimated 30 million or more Americans, allergens can make free breathing a real challenge.
Allergies are a combination of reactions the body has to one or more substance that is usually harmless. They are actually considered an immune response. If the body thinks that a substance is dangerous, it tries to flush it out.
For instance, when a speck of pollen, dust or animal dander comes into contact with specific antigens in the blood (mast cells), it triggers the release of proteins called histamines from specialized cells. An allergic reaction then takes place, including sneezing, watering eyes, a runny nose, an itchy feeling in the throat or mouth, etc. All of this causes fluids to enter the area, which can produce puffiness or swelling.
Perhaps this is all too familiar.
What Are Histamines?
Histamines are proteins that are stored in mast cells or basophils (a type of white blood cell) and are released when the blood encounters something it believes is a threat. They act like hormones or chemical transmitters, signaling the body that a foreign invader is present.
Histamines have several functions in the body, including cell communication, sleep modulation and more.
Antihistamine medications counteract the histamine chemicals that cause allergic reactions. But they also may cause drowsiness and other unwanted side effects.
Related Blog Post: 13 Herbs that Support the Respiratory System, and Why Even Healthy People May Want Them
Did You Know?
Certain drugs, including antibiotics and morphine can trigger the release of histamine, making a person feel itchy.
Mother Nature provided her own helps to combat allergens. There are natural helps for allergies! Many natural ingredients may help support the respiratory and immune systems under attack. Some support free breathing. Others may help reduce unpleasant symptoms associated with irritants and allergens.
1. Stinging nettle has antihistamine and anti-inflammatory effects. It helps reduce congestion, cough, runny nose and sneezing. It may also help with the bronchial tubes. (Not for use during pregnancy.)
2. The antioxidant quercetin may help stabilize mast cells. It has anti-inflammatory properties. Quercetin seems to affect mast cell membranes, blocking them from releasing histamine.
3. The enzyme bromelain breaks down proteins. It also helps reduce swelling of mucous membranes during times of respiratory stress. In 2000, Nutrition Science News reported that bromelain helps to thin nasal secretions and reduce headaches. This enzyme may also have cough-suppressant activity. Further, bromelain may increase the absorption of many antibiotics, thus adding to their effectiveness.
4. Bitter orange fruit contains synephrine, which has decongestant properties and helps open up airways. Synephrine also helps to shrink puffy tissues and supports normal blood pressure levels. Bitter orange fruit also contains flavones that may have anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties.
5. Echinacea is commonly used to boost the immune system. Studies show that this herb reduces inflammation. It may also help remove extraneous matter from cells or tissues after injury or inflammation has occurred.
6. Fenugreek seed may also help with allergens. It promotes mucus production, which help flush allergens from the lungs. It may also help loosen phlegm.
7. Mullein leaf, also affectionately known as Cowboy Toilet Paper, contains polysaccharides, which are mucilaginous (gel-like substance known for their ability to help soothe tissues) and help protect delicate respiratory membranes against irritants.
8. Dandelion root may also support the body under attack by allergens as it helps cleanse the blood and the liver.