How to Tame Allergies Without Drugs

Eight methods for attacking the culprits.

  1. Make some changes at home: Put dust mite–resistant pillowcase covers over your nighttime pillows. And if you have a dog or cat, give it a place to sleep other than your bedroom. Both actions will cut back on the number of microscopic bugs you're exposed to when you sleep. In addition, every time you come into your house, leave your shoes in the entryway to prevent tracking in allergens.
  2. Fill up on leafy greens: Spinach, kale, collards… veggies like these are rich in nutrients called carotenoids, which may ease nasal allergy symptoms, according to research. Aim for, well, as much as you can. It's nearly impossible to go overboard with veggies.
  3. But be cautious with some fruits, veggies, and seeds: Melons, bananas, zucchini, cucumbers, and sunflower seeds all contain proteins similar to those in ragweed, so they can actually ignite a reaction—scratchy throat and itchy mouth—during the fall allergy season, according to allergist Richard Weber, M.D., a professor of medicine at National Jewish Health in Denver. You can go back to eating them safely once ragweed time has passed.
  4. Sip tea with honey: Hot tea thins mucus, which eases nasal congestion. The honey acts as a cough suppressant and has been reported to lessen allergy symptoms overall. Plus, local honey contains traces of flower pollen, an allergen. "So it may work like an allergy shot by building your immunity," says Maya Jerath, M.D., director of the University of North Carolina Allergy and Immunology Clinic.
  5. Try butterbur: This herb is as effective at fighting allergy symptoms as the prescription Zyrtec, a study found. It blocks inflammatory chemicals that your body releases, says David Rakel, M.D. Study participants took 8 mg of petasin, an active ingredient in butterbur, four times a day. You can find the capsules at most health food stores.
  6. Chill more: "Stress raises cortisol levels, which make any allergic reaction worse," explains Michael Foggs, M.D., president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. In fact, studies show that people's allergic response doubles when they're feeling frazzled. On the upside, studies also show that people who regularly use relaxation techniques have lower levels of a chemical called IgE that your body releases right before an allergy attack—try meditation or yoga.
  7. Go for acupuncture: Acupuncture treatment (just 12 sessions over eight weeks) is associated with fewer symptoms, research shows. "We suspect acupuncture lowers stress hormones, which impacts allergic reactions," explains Tasneem Bahatia, M.D., a board-certified physician.
  8. Get vitamin D: This vitamin helps keep your immune system strong, so it makes sense that some studies have found a link between low D levels and increased risk of allergies. You need 1,000 IU per day, either by spending 15 minutes outside without sunscreen or from eating fish such as salmon and tuna. You may also need a supplement. See your doctor to get tested.

This story originally appeared in the August/September 2014 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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