I Tried 4 Natural Allergy Treatments—Here’s What Worked
Like America’s favorite groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, I can tell if and when spring has sprung—not because I jump out of my hole ready to take on the new season, but come March, the fresh dusting of pollen has usually confined me to bed.
My seasonal allergies are so dramatic that I could probably be sponsored by Flonase. Sneezing? Check. Watery eyes? Check. Itchy throat? Oh yeah. But my least favorite side effects are my too-puffy face, and the general “I just got hit by a truck feeling” that seems to linger from March until May.
I’ve tried over-the-counter medication and it helps...for a little while. My doctor has prescribed a series of allergy shots, but the idea of sitting on crinkly paper in a sterile office getting shot up continuously for hours sounds absolutely miserable.
So, I went out in search of a better way to deal.
The Internet has plenty of “natural remedies” and Pinterest “hacks” for allergies, and that (obviously) piqued my interest. As Cooking Light’s resident guinea pig, I thought, “Why the heck not? I’ll go off my allergy meds for a few weeks and see what works! What could go wrong?”
I crowdsourced on Facebook, consulted with coworkers, and scoured the Internet for the most widely touted natural allergy remedies. And then, I tried them all. Here’s what worked—and what was just not worth it.
When I was a kid, my mom used to make me eat raw, local honeycomb in an attempt to stave off my seasonal allergies. The thought of inadvertently eating a dead bee scared me—and I haven’t eaten raw honeycomb since. I wondered if a more gentle approach would be to pick up a jar of local honey, and mix it with herbal tea in the morning.
Verdict: I tried this for several days, and it did absolutely nothing to help with my congestion, general puffiness, or watery eyes. However, it did help the nagging tickle in the back of my throat.
Unfortunately there’s no scientific proof that local honey helps to prevent or lessen allergies. However, honey has plenty of other natural health benefits, as well as antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that may help with the side effects of seasonal allergies (like that annoying itchy throat).
So many people swear by essential oils for their allergies, so I really wanted to try this treatment: The Internet-approved trifecta of allergy-busting oils is a combination of lavender, peppermint, and lemon.
The Internet told me to make two treatments, so I did. I made a diffuser blend—equal parts of the four oils—and a massage oil, using sweet almond oil as my carrier oil, plus a few drops of each essential oil.
(Note: You should never put essential oils like lemon or peppermint directly on your skin, since it can cause irritation. Always use a carrier oil to dilute them.)
Every night, I poured some water and around 10 drops of the oil blend into the diffuser next to my bed. In the morning, I’d wake up and massage the salve on my face—but more on that later.
Verdict: The diffuser blend smelled really good and may have helped me get to sleep quicker (always a good thing!), but I didn’t notice any reduced allergies symptoms.
One of my Facebook confidantes swears by facial massages for her seasonal allergies, so I wanted to try it.
Every morning, I did my best to do a sinus-draining facial massage using a little bit of the essential oil mix I’d made. I’m no massage therapist, so I turned to Youtube to try and get the technique right (I referenced this video because it was short enough to do first thing in the morning before work).
Verdict: After massaging my face and neck with the oils, I felt super relaxed, my skin glowed, and I smelled like I’d just been to a luxurious spa. More importantly, I noticed almost-immediate sinus pressure relief and less allergy-related puffiness in my face. 10/10, I would do this again.
The Neti Pot is a little teapot-esque contraption you can buy at your local drugstore without a prescription. You’re supposed to fill the tiny teapot with a saline (read: salt water) solution, brace yourself over a sink, and tip the teapot spout into your nose. The premise? It’s supposed to help thin mucus and flush it out of your nasal passages, alleviating any congestion associated with allergies or sinus infections.
Full disclosure: I have used a Neti Pot before and hated the sensation, so I wasn't excited at all for this experiment. I tried to be unbiased as I filled up the teapot, but I had a brief flashback to the last time I’d used a Neti Pot.
I’ll set the scene: I was 7 or 8, and my mom was gently forcing a Neti Pot near my nostrils (she was just trying to help, but it probably looked like she was baptizing a cat).
It didn’t go well for anyone involved. The liquid went half in my nose, and half down my throat. I remember furiously coughing up salt water and trying not to vomit into the kitchen sink.
Pushing the memory aside, I shuddered and tipped the teapot into my nose. I proceeded slowly and gently, making sure to let my sinuses fully “irrigate." Gross, I know.
Verdict: It's totally personal, but I still hate the sensation of a Neti Pot. As a SCUBA diver, I associate it with swallowing a mouthful of salt water (which is not a good thing when diving, or really any other time). That being said, after using the Neti Pot, I did feel noticeably less stuffed up all day—but I’d rather be stuffy than use that thing ever again.