If you are one of the estimated 60 million Americans who suffer from allergies and asthma, then you are probably already aware of the misery that allergies and asthma can cause. Itching, sneezing, runny nose, difficulty breathing, etc. are just a few of the symptoms of an allergic reaction. And, as often is the case, the pharmaceutical industry has provided a host of cures that mask the symptoms, do nothing to address the cause, and come with side-effects that are sometimes worse (drowsiness, headache, nausea, etc.) than the allergy symptom itself!
Even though some of the OTC allergy drugs “appear” to be safe and effective, you can’t be too sure. You may remember the problems associated with pain drug Vioxx®. It is quite logical to assume that whenever you are dumping un-natural synthetic chemicals into your body, something bad is going to happen. But you need not go that route. You can address your allergies naturally—and not just the short-term symptoms but at the core of the problem.
And what exactly is the problem? Quite simply, your immune system is malfunctioning and needs to be reprogrammed. What you don’t need is something that ignores the core immune system problem and only addresses the symptoms.
“Supplements containing healthy phytochemicals and botanical extracts have been proven to alleviate symptoms without negative side effects, and balance the immune system so it doesn’t over-react to allergens.”
But don’t despair … integrative medicine has once again demonstrated that nature heals better than synthetic drugs, and that there’s a healthier and more appropriate way to deal with allergies.
Supplements containing healthy phytochemicals and botanical extracts have been proven to alleviate symptoms without negative side effects, and balance the immune system so it doesn’t over-react to allergens. Conversely, pharmaceuticals and most “natural” antihistamines usually contain only inhibitors of histamine release. These may provide rapid relief but do not treat the real cause of long-term allergy problems … which is the immune system’s excessive release of allergy inducing chemicals.
Big Pharma says “Why fix it when you can treat it?”
Let’s face it, allergy medications are big business. And the big drug companies make big profits treating the symptoms of allergies. They have no motivation to come up with something that actually addresses the cause of allergies—the imbalanced immune system function. But there are healthy, natural solutions available to do just that. And once your immune system is functioning properly, allergy symptoms disappear along with the overpriced allergy drugs and Big Pharma’s profits.
What happens when you have an allergic reaction?
Normally your immune system protects your body from harmful substances such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins (or antigens, any substance that causes your immune system to produce antibodies). White blood cells produce an antibody specific to the antigen. This process is called sensitization.
But if you have an allergy, your immune system treats the substance—called an allergen—as a foreign body, and overreacts by producing antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies then cause mast cells to release chemicals and hormones called mediators—such as histamine—into your bloodstream to defend against the allergen invader. Mediators have effects on local tissue and organs, in addition to activating more white blood cell defenders.
When these chemicals are released they can irritate your eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, or gastrointestinal tract as your body tries to rid itself of the invading allergen. Future exposure to that same allergen (such as pollen or mold) will trigger this allergic response again, so that every time you’re exposed to it, you have an “allergy attack.”
The release of histamine and other mediators produces a variety of symptoms which vary according to an individual’s hypersensitivity, including:
- Runny nose
- Watery, itchy eyes
- Swelling of the face and neck
- Itchy skin rashes (atopic dermatitis)
Almost anything can trigger an allergic reaction, provided the body’s immune system feels threatened and antibodies are released. However, botanical extracts have been shown to provide relief to allergy sufferers, safely and naturally, without side effects.
Botanical extracts can control the symptoms and the cause of allergic reactions
When properly harvested and processed, the following botanical extracts provide a synergistic effect to help control the common symptoms and causes of allergies by inhibiting histamine release and, more importantly, correcting immune system dysfunction. Additionally, these botanical extracts do not have unpleasant side-effects like drowsiness or dry mouth associated with pharmaceuticals. In fact, all of these have specific health benefits beyond allergy relief. These botanicals have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, they support the cardiovascular system, enhance sexual health, and support mental health and longevity. The botanicals are:
- Persimmon Leaf Extract
- Apple Extract
- Pine Bark Extract
- Rhus Punjabensis Extract
- Rosemary Extract
Let’s look at each individually and see how together they provide short-term relief of symptoms and long-term allergy control by supporting healthy immune function.
Persimmon leaf extract stops the itching associated with atopic dermatitis
Persimmon has been cultivated in Japan for at least 1,000 years, where it is considered the national fruit. So it only seems natural that Japanese researchers discovered that the main flavonoid in persimmon—astragalin—inhibits the release of histamine in mice suffering from atopic dermatitis. When the mice were given persimmon extract, they exhibited fewer behavioral symptoms, such as scratching and biting their skin. There was also a reduction of serum IgE, the antibodies produced in response to an allergen. Additionally, tissue samples showed there was less inflammation and thickening of the skin.17
A second study performed by the same team found that the severity of the dermatitis was reduced dramatically in mice that were given the extract for four weeks. The preventive effect of persimmon leaf extract on the dermatitis was dose-dependent and continuous intake of persimmon leaf extract significantly decreased its onset and development. The scientists concluded that persimmon leaf extract may be an alternative remedy for managing atopic dermatitis.
Hesperidin can stop the sneezing from hay fever
Hesperidin is the predominant flavonoid in lemons and oranges. Sweet oranges and tangelos are the richest dietary source of hesperidin, which is purported to relieve allergy and hay fever symptoms. Hesperidin is also found in rosemary leaves.324
Apple extract regulates allergic reactions
It’s no wonder that apples were the chosen fruit in the Garden of Eden. They have numerous health benefits, and just recently researchers found that drinking apple juice supports brain health.
Apple extract also reduces allergy symptoms. Apples contain many kinds of polyphenols, and the main components are oligomeric procyanidins. Apple polyphenol extract, produced from unripe apples, has been shown to be especially beneficial in helping regulate allergic reactions. In double-blind clinical trials apple polyphenol extract ameliorated symptoms in children with atopic dermatitis, and also produced positive results in tests using allergic laboratory animals.4
Pine bark extract quells inflammation and asthma symptoms
Pine bark extract contains a unique combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids, and organic acids. Pine extracts and teas were commonly used by early Europeans and Native Americans. Today, pine bark extract is considered a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and is revered for its numerous health benefits, including relief from inflammatory skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.567
Pine bark also inhibits the release of histamine from mast cells8, and may prove to be a key player in the relief of asthma symptoms.
Four to five million children under the age of 18 suffer from asthma in the United States. A clinical trial at the School of Medicine, Loma Linda University, found that children and teens suffering from mild to moderate asthma had improved pulmonary functions after taking pine bark for just one month.
The effectiveness of pine bark was based on four factors: the ability to breathe, the severity of asthma symptoms, frequency of rescue inhaler use, and the amount of inflammatory molecules in the child’s body. The study showed that breathing improved after only one month of using the supplement, and that it continued to improve with further use.
The double blind and placebo-controlled study found the children who took pine bark were able to reduce their need for rescue inhaler use and in some cases stop inhaler use altogether more often than the placebo group.9 Previous studies have shown pine bark to be effective in decreasing asthma symptoms among adults, without any adverse effects.1011
Fisetin works to balance immune function
Here’s how this rare plant that grows only in Southeast Asia works to control your allergies long term. Rhus punjabensis extract is a source of anti-allergic flavonoids, including the flavonoid fisetin. While fairly common in small amounts in a variety of fruits and vegetables, fisetin can be found in abundance in the Rhus punjabenisis plant. Studies have shown that fisetin and other flavonoids suppress the release of chemicals that cause you to have an allergic reaction! Studies have shown that fisetin suppresses excess levels of the inflammatory cytokines interleukin-4 and interleukin-1312, and interleukin-513, which play a major role in allergic diseases.
Rosemary extract aids breathing
Research studies show that rosemary contains more than two dozen antioxidants that may prevent some of the most dreaded diseases of the 20th century. Several new studies have indicated that rosmarinic acid—an antioxidant found in rosemary—is antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory. Another recent study also showed that rosmarinic acid exerts a calming effect on the mind while supporting short and long-term memory.
Rosmarinic acid has also been shown to prevent inflammation of air passages, leading researchers to suggest that it might be helpful to asthmatic patients.14
Luteolin is the secret active ingredient in Chinese herbal asthma medicines
Luteolin is a flavonoid found in parsley, thyme, artichoke, basil, celery, and rosemary. It inhibits oxidative damage to cellular DNA, and suppresses excess levels of inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-6 and interleukin 1B, which play a major role in allergic diseases.
Luteolin is commonly found in Chinese herbal asthma medicines. A study at the College of Medicine, Taipei Medical University, Taiwan, found that luteolin inhibited the release of histamine in laboratory animals, and relaxed the animals’ tracheas.15
Over-the-counter and prescription allergy medicines explained:
Although over-the-counter drugs take the edge off, their effects are temporary and they offer no health benefits. Plus, as with any un-natural chemical you put into your body, you can never know what unintended effects will occur later. Putting a drug into your body is like throwing a random piece of hardware into the finely tuned workings of a complicated machine … chances are, it will cause some kind of problem even if we don’t know what yet.
Antihistamines block the effects of histamine once it has been released. Depending on the drug, side effects can include dry nose, mouth, and throat, nausea and drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, insomnia, tremors, and irritability. It’s important to note that a chronically dry mouth can increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Corticosteroids (cortisone-like medicines) are used to provide relief for inflamed areas of the body. They lessen swelling, redness, itching, and allergic reactions. They are often used as part of the treatment for a number of different diseases, such as severe allergies or skin problems, asthma, or arthritis, and can be delivered topically for skin rashes, systemically for severe allergic rhinitis (hay fever), or inhaled for asthma. Corticosteroids are very strong medicines and should only be used for a very short time, as a last resort. They almost always produce side effects, many of which can be very serious.
Decongestants produce a narrowing of blood vessels, which helps clear nasal congestion. Ironically, many decongestants can cause a rebound effect that actually promotes histamine release, leading the patient to feel even more congested than before. This drug can cause an increase in blood pressure—especially signficant for those with hypertension.
Immunotherapy involves getting a series of injections that are meant to desensitize you to specific allergens such as ragweed and pollen. It works but, obviously, only on those particular allergens you get the treatment for. Also, you should know, it is generally expensive and time consuming.
Although conventional drugs are effective for many hay fever and allergy sufferers, one never knows how those drugs will interact with your body over time. The law of unintended effects will eventually rear its ugly head.
Conversely, the botanical extracts here offer a safe and effective way of alleviating symptoms, while avoiding the unknown risks of drugs. And for asthmatics who must rely on inhalers, Rhus punjabensis, luteolin, pine bark extract, and rosemary extract all offer an opportunity to decrease use of corticosteroids, and/or complement their use.
Let’s face it, allergies make you miserable. This time around, instead of relying on pharmaceuticals that provide temporary relief and add different symptoms to the mix, why not try these proven extracts? They have impressive studies to back them up, and because atopic dermatitis, asthma and hay fever all result from an excess of inflammatory mediators, you can take any or all of them to relieve your hay fever, dermatitis and/or asthma.
- Kotani M, Matsumoto M, Fujita A, Higa S, Wang W, Suemura M, Kishimoto T, Tanaka T. Persimmon leaf extract and astragalin inhibit development of dermatitis and IgE elevation in NC/Nga mice. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2000 Jul;106(1 Pt 1):159-66.
- Matsumoto M, Kotani M, Fujita A, Higa S, Kishimoto T, Suemura M, Tanaka T. Oral administration of persimmon leaf extract ameliorates skin symptoms and transepidermal water loss in atopic dermatitis model mice, NC/Nga. Br J Dermatol. 2002 Feb;146(2):221-7.
- Okamura N, Haraguchi H, Hashimoto K, Yagi A. Flavonoids in Rosmarinus officinalis leaves. Phytochemistry. 1994 Nov;37(5):1463-6.
- Akazome Y. Characteristics and physiological functions of polyphenols from apples. Biofactors. 2004;22(1-4):311-4.
- Rihn B, Saliou C, Bottin MC, Keith G, Packer L. From ancient remedies to modern therapeutics: pine bark uses in skin disorders revisited. Phytother Res. 2001 Feb;15(1):76-8.
- Bito T, Roy S, Sen CK, Packer L. Pine bark extract pycnogenol downregulates IFN-gamma-induced adhesion of T cells to human keratinocytes by inhibiting inducible ICAM-1 expression. Free Radic Biol Med. 2000 Jan 15;28(2):219-27.
- Saliou C, Rimbach G, Moini H, McLaughlin L, Hosseini S, Lee J, Watson RR, Packer L. Solar ultraviolet-induced erythema in human skin and nuclear factor-kappa-B-dependent gene expression in keratinocytes are modulated by a French maritime pine bark extract. Free Radic Biol Med. 2001 Jan 15;30(2):154-60.
- Sharma SC, Sharma S, Gulati OP. Pycnogenol inhibits the release of histamine from mast cells. Phytother Res. 2003 Jan;17(1):66-9.
- Lau BH, Riesen SK, Truong KP, Lau EW, Rohdewald P, Barreta RA. Pycnogenol as an adjunct in the management of childhood asthma.
J Asthma. 2004;41(8):825-32.
- Hosseini S, Pishnamazi S, Sadrzadeh SM, Farid F, Farid R, Watson RR. Pycnogenol ((R)) in the Management of Asthma. J Med Food. 2001 Winter;4(4):201-209.
- Rohdewald P. A review of the French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol), a herbal medication with a diverse clinical pharmacology.
Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Apr;40(4):158-68. Review.
- Hirano T, Higa S, Arimitsu J, Naka T, Shima Y, Ohshima S, Fujimoto M, Yamadori T, Kawase I, Tanaka T. Flavonoids such as luteolin, fisetin and apigenin are inhibitors of interleukin-4 and interleukin-13 production by activated human basophils. Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2004 Jun;134(2):135-40. Epub 2004 May 17.
- Higa S, Hirano T, Kotani M, Matsumoto M, Fujita A, Suemura M, Kawase I, Tanaka T. Fisetin, a flavonol, inhibits TH2-type cytokine production by activated human basophils. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2003 Jun;111(6):1299-306.
- Inoue K, Takano H, Shiga A, Fujita Y, Makino H, Yanagisawa R, Ichinose T, Kato Y, Yamada T, Yoshikawa T. Effects of volatile constituents of a rosemary extract on allergic airway inflammation related to house dust mite allergen in mice. Int J Mol Med. 2005 Aug;16(2):315-9.
- Ko WC, Shih CM, Leu IJ, Chen TT, Chang JP. Mechanisms of relaxant action of luteolin in isolated guinea pig trachea. Planta Med. 2005 May;71(5):406-11.
- Das M, Ram A, Ghosh B. Luteolin alleviates bronchoconstriction and airway hyperreactivity in ovalbumin sensitized mice. Inflamm Res. 2003 Mar;52(3):101-6.
- Makino T, Furuta A, Fujii H, Nakagawa T, Wakushima H, Saito K, Kano Y. Effect of oral treatment of Perilla frutescens and its constituents on type-I allergy in mice. Biol Pharm Bull. 2001 Oct;24(10):1206-9.