By Dr. Nick Friedman, ND, DC

What do runny eyes and nose, sneezing, sinus inflammation, and congestion have in common with over 40 million people? They are often debilitating symptoms, referred to as allergic rhinitis, that are a frequent fact of life for a large population of allergy sufferers.

Allergens abound in our environment, both indoors and outdoors. Everything from pollen, mold, animals and dust to industrial smoke or pollution can trigger an allergic response in sensitive individuals. Many people turn to over the counter or prescription remedies in their search for relief and find their allergic symptoms replaced by medication side-effects such as sleepiness, dizziness or agitation.

Recently, new research and clinical trials are shedding light on alternative compounds that can relieve symptoms without troublesome or risky side effects. Not only can these alternatives provide significant symptomatic relief, they also support and nourish the body and its defense system.

Quercetin is a flavonoid that is found in a wide variety of vegetables and herbs such as tea, broccoli, red apples and onions. It actually inhibits the production of enzymes (histamines) in the body that can cause allergic reactions. Studies show that the efficacy of quercetin is boosted when combined with Vitamin C. This vitamin is already famous as an antioxidant and continued studies show it has an ability to prevent the secretion of histamine by the white blood cells while increasing the detoxification of histamines circulating in the bloodstream.

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a natural amino acid derivative, with a well-documented ability to break down mucous and precipitate sinus drainage.

Fresh nettle leaf is a well-known traditional remedy for allergic reactions. In a recent double-blind study using freeze-dried fresh nettle leaf, researchers found that the herb relieved allergy symptoms in over half of the participating patients. Freeze-dried nettle leaf acts like a sponge to absorb the histamine activity, and helps to decrease allergy symptoms.

Good health depends on a healthy and viable immune system. The liver is a critical component in the proper functioning of the immune system. When addressing general health issues, most natural health care practitioners first assess liver function.

The liver is responsible for producing most of the lymph in the body and for breaking down a wide array of toxins and waste products. If the liver is not able to effectively remove these toxins from the body, one of the next avenues of waste removal is the lungs and sinuses.

There are several traditional herbs that have a long history of safe and effective use, providing nutritional support to the liver, thus helping to improve liver function and elimination. These herbs include: organic milk thistle, burdock root and dandelion root.

For allergy sufferers, an important key to consider in the search for relief is that of overall health. Typically, a healthier body has a stronger immune system to protect it and also generates a more favorable response to remedies that work to nurture health rather than mask symptoms.

Note: Dr. Nicholas Friedman has a family practice in Kirkland, Washington, where he focuses on stress-related illnesses and adrenal exhaustion that affect many people in today’s society. For the past 10 years, Dr. Friedman has acted as a consultant for Oregon’s Wild Harvest, providing expertise in product development and public education.