If you think seasonal allergies are just a spring thing, think again. For many of us, sniffles and runny noses can flare up all year long, beginning in spring as trees release their pollen, followed by summer and fall as grasses and weeds release theirs.
Ragweed, the most common fall allergy culprit (75 percent of people allergic to springtime pollen are also allergic to this plant) releases its pollen starting in August and can continue to trigger symptoms until the first frost. Decomposing leaves can also spark mold allergies this time of year, as can indoor allergens like mold, mites, and pet dander.
Ready for relief? We asked three experts to share their recommendations for making this autumn more “Woohoo!” and less “Achoo!”
Herbs to ease fall allergies
Certain plants can keep symptoms at bay; others relieve sniffles and runny nose if they start.
Holy basil/tulsi: This member of the mint family is an adaptogen—an herb that can help the body adapt to stressors like ragweed and mold, while also supporting the immune and respiratory systems. Steep 1-2 teaspoons of loose dry holy basil leaves in 5 ounces of hot water for 7–10 minutes. Drink up to 3 cups daily if allergy symptoms are acute; a cup a day can provide support during allergy season.
Eleuthero: Commonly known as Siberian ginseng, this adaptogen strengthens the immune function, making common allergy-triggered infections like sinusitis less common. Take the slightly bitter herb as a tincture. Add 60 drops (about half a teaspoon) to a glass of water 3 times a day for 6 weeks.
Licorice root: With antiviral and antimicrobial properties a plenty, licorice root is often found in herbal gargles and lozenges. Add 10 drops of tincture to 10 ounces of water and gargle 2–3 times daily to soothe scratchy throats.
Elderberry: This cold-season go-to-herb is packed with antioxidants that help relieve respiratory symptoms. Find it as a syrup, throat lozenge, or gummy supplement. Or make tea from dried elderberry fruit: Steep 2 teaspoons of dried herb in 8 ounces of water for 10 minutes. Drink hot three times a day.
—Charlene Marie Muhammad, CNS, LD, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT, owner of The Urban Herbalist
Switch up your nutrition
Some foods can diminish allergy symptoms by naturally reducing histamine, a chemical released when the immune system detects allergens. Histamine-rich eats, on the other hand, increase inflammation.
Eat more: apples, red onions, grapes, broccoli, fresh fish, beans, and gluten-free grains including corn, rice, quinoa, and gluten-free oats.
Limit: alcohol and other fermented foods and beverages; vinegar and vinegary foods (pickles, olives, mustard); cured, dried, smoked, or slow-cooked meats and fish; aged cheeses; nuts; dried fruit; citrus fruit; avocado; mushrooms; eggplant; spinach; dried tomatoes and tomato sauce; and bone broth.
If you’re allergic to ragweed, these foods may also cause symptoms: bananas; melon; cucumber; white potato; zucchini; sunflower seeds.
—Sonya Angelone, MS, RDN, a nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Lifestyle changes to help with fall allergies
Live your best life by reducing indoor allergens (dust mites, pet dander) with these easy tips:
- Close windows to lock out pollen and mold particles out. Love a cool breeze? Use an oscillating fan or ceiling fan instead. (Dust it first.)
- Shower before bed so airborne allergens aren’t deposited on your pillow at night.
- Run a HEPA purifier to cleanse the air of pollen, mold, dander, and other allergy inducers. Choose one with a clear-air delivery rate (CADR) of at least 300 cubic feet per minute.
- Take anti-inflammatory nasal spray in August and continue daily use until the first hard frost to allow the meds to take full effect so they can better keep symptoms in check. Pop fast-acting oral antihistamines when you need them. But take the advice of your doctor about dosage and the length of time you can safely use these sprays.
—Sakina S. Bajowala, MD, a board-certified allergist and immunologist in North Aurora, Illinois.
See also: Ayurvedic Solutions to Your Allergies