It's Sneezing, Itching Eye and Nasal Congestion Season

By Dr. Chris D. Meletis, N.D.

May 2017

The Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America reports the following staggering statistics when it comes to suffering from allergies is an increasing issue for our modern world.

  1. 50 million people suffer from nasal congestion in the United States.
  2. 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children suffering from allergies.
  3. Allergy diseases, including asthma, is the 5th leading chronic disease in the U.S. of all ages, and ranks third most common chronic disease in children under age 18.
  4. 11.1 million people were diagnosed with allergic rhinitis.

There are many theories as to why the number of people suffering from allergies is increasing. They include over use of cleaning products and disinfectants, and the antibiotic disruption of the microbiome (friendly bacteria community) in our GI tract and mucus membranes.  Another very big but ignored factor is the growing number of farmers planting GMO crops and consumers ingesting them, and other farming practices which are changing the pollen and contaminants released into our environment.

So, what is a person to do?

I encourage my patients to first and foremost to avoid unnecessary exposure to environmental and food allergens.  It comes down to total burden. If tree or grass pollen challenging your immune system, then consuming food allergens is even a greater and often overwhelming burden to an already struggling immune system. Here are some helpful health hacks:

  1. Drive with car windows up and air set on recirculate
  2. Keep house windows closed during allergy season
  3. Stay well hydrated
  4. Rinse your hair and face prior to going to bed, so you don’t take the outdoors to your bed and pillow
  5. Support your body’s natural coping mechanisms

The greater the irritation to the immune system, the harder the body will struggle to cope with “offending agents”. One of the first defense our body has is “expulsion”, in other words, getting rid of the offense.  This can take the form of coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, diarrhea, runny nose, nasal congestion and post-nasal drip. Think of words rhinitis, sinusitis, allergic conjunctivitis, all too familiar words for those of us that suffer the annual arrival of one or more pollens that our immune system just doesn’t like. Irritation and the inflammation are the source of the “-itis” so often during allergy season. 

It is important to remember that mucus found during sinus and nasal secretions serves the purpose of flushing out irritating substances.  Yet, they by its very nature is rich in polysaccharides (sugars) that are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria that reside within our body and that we are exposed to daily.  This is often why allergic symptoms start out with a clear mucus and, over a period of time, if our body does not rid itself of excess mucus, it starts taking on a yellow or green coloration.

Helping Botanicals and Nutrients

We can learn from tried and true health insights and wisdom.  It has long been held that flushing one’s mucus membranes can help get rid of harmful agents.  The use of Cayenne, Ginger, Cinnamon and Horseradish are all herbals that when consumed orally can help support clearing of membranes. Each of these four herbs have reported anti-inflammatory properties, thus helping with those “itis” inflammation membranes.

Quercetin has been long used to help cope with allergy symptoms by holistic healthcare providers. This bioflavonoid, which has been shown to help combat histamine response within the body, is a potent antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory.

N-acetyl cysteine, an amino acid that has long been studied for cutting mucus and helping it make less thick, increases the body’s ability to expel the mucus.  My patients incorporate quercetin, N-acetyl cysteine along with vitamin C and Stinging Nettles as foundational approaches during this season. Additionally, sooth the membranes with popular botanicals like Mullein, Marshmallow.

Takeaways to take back the season

  1. Minimize exposure including cross reactivity with environmental and food allergens. 
  2. Keep the windows rolled up and rid your body of pollen from clothes, hair and face prior to going into your bedroom. 
  3. Consider soothing your mucus membranes with botanicals like Mullein and Marshmallow, and encourage the flushing of your nasal and sinus passages with warming herbs like Cayenne, Ginger and Cinnamon, which also confer anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
  4. Lastly, Quercetin and N-acetyl cysteine are big favorites for my patients, helping them combat the pollen that abounds this time of year

Source of Statistics:


Dr. Chris Meletis, N.D.Dr. Chris Meletis, N.D., has 24-years of experience practicing as a Naturopathic Doctor in Portland, Oregon.  He is dedicated to using his vast knowledge about alternative medicine to help his patients and generously give to those in need. He has written over a dozen books and 100's of national articles, and was named Naturopathic Physician of the Year in 2003 by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.  Read more about Dr. Meletis here.  Or, visit our "Ask Dr. Meletis, N.D." page for additional articles. 

*Statements herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to treat or diagnose any disease or health condition. The information on this website, and provided by Dr. Chris Meletis, N.D., is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is recommended that patients check with their doctors before taking herbs, to ensure that there are no contraindications with prescription medications. There is additional information linked within this site to HealthNotes®, a third party educational source, containing the latest research on health and supplements. Oregon's Wild Harvest will not be held accountable for this information and consider it an education reference only.  

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