Ithaca’s been a hotbed for pollen this year, with nary a resident having made it through the spring months without awakening one morning with the familiar watery eyes and gushing nostrils of allergy season.
While some people are comfortable with picking up one of the conventional allergy medications like Claritin or Zyrtec to clear their sinuses, others aren’t so quick to take another pill that might bring with it drowsiness or other side-effects. There are homeopathic options available, and though their impacts can vary widely from individual to individual, they can also provide a solution free of the cost or negative side-effects of some typical pharmaceutical remedies.
Local doctor Amanda Fey, who works for Natural Integrated Medicine in Ithaca and Complementary Medicine and Healing Arts in Endicott, said this year has been particularly brutal in terms of allergy symptoms, with a bevy of patients visiting her practice who she’s never seen in years past. There’s a few alternatives patients can choose between, though Fey said two are the most popular in particular.
“Natural anti-allergy supplement options would be things that have quercetin, which if a bioflavonoid found in bright-colored fruits,” Fey said. “But you also need an enzyme called bromelain in with the quercetin to activate it. Those are two I use all the time for symptom relief.”
The crucial part though: this regimen only works when it’s begun a month or more prior to allergy season. While the supplements work reactively, Fey said her best homeopathic recommendation for allergy resistance is to focus on diet discipline and needs in advance of the pollen season.
“Most commonly, the best approach is a month prior to the patient’s allergy season, reducing dietary-inflammatory foods within the diet can help put the body at a better place of balance so they can ease through the allergy season more smoothly,” she said. “Sugar, corn syrups, wheat and dairy, those are common inflammatory foods for people. Those are the big ones, if you can keep those low you can do better during allergy season. But you have to start beforehand.”
For those who might not want to ingest their medicines, Fey suggested using a Neti Pot, a nasal flush system that can wash potentially troublesome pollen from the nostril’s membrane. Outside of just allergies, Fey said tea made from stinging nettle plants, which is somewhat common in organic markets, can be a good antidote to insect bites and hay fever symptoms, other frequent summer maladies.
As with anything, people should be careful and retain a certain level of skepticism toward remedies they’re newly testing for themselves. Everybody is different and can have disparate reactions to certain substances, and lower government oversight on homeopathic remedies can mean every once in a while, consumers are buying products that might just be a shady fugazi, or ones for which there isn’t enough information available to determine its effectiveness. For instance, bee pollen tablets are a fairly popular homeopathic remedy, though Fey noted that unless the pollen is locally sourced, it could be completely incapable of actually helping a person inoculate themselves against Ithaca’s pollen.
Overall, Fey said if someone is trying an alternative solution for the first time, doing a little personal research is always a good idea. She said for her, looking at published medical research has proven a trustworthy venture, often visiting the National Library of Medicine’s website to check background on new treatments or medications she hears about, either for her practice or for personal use. There are common pitfalls that patients can make when dabbling in homeopathic medicine as well, such as assuming that if something doesn’t work the first time, it’s wholly ineffective. Often, Fey said, it can just take another attempt or two to nail down the right amount to help someone.
“It’s trial and error sometimes, and also over-the-counter doses aren’t as high as they should be,” she said. “I feel like people come in and they’re on the right path, but they just aren’t doing the optimal dose to see a result.”