Allergies and hay fever are familiar seasonal miseries for many people. So is the drowsiness and other side effects of allergy medications. Natural remedies for allergies have the potential to provide much needed relief during allergy seasons. They may provide a compelling alternative to medications without side effects for some people.

In the following selection from Secret Food Cures authors Joan and Lydia Wilen share folk and natural remedies for allergies and hay fever.


If you have a runny nose, sore throat and/or itchy eyes, you may be suffering from seasonal allergies. This type of allergy occurs when your body overreacts to pollen from trees or weeds, and sometimes household dust or mold. Hay fever is one variety of this type of allergy.

In addition, there is allergic asthma, conjunctivitis, hives, eczema, dermatitis and sinusitis as well as food allergies, latex allergies, insect-sting allergies and drug allergies. (We feel itchy just reading that list!) There are almost as many different types of allergies as there are people who have them! Obviously, allergies need to be handled on an individual basis. We found a number of remedies that just may help people who suffer from seasonal allergies or hay fever. But—especially if you have allergies—be sure to check with your doctor first.

Allergy Relief

• It is said that there are chemicals in bananas that repel allergies—that is, unless you’re allergic to bananas. If not, eat a banana daily.

• Vitamin-rich watercress is said to be an anti-allergen. Eat it in salads, sandwiches and sauces. It’s potent stuff, so eat small portions at a time.

Allergy Prevention

• We were told that licorice root (the herb, not the candy) helps build up an immunity to allergens. Add three ounces of cut licorice root (available at health food stores) to one quart of water. Boil it for 10 minutes in an enamel or glass pot, then strain into a bottle.

Dose: Take one tablespoon before each meal, every other day until you’ve taken the licorice-root water for six days. By then, we hope, it will make a difference in terms of your resistance to allergies.

CAUTION: Do not take licorice root if you have high blood pressure or kidney problems. It can cause renal failure.

Be Careful What You Crave

We met a woman who has a severe, life threatening almond allergy. Her mother had eaten marzipan on a regular basis throughout her nine-month pregnancy, and marzipan is made of almonds. An allergy specialist later told the woman that it’s not uncommon for a child to be allergic to a food that the mother craved and ate lots of for months at a time during her pregnancy.

Hay Fever Relief

• Several studies have shown that bioflavonoids—substances from plants that help maintain cellular health—help the body utilize vitamin C more effectively.

After the morning and evening meals, take one pantothenic acid tablet (50 milligrams [mg]) and one vitamin C tablet (500 mg) along with a bioflavonoid—a grapefruit, orange, a few strawberries, grapes or prunes. If you don’t want the whole fruit, take a teaspoon of grated orange or lemon peel sweetened with a little honey. This remedy has been said to have brought relief to many hay fever sufferers.

Hay Fever Prevention

• The US Army tested honeycomb as a desensitizing and antiallergenic substance for hay fever. Their results were very encouraging, especially those from subjects who chewed the honeycomb.

Start this regime about two months before hay fever season. By the time the season rolls around, the honeycomb may have helped you build an immunity to the pollen in your area. (You can also chew a bite-sized chunk of honeycomb at the start of a hay fever attack.)

It’s important to find a beekeeper in your vicinity and get local honeycomb. For prevention, chew a one-inch square of it twice a day. The honey is delicious, and the comb part turns into a ball of wax. Chew the wax for about 10 to 15 minutes, then spit it out.

If you don’t have access to a local beekeeper, look for honeycomb at your neighborhood health food store. Hopefully, it’s from your neck of the woods.

CAUTION: People who are allergic to bee stings or honey should consult a doctor before chewing honeycomb.

• Starting three months before hay fever season, drink one cup of fenugreek-seed tea each day. The tea is available at health food stores. This remedy goes back to the ancient Egyptians and forward to Armenian mountaineers who drink one cup of fenugreek tea before each meal to clear and stimulate their senses of smell and taste.

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