If you are one of the millions of people who suffer from allergies, then you know it’s hard to enjoy the beauty of spring when seasonal allergies have taken over your life. Sometimes referred to as allergic rhinitis, seasonal allergies can leave your nose stuffy, your eyes watering, and your head feeling heavy. Seasonal allergies are no fun! The sniffing, the sneezing, the wheezing - it’s enough to wear anyone out. While you can certainly use medication for relief, essential oils work too!
What is an Allergy?
An allergy is an overactive immune response in your body to certain substances that are usually harmless. The response of the immune system is to release histamine that causes inflammation and irritation in your airways, eyes, ears and skin.
According to doctors on WebMD, common allergies are:
Seasonal allergies like allergic rhinitis (hay fever) which is caused by pollen, grass, weed, and molds.
Cat and dog dander allergies caused by substances in pet’s hair and fur
Food allergies to nuts, shellfish, and dairy products.
The American Association of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology says that smoke, strong odors and changes in air humidity can also cause allergic rhinitis which results in inflammation in the nasal passages. The allergic response can also cause allergic conjunctivitis (inflammation in the eye). Expert in immunology, Dr. Luqman Seidu says that typical symptoms of an allergic reaction are itchy or watery eyes, hives, sneezing, rashes, fatigue, an itchy or a runny nose.
What’s causing my seasonal allergies?
When we have an allergic reaction to something, it’s because our immune system perceives that thing to be a threat. “Histamines are present in mast cells, which are a part of our immune system,” says Nada Milosavljevic, MD, a Harvard-trained physician and the founder of Sage Tonic. “When the histamines are released and travel to an area of the body that the allergen has affected, they cause a localized inflammatory response to occur,” she explains. In other words, your body inflames itself to try to get rid of the allergen, even though the allergen—like pollen, for example—wouldn’t otherwise be a threat to your health.
“Seasonal allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis, [are] characterized by a runny nose, nasal congestion or swelling, itchy nose and throat, and sneezing,” Milosavljevic explains. Antihistamines work by suppressing the effects of histamines, thus soothing a lot of the symptoms associated with allergies.
How can Essential Oils help my Allergies?
Straight up, essential oils won’t cure your cold. Humans can splice genes and DNA test crime scenes, but as far as we know science still has no “cure” for the common cold.
What essential oils can do is help with all those symptoms associated with the common cold and seasonal allergies! Oils can help clear your lungs and help speed healing, making them a great natural choice for dealing with symptoms.
Many essential oils are very effective at relieving the symptoms of allergies. Essential oils contain compounds that act like natural antihistamines to relieve inflammation. This helps to soothe muscles and nerves in your respiratory system making it easier to breathe. The antimicrobial properties of many essential oils also help to remove the source of the allergen by killing off allergy-causing pathogens.
Essential oils are a wonderful natural remedy for dealing with seasonal allergies. They have a three-fold benefit - they can reduce inflammation caused by allergies, alleviate the symptoms of seasonal allergies, and support the immune system against environmental sensitivities.
Which Essential Oils should I use?
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
The essential oil from lavender works as a natural antihistamine and will help to reduce inflammatory allergic reactions in your body. Lavender is well-known as a natural cure for headaches, but you can also use it to treat allergic skin reactions, insect bites, bed bug rashes, and hives. Lavender also has anti-inflammatory properties that make it an ideal essential oil to treat asthma.
For example, the journal Life Sciences reported how the anti-inflammatory effect of lavender essential oil can treat the complications of bronchial asthma. The medicinal compounds in lavender oil help to inhibit the production of histamine and suppress inflammatory responses in the airways. The scientists described lavender oil as “an alternative medicine for bronchial asthma.”
You can also use lavender oil to treat allergic skin reactions. A study from 2003 found that, as well as anti-inflammatory properties, lavender also helps to reduce pain. In clinical trials, lavender helped to reduce skin irritation and speed up the healing process.
By using lavender to help relieve the symptoms of asthma and soothe inflamed skin, the calming effect of lavender on your mind will also help you get a good night’s sleep. This is good news for asthma sufferers because, according to Dr. Carol Dersarkissian on WebMD, asthma symptoms are often worse at night.
Therefore, lavender oil is the perfect essential oil if you suffer from coughing, sneezing, or wheezing during the night. All you have to do is put a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow or inhale lavender oil before going to bed for a peaceful night’s sleep.
Chamomile oil (Chamaemelum noble) or (Matricaria recutita)
Chamomile essential oil is a great allergy remedy for a wide range of allergic reactions. Chamomile is another soothing herb that is known for its relaxing properties. If you have itchy, red skin rashes or hives caused by allergies, then use chamomile oil for fast relief. Chamomile oil can do just as much to soothe itchy skin as it can do to calm your nerves.
Inhaling chamomile essential oil can also provide a calming effect on your respiratory system if you are suffering from sneezing, blocked sinuses, or excess phlegm.
Also, if you have an upset stomach, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting caused by an allergic food reaction, then a soothing cup of chamomile tea will help to ease your discomfort.
A review of the medicinal properties of chamomile found that chamomile is effective in treating various inflammatory conditions. For example, chamomile oil is used to treat skin and mucous membrane inflammation and can help to calm the respiratory tract. Inhaling chamomile in a diffuser can also help to relieve sinus headaches and treat bacterial infections.
A topical application of chamomile oil in a carrier oil can also help to alleviate atopic dermatitis (eczema). A study from 2010 found that chamomile oil helped to soothe symptoms of dermatitis and has an antihistamine effect on the skin.
Chamomile is the perfect essential oil to relieve allergic skin reactions. People with asthma or those who suffer from hay fever often have outbreaks of dry, itchy patches of skin. So, you can use a topical application of chamomile oil in a carrier oil to soothe the discomfort of dermatitis.
Tea Tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)
Tea tree essential oil can help to remedy allergic skin reactions by reducing inflammation and preventing infections. The antibacterial properties of tea tree oil can also be useful in destroying mold, fungi, and bacteria particles in the air, thus reducing symptoms of allergies at home.
A study in Switzerland into tea tree essential oil found that it has strong antimicrobial properties and is effective against a wide range of bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. Other studies have shown that tea tree oil is anti-inflammatory and clinical trials showed that tea tree oil reduces skin swelling thanks to its antihistamine effect.
Rosalina has about 42% of the chemical constituent Linalool. This constituent helps give your immune system a boost, minimize the perception of pain, and help suppress coughing. Cypress has 50% Alpha-pinene which is helpful in warding off seasonal threats and shortening the length of an illness. It’s also helpful for relaxing the lungs and opening your airways. This offers optimal oxygen intake, allowing you to take nice, deep breaths. If you want to create your own seasonal allergy blends, add these oils to your collection:
Blue Tansy - calming and soothing
Peppermint - clear sinuses, relieve a sore throat and reduce inflammation.
Eucalyptus - clear sinuses and reduce inflammation.
Lemon - refreshing and energizing.
Fir Needle - eases congestion (great gentle option for kids)
Lavender - soothing and calming
German Chamomile - soothing and calming
Rosalina - clears sinuses (great gentle option for kids)
How should I use my Essential Oils? First, it's important to reduce allergens around the home. Products like cleaning sprays, hand cleansers, and linen sprays (all with essential oils!) can reduce pollen and other factors that cause inflammation. While you can effectively use essential oils to deal with symptoms of seasonal allergies you can also use them to make some DIY home care products that will help reduce the allergens in your home. All-Purpose Cleaning Spray Using an all-purpose cleaning spray as an allergen reducer is easy. Just spray on hard surfaces and wipe clean.
Allergen reducing cleaning spray recipe: Add 8 drops each Peppermint, Lavender, and Fir Needle to an 8 oz spray bottle with one tablespoon white vinegar. Fill with 6 oz of distilled water. To use: shake well before spraying on surfaces and wiping clean.
Pillowcases and linens are common places for allergens to hide. Essential oils can be used to refresh and remove those allergens.
Allergen reducing linen spray: Add 2 drops Blue Tansy, 5 drops Lavender, and 5 drops German Chamomile to a 1 oz spray bottle filled with distilled water. To use: shake well before lightly spraying pillows and linens.
*You can use any combination of essential oils you like the smell of that are known to work well with seasonal allergies; you don’t necessarily have to use the exact oils listed above.
Second, you'll want to deal with the symptoms of allergies - congestion, watery eyes, and sneezing are all common symptoms that can be alleviated by using essential oils. You can run a diffuser, use a personal inhaler, or steam inhalation to alleviate those symptoms.
Pre-diluted Rollerball Essential Oil Blend for Seasonal Allergies
When you need to apply essential oils every day for a seasonal issue, it gets a bit tedious dripping oils and adding carrier oil to your hand before applying. A pre-diluted roller-ball topped bottle is the perfect solution!
Rollerball allergy relief blend: Add 2 drops each Fir Needle, Rosalina, Blue Tansy (2% dilution suitable for kids 2+ and adults for short-term use) to a 10ml bottle before filling the remainder with a carrier oil. Apply to temples, either side of the nose, chest or throat.
Personal Inhaler for Seasonal Allergies
A personal inhaler is a preferred method for many who suffer from seasonal allergies. You can use the inhaler as often as needed to help alleviate symptoms. Personal inhaler blends last for 3-4 months once you’ve made them, so they’re a super-efficient way to use oils for a long time. After that, they only need to be refreshed with a few additional drops. Perfect for pollen season or dealing with stubborn common cold symptoms!
Personal inhaler seasonal allergy blend: Add 5 drops each Blue Tansy, Lavender & Rosalina to a small glass bowl. Drop the cotton wick into the blend, using tweezers to move it around so it can absorb all the oils. Insert the wick into the inhaler, adding the cap and cover. To use: remove the cap and, holding the inhaler beneath your nose, take a few slow, deep breaths.
Another great option for portable seasonal allergy relief is a diffuser bracelet or necklace. Simply add the essential oils to the lava beads or cotton insert (depending on the style of your jewelry), allowing it to dry before wearing it.
Diffuser bracelet blend: Add 1 drop each Rosalina, Lemon & Lavender to a diffuser bracelet or necklace (great for kids too).
Steam Inhalation for Seasonal Allergies
If you’re feeling very congested, steam inhalation is a great method to soothe and heal. It's also a great method to begin using at the onset of seasonal allergy season. It can clear your sinus passages of potential allergens even before symptoms begin to show up.
Place a drop of essential oil (Fir Needle is a great, safe choice) in a sink or mug filled with hot water. Place your head over the sink, covering your head and the sink with a towel to trap the steam. Keep your eyes closed and inhale deeply for two to five minutes.
Other Remedies to add your Seasonal Allergy Regimen
Besides essential oils there are some other methods you can use to alleviate allergy symptoms:
Take a tablespoon of locally sourced honey daily during allergy season.
Try a neti-pot to cleanse your nasal cavities.
Change your pillowcase frequently.
Shower in the evening to remove allergens and pollen when you’ve been out.
Use a salt lamp.
Take stinging nettle.
Kimberly Storm Seymour is a Clinical Aromatherapist & Herbalist along with being an educator. Sole Owner of Wholistic Aromatics and Institute a supplier of essential oils and other related aromatherapy products and an educator in the field of aromatherapy. Visit www.wholisticaromatics.com or telephone 336.328.5197 for more information.