by Andrew Pacholyk, MS, L.Ac.
Histamine is a chemical, which is involved in our local immune response as well as regulating physiological function in the gut, acting as a neurotransmitter. During the time of seasonal allergies, the body’s immune system sees pollen as an invader. In an allergic reaction, our body produces histamine, as a defense mechanism. This inflammatory chemical attaches the cells in our body and causes irritation. It is the deficiency of this enzyme that triggers an allergic reaction as histamines gathers in the synapses.
An antihistamine serves to reduce or eliminate the effects brought on by histamine, a chemical mediator released during allergic reactions. Antihistamines are commonly used for allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis, contact dermatitis, urticaria (hives), angioedema and pruritus (atopic dermatitis, insect bites).
There are hundreds of plants used all over the world, which are used in herbal medicine as treatments for histamine attacks. Here are some of the most accessible and reliable.
Basil (Ocimum sanctum): this great herb has a history in helping prevent stomach cramps, gas as well as constipation. A poultice of Basil leaves can can work as an antihistamine to draw out insect, bee wasp, or snake venom. It helps alleviate acne, heal abrasions and speeds healing when used on cuts.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla): is rich in anti-histamine properties. The flowers can be crushed and used as a poultice for inflammatory swelling. Make a tea and drink 2-3 times a day. Chamomile can cause histaminic allergic reactions in some very sensitive people. If this occurs, simply discontinue.
Jewelweed (Impatiens aurea): contains a compound called “Lawsone” that treats uticaria. Jewelweed is used as a natural remedy for poison ivy, poison oak, okra spines, stinging nettle and acne treatment. Jewelweed is also used for heat rash, ringworm and many other skin disorders, as well as bug bites and razor burn.
Papaya (Petroselinum crispum): inhibits the secretion of histamine. Papaya juice can be taken internally as well as applied topically to diffuse a histamine attack.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica): The very same plant that will produce hives if its hairs inject their histamine into you can work to heal the problem. Some herbs whose pollen can cause symptoms of hay fever have been used as a way to reduce symptoms of hay fever, which is the homeopathic theory of “like cures like”. The most important of these are Goldenrod and Ragweed (Ambrosia ambrosioides). Eyebright and Elder also have a reputation for use as hay fever remedies. However, an individual allergic to one of these plants should avoid them unless under the care of a doctor of natural medicine. Freeze-dried nettle leaf extract taken in capsule form will treat hives and allergies. The plant does not contain enough histamine to cause a problem when taken orally. Tea can be made from the leaves or cooked as greens. The stinging hairs lose their sting when the plant is cooked.
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea): Echinacea is a widely used herbal remedy for treatment of upper respiratory tract infections. This purple coneflower has shown to have antihistamine properties.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): In my Chinese herbal practice, fennel is used for indigestion, spasms in the digestive tract, as well as expelling phlegm from the lungs. Fennel is rich with the antioxidant flavonoid “Quercetin”. Quercetin is a strong natural antihistamine shown to be very helpful for allergies and histamine-related inflammation. Make as a tea and drink 2-3 times per day.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale): another classic herb in the Chinese Materia Medica, ginger works well on allergic reactions such as hives and wheals. Slice up a ginger root boil it in eight cups of water for 30 minutes. Allow the herbs to steep for another 30 after you have boiled it. Drink 2 to 3 cups a day. You may add the tea to a hot bath and soak for 20 minutes. Dip a wash cloth in the tea once it is at room temperature and use as a compress.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum): Hailed the “mushroom of immortality”, one of my favorite natural remedies is Reishi (Ling Zhi). Japanese researchers have found that reishi acts as an antihistamine, making it useful for treating allergies. “Lanostan”, a compound found in reishi, appears to control the release of transmitting chemicals in the body, thereby inhibiting the release of histamine. Since reishi also promotes the adrenal function and immune reaction, it has added effectiveness in controlling the body’s reaction to an allergen.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): is a natural antihistamine, as well as having antiseptic properties to help purge infections. The essential oil has been shown to have antimicrobial activity against a host of different bacteria and fungi.
Vitamin C is believed to be a natural antihistamine agent if used at high doses, around 3,000mg to 5,000mg a day.
Essential Oils As Antihistamines
Essential oils should be used in a base oil (to avoid irritation) and massaged on the skin. Never use essential oils internally.
Caraway Seed Oil: has antihistamine and antimicrobial properties and is very effective in treating mild allergic reactions.
Clove Oil: has antihistamine properties. This essential oil is helpful in the treatment of dermatitis due to allergic reactions.
Lemon balm (also known as melissa): has antihistamine action and is useful to treat eczema and headaches. This essential oil has antihistamine properties and helps with allergies.