If you struggle with allergy symptoms like a stuffy, runny nose, sneezing, irritable eyes or an itchy throat, you’re not alone - around one in five people in Australian and New Zealand suffer from allergic rhinitis.
When allergy strikes
For some people, allergic rhinitis tends to flare up during the spring and summer months, caused by sensitivity to wind-borne pollens from trees, grasses or weeds. These are often referred to as seasonal allergic rhinitis or more commonly, hay fever. For others, it’s a year-round health gripe, triggered by exposure to dust mites, pet hair or mould. This is called perennial allergic rhinitis.[2,3]
As if one allergy wasn’t enough, the average allergic person has 1.74 allergies. For instance, a hay fever sufferer may also have eczema. Far from being just a nuisance, allergies can impact quality of life, leading to issues like poor quality sleep, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, headaches and more frequent sinus infections.
How perilla can help
One natural treatment that can make a big difference if you have allergies is the herb perilla (Perilla frutescens). This aromatic, sweet-tasting plant is used as a culinary ingredient in many Asian countries. It is also prized in traditional Chinese medicine for its medicinal properties, including allergy relief.
The key active consituent in perilla is rosmarinic acid, which may help to soothe allergy symptoms such as an itchy nose and watery or irritated eyes. In one Japanese study, taking a daily perilla extract was found to be an effective intervention for sufferers of seasonal allergic rhinoconjunctivitis. The mechanism of action may be due to an ability to curb blood levels of IgE and histamine, as shown in a mice study, suggesting it actively dampens down allergic reactions.
3 natural steps to allergy relief
1. Avoid your triggers
The first step to managing allergic rhinitis is pinpointing the cause, then avoiding it where possible. For instance, if you’re sensitive to pet hair or dander, keeping your pet out of the bedroom will mean you’re not exposed to animal allergens while you sleep. Similarly, protective bedding can help if you’re sensitive to dust mites or investing in a dehumidifier can help prevent mould build-up.
2. Watch the pollen counts
If you tend to suffer from seasonal hay fever, try to stay indoors when pollen levels are high, which is typically during August-March in Australia. Pollen can also be a problem particularly on windy days or after thunderstorms.[8,9] Keeping an eye on the pollen forecast using websites and apps, can be another way to actively manage risk.
3. Try natural supplements
As well as perilla, there are some great other herbal and vitamin supplements have been linked to allergy relief. For instance, vitamin C which is a natural antihistamine, or the Ayurvedic herb albizia. Also rosemary, which like perilla, contains rosmarinic acid, meaning it shares a number of properties. The antioxidant quercetin may also reduce histamine release, in turn being a great choice for relieving symptoms. There’s also some griwing evidence that probiotics may have a role in the prevention and treatment of allergic rhinitis.
- Is it allergic rhinitis (hay fever)? Australasian society of clinical immunology and allergy, 2015. Viewed 28 September [Source]
- Types of allergies: allergic rhinitis. American college of allergy, asthma and immunology, 2014. Viewed 28 September [Source]
- Management of allergic rhinitis. Australasian society of clinical immunology and allergy, 2004 . Viewed 28 September [Source]
- Economic impact of allergies. Australasian society of clinical immunology and allergy, 2010. Viewed 28 September [Source]
- Asif M. Phytochemical study of polyphenols in Perilla frutescens as an antioxidant. Avicenna J Phytomed 2012;2(4):169–178.[Full Text]
- Takano H, Osakabe N, Sanbongi C, et al. Extract of Perilla frutescens enriched for rosmarinic acid, a polyphenolic phytochemical, inhibits seasonal allergic rhinoconjunctivitis in humans. EBM 2004;229:247-254.[Abstract]
- Oh HA, Park CS, Ahn HJ, et al. Effect of Perilla frutescens var. acuta Kudo and rosmarinic acid on allergic inflammatory reactions. EBM 2011;236(1):99-106.[Abstract]
- Pollen Allergy. Australasian society of clinical immunology and allergy, 2015 . Viewed 28 September [Source]
- Manage your asthma: triggers. Asthma Australia, 2016. Viewed 28 September [Source]
- Bone K. A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs. QLD: Churchill Livingstone, 2003.[Source]
- Shekarchi M, Hajimehdipoor H, Saeidnia S. Comparative study of rosmarinic acid content in some plants of Labiatae family. Pharmacogn Mag. 2012;8(29):37–41.[Abstract]
- Otsuka H, Inaba M, Fujikura T, et al. Histochemical and functional characteristics of metachromatic cells in the nasal epithelium in allergic rhinitis: studies of nasal scrapings and their dispersed cells. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1995;96:528-536.[Abstract]
- Yang G, Liu ZQ, Yang PC. Treatment of allergic rhinitis with probiotics: an alternative approach. N Am J Med Sci 2013;5(8):465–468.[Full Text]