Soothing Seasonal Allergies Naturally with Essential Oils

by Jade Shutes

As spring blossoms, millions of individuals in the northern hemisphere brace themselves for the misery of seasonal allergies. The itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, and congestion of seasonal allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, can make this time of year challenging for allergy sufferers. While conventional treatments like antihistamines and nasal sprays can offer relief, many people seek more natural remedies to manage their symptoms. A multi-pronged approach incorporating lifestyle changes and aromatherapy with certain essential oils may provide a gentle, effective way to ease seasonal allergies.

What Causes Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis?

Seasonal allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, is an allergic response to outdoor allergens like pollen. Common symptoms include:

      • Runny nose
      • Itchy nose
      • Sneezing
      • Congestion
      • Red, itchy, watery eyes

These allergic reactions occur when your immune system overreacts to pollen and other allergens in the air. The immune system releases chemicals like histamine that cause inflammation in the nose, sinuses, and eyes, leading to those pesky allergy symptoms. For some people, allergies are just a minor seasonal nuisance. However, for others, they can significantly impact quality of life.

Warmer temperatures are lengthening pollen seasons and increasing pollen production in plants. And more pollen means more allergen exposure and sensitivity.

Not Just a Harmless Annoyance

Beyond the physical discomfort, studies show seasonal allergies take a serious toll on quality of life, work productivity, and mental health. Allergy symptoms disrupt sleep and impair performance at work and school. Chronic sleep loss from allergies causes daytime fatigue and “brain fog.”

Even more concerning, research links seasonal allergies with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

How? The body’s inflammatory response to allergens affects brain chemistry and emotional regulation. During an allergic reaction, inflammatory cells release cytokines that can access the brain, altering neurotransmitter activity.

For example, allergic reactions initially increase serotonin but deplete it over time, potentially triggering depressive symptoms. Pro-inflammatory cytokines also activate the kynurenine pathway, diverting tryptophan away from serotonin production. This may explain the correlation between worsening allergy symptoms and lower mood.

Considering the far-reaching effects of seasonal allergies, finding safe, effective ways to manage symptoms is crucial for overall health. For many, that journey begins with simple lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle Tips to Minimize Allergen Exposure

While it’s impossible to avoid airborne allergens completely, you can reduce your exposure with some practical changes:

    • Monitor pollen counts and stay indoors when levels peak, usually in the morning
    • Keep windows closed during pollen season, especially on windy days
    • Remove shoes and outerwear before entering your home
    • Shower and wash your hair before bed to rinse off allergens
    • Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to trap pollen
    • Eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables
    • Manage stress with relaxation techniques – stress hormones worsen inflammation

These precautions help minimize the pollen load in your environment and your body’s reaction to it. Along with pollen protection, certain natural supplements may help balance the immune response and quell inflammation.

Natural Allergy Supplements

    • Quercetin is a flavonoid found in onions, apples, and berries that has anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties. It may stabilize mast cells and reduce histamine release. A typical dosage is 500-1000 mg per day.
    • Bromelain is an enzyme in pineapple that inhibits allergic sensitization and inflammatory cytokine production. Doses of 100-150 mg per day may reduce nasal swelling and congestion.
    • Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine that decreases histamine formation and release. It also strengthens the immune system. Aim for at least 3000 mg daily from supplements and vitamin C-rich foods.
    • Stinging nettle is a traditional remedy for hay fever. It interferes with histamine receptors and inflammatory pathways. Nettle capsules, tinctures, or teas taken before and during allergy season may prevent or reduce symptoms.

These supplements offer a gentle, natural way to modulate the allergic response and ease symptoms.

Harnessing Essential Oils for Allergy Relief

In addition to lifestyle and supplement strategies, aromatherapy with certain essential oils may provide further relief from hay fever misery. When inhaled, many essential oils have anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, and decongestant properties.

Essential Oils for Allergies

Lavender

Lavandula angustifolia

Lavender essential oil is the most studied essential oil for allergies. It contains linalool, a component that reduces histamine release and relaxes airway smooth muscle. Inhaled lavender has been shown to alleviate allergy symptoms and improve sleep quality.

Niaouli

Melaleuca quinquenervia

High in 1,8 cineole and alpha-terpineol. Lab research shows it inhibits inflammatory compounds involved in allergies.

Eucalyptus, Blue Gum

Eucalyptus globulus

Eucalyptus essential oil is a potent anti-inflammatory and decongestant. It contains 1,8-cineole, which inhibits cytokine production and mucus hypersecretion. Inhaling eucalyptus can quickly open nasal passages.

Blue Tansy

Tanacetum annum

Tansy essential oil is considered to be an excellent antihistamine and antiallergenic essential oil. It can reduce allergic symptoms and inflammatory markers for allergic rhinitis.

Frankincense

Boswellia carteri syn. Boswellia sacra

The alpha-pinene in frankincense has anti-inflammatory effects in the lungs and nasal passages. It may also help open airways.

Other alpha-pinene rich essential oils include: Scots Pine, Juniper berry, Rosemary ct. cineole, Cypress

Ravintsara ct. cineole

Cinnamomum camphora ct. cineole

High in 1,8 cineole and alpha-terpineol. Research shows it inhibits inflammatory compounds involved in allergies.

tea tree

Melaleuca alternifolia

Tea tree oil essential oil has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties in lab studies. It may improve nasal airflow and modulate the immune response to allergens.

How to Use Essential Oils for Allergies

The best way to use essential oils for seasonal allergies is through inhalation. Direct inhalation delivers the aromatic compounds straight to the inflamed nasal passages, sinuses, and lungs.

There are a few ways to inhale oils: 

Steam inhalation: Add 2-4 drops of an essential oil to a bowl of just-boiled water. Drape a towel over your head to trap the steam, and breathe deeply for 5-10 minutes. This is good for strong congestion.

Diffusion: Add essential oils to an ultrasonic or nebulizing diffuser to disperse the aroma into the air. This provides continuous, low-level exposure and is convenient for nighttime use.

Direct palm inhalation: Rub a drop of oil between your palms, cup over your nose and mouth, and take 5-6 deep breaths. This method is portable and discreet, great for quick relief on the go.

Personal inhaler: Add 25 drops of essential oil to a small wick and insert into an inhaler tube. Recap and use as needed for congestion or allergic symptoms. Inhalers are pocket-sized and spill-proof for easy use anytime.

Spring Allergy Inhaler

One Personal Inhaler Tube

    • 10 drops Blue Tansy essential oil
    • 10 drops Niaouli essential oil
    • 5 drops Lemon essential oil

Spring Allergy Inhaler #2

One Personal Inhaler Tube

    • 10 drops Frankincense essential oil
    • 8 drops Niaouli essential oil
    • 7 drops Lavender essential oil

Putting It All Together: An Integrative Approach

Combining lifestyle strategies with natural supplements and essential oils offers a holistic approach to easing seasonal allergies. Here’s a sample protocol based on the information above:

2 months before allergy season:

    • Begin taking quercetin (500 mg/day), bromelain (150 mg/day) and vitamin C (3000 mg/day)
    • Start using a neti pot with saline rinse daily to flush sinuses
    • Eat an anti-inflammatory diet high in fruits and vegetables

During peak pollen times:

    • Check daily pollen counts and stay indoors when high, especially in the mornings
    • Keep windows closed and use a HEPA air purifier
    • Shower before bed to remove pollen from hair and skin
    • Diffuse lavender oil at bedtime for sounder sleep
    • Use a blend of lavender, eucalyptus and niaouli essential oils as needed for congestion

After being outdoors:

    • Remove shoes and outerwear before coming inside
    • Rinse eyes with cold water or saline eye drops
    • Gargle with warm salt water to remove pollen from throat
    • Inhale frankincense or eucalyptus directly from a tissue

Throughout allergy season, you can further support your body by minimizing stress, staying well-hydrated, and getting adequate sleep. Consider keeping a journal to identify your worst triggers and track improvements. Remember, it may take several weeks of consistent natural treatments to see significant changes.

The Bottom Line

Seasonal allergies are increasingly common and can significantly impair quality of life. While medications offer relief, many allergy sufferers prefer a more natural approach. Lifestyle adjustments like avoiding pollen, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, and managing stress can help minimize allergy flares.

 Certain herbs and nutrients, such as quercetin, bromelain, vitamin C, and nettles, have demonstrated anti-allergy effects. Aromatherapy with essential oils like lavender, eucalyptus, and peppermint can provide natural symptom relief.

An integrative strategy combining lifestyle, supplement, and aromatherapy interventions may work synergistically to provide safe, significant relief. With a holistic allergy management plan, it is possible not only to survive but thrive during allergy season!