Allergies are caused when the immune system reacts to otherwise inert molecules in the body as if they were foreign invaders. There are a number of medications formulated to treat this condition, but some people prefer to use alternative treatments for allergies for a variety of reasons. These treatments may appeal to some, due to their perceived safety and their lack of side effects. Several of these alternative treatments have not been rigorously tested, so their safety has not been fully explored.
Some herbs are sometimes recommended as alternative treatments for allergies. Only a limited amount of herbal medicine has evidence that supports its efficacy, however. Butterbur has been shown in at least two double-blind studies to reduce the severity and frequency of allergic reactions. Ephedra can help open nasal passages and reduce runny nose, but often, there is no way to tell how much ephedrine is contained in an ephedra extract, which means that people taking it for allergies could be exposed to dangerous levels of the compound.
Some alternative treatments for allergies do not involve ingesting any substances at all. Yoga breathing techniques have been used by some individuals to attempt to control allergy symptoms. Studies have shown that these techniques can lead to higher scores on self-perceived quality of life measures, which could indicate an improvement in overall functioning, even if they do not directly improve lung function. A chiropractic technique involving spinal manipulation has been shown in one study to reduce the response to an irritant used to test for allergies. Like yoga techniques, spinal manipulation may not lead to better lung function, but higher quality of life scores could indicate an improvement in overall functioning.
Other alternative treatments for allergies have been used globally for years, although some of these treatments lack scientific backing. Homeopathy, or the use of small amounts of plant or food samples to prevent allergies, is a common prophylactic technique in alternative medicine. Vitamin therapies involve a combination of certain vitamins, which may include vitamin C, vitamin B5, vitamin A, and grapeseed extract, to maintain immune system function while reducing inappropriate histamine reactions that form the basis of allergies reactions.
Alternative treatments for allergies should be used with caution. Even when one or two studies support a therapy as being effective in treating allergies, this is not the same as having extensively-researched support for the therapy. Additionally, some alternative therapies, such as injections of urine into the body, can even be potentially dangerous.