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.1
When allergies strike
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 (called seasonal allergic rhinitis or hay fever). For others, it’s a year-round health gripe, triggered by exposure to dust mites, pet hair or mould (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.4 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 (or Perilla frutescens). An aromatic, sweet-tasting plant used as a culinary ingredient in many Asian countries,5 it is also prized in traditional Chinese medicine for its medicinal properties, which include allergy relief. The key active ingredient in perilla is rosmarinic acid, which may help to soothe allergy symptoms such as an itchy nose and watery or irritated eyes6 The proof is in the research: in one Japanese study, daily perilla extracts were found to be an effective intervention for sufferers of seasonal allergic rhinoconjunctivitis,6 which may be explained from a mice study that showed the herb helps curb blood levels of IgE and histamine, suggesting a dampened down allergic reaction.7
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.3 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, while investing in a dehumidifier helps 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, particularly on windy days or after thunderstorms.8,9 You can check the pollen forecast at www.weatherzone.com.au/pollen-index.
3. Try natural supplements
As well as perilla, other herbal and vitamin supplements have been linked to allergy relief, for instance vitamin C, which is a natural antihistamine, the Ayurvedic herb albizia,10 rosemary (which like perilla, contains rosmarinic acid),11 and the antioxidant quercetin, which may reduce histamine release, in turn relieving symptoms.12 There’s also some evidence that probiotics may have a role in the prevention and treatment of allergic rhinitis.13
Speak to your healthcare practitioner for more information about allergies and supplementation. Make sure to always read the label and use only as directed. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare practitioner.
To find a practitioner in your area, visit our find-a-practitioner page.
1. Is it allergic rhinitis (hay fever)? Australasian society of clinical immunology and allergy, 2015. Viewed 28 September 2016, http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergic-rhinitis-hay-fever-and-sinusitis/allergic-rhinitis-or-hay-fever
2. Types of allergies: allergic rhinitis. American college of allergy, asthma and immunology, 2014. Viewed 28 September 2016, http://acaai.org/allergies/types/hay-fever-rhinitis
3. Management of allergic rhinitis. Australasian society of clinical immunology and allergy, 2004 . Viewed 28 September 2016, http://www.allergy.org.au/images/stories/aer/infobulletins/pdf/Management_of_Allergic_Rhinitis.pdf
4. Economic impact of allergies. Australasian society of clinical immunology and allergy, 2010. Viewed 28 September 2016, http://www.allergy.org.au/ascia-reports/economic-impact-of-allergies.
5. Asif M. Phytochemical study of polyphenols in Perilla frutescens as an antioxidant. Avicenna J Phytomed 2012;2(4):169–178.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Pollen Allergy. Australasian society of clinical immunology and allergy, 2015 . Viewed 28 September 2016, http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergic-rhinitis-hay-fever-and-sinusitis/pollen-allergy
9. Manage your asthma: triggers. Asthma Australia, 2016. Viewed 28 September 2016, http://www.asthmaaustralia.org.au/sa/about-asthma/manage-your-asthma/triggers/adelaide-pollen-count
10. Bone K. A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs. QLD: Churchill Livingstone, 2003.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.