A Definitive Guide To Treating Seasonal Allergies With Essential Oils

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Spring is a welcome change for many of us as we get to say goodbye to freezing cold temps and say hello to warmer days. However, for approximately 50 million people in the United States, spring also brings seasonal allergies, making this weather change less than enjoyable. (1)

As a functional medicine practitioner, it is my job to help people find relief for ongoing symptoms as naturally as possible. There are many natural remedies available, but one of my favorites has to be essential oils. These plant compounds offer a wide variety of benefits with almost no side effects - plus, they smell amazing! Let’s take a look at how exactly they help with allergies and why you should consider adding them to your home remedy cabinet.

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What are allergies?

Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance triggering symptoms such as:

  • Runny nose
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Scratchy throat
  • Swelling
  • Digestive distress
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Headache

While many people can experience allergies or an allergic reaction year-round from certain foods, dust, or mold, seasonal allergies affect people at only certain times during the year. Spring is the most common time of year to experience allergies as trees and other plants release pollen into the air which acts as a trigger for your immune system.

Even though these symptoms are temporary and aren’t debilitating, they are definitely annoying and can make each day feel like a struggle and like you are in a constant state of brain fog.

Do essential oils really work for allergies?

When it comes to managing seasonal allergies, conventional medicines’s solution is to pop a daily antihistamine pill and call it a day. But for those wanting to go the natural route, essential oils can be a powerful solution.

Essential oils are chemical compounds that have been extracted from specific plants and put into a concentrated liquid form. While the research surrounding essential oils for allergies continues to grow, there is plenty of evidence showing them to be a great tool for helping relieve seasonal allergies. In fact, studies have shown the following benefits of treating allergies with essential oils.

  • Inflammation
  • Congestion
  • Skin-problems (hives, eczema, rash)
  • Sneezing
  • Headaches

The best essential oils for allergies

For those dealing with allergies, a quick fix is often desired with many of my patients wanting to know what gets rid of allergies fast. The one thing to note with essential oils - just like everything in functional medicine - there is no one-size-fits-all magic solution to symptoms.

While these essential oils can help alleviate symptoms, they aren’t meant to treat the underlying cause and the level of relief you’ll experience can vary for each individual. But these are the essential oils that I’ve seen to be the most effective anecdotally for my patients and in clinical studies.

     1. Eucalyptus

You can find this plant used often as an ingredient in many remedies for cold and flu symptoms. That’s because eucalyptus can help soothe inflammation, relieve congestion, and ease a sore throat that can also coincide with seasonal allergies. You can diffuse eucalyptus or apply it to your chest topically for easier breathing while you sleep.

     2. Lavender

A powerful anti-inflammatory, research has shown its ability to soothe allergy-induced inflammation of your mucous cells. This is a great one to diffuse. (2)

     3. Frankincense

Since inflammation is a major contributing factor to allergy symptoms such as coughing, runny nose, and sneezing, frankincense is one of the best essential oils to use as studies have shown its ability to reduce inflammatory activity in the body. (3)

     4. Chamomile

Chamomile is known for its antihistamine properties, making it a good choice to diffuse throughout your day. Recent studies have also shown its ability to help with allergy-related skin problems like eczema. (4)

     5. Peppermint

Peppermint has long been used for its ability to clear up congestion and help make breathing easier. It can also soothe sore muscles when applied topically, which can bring relief to anyone who is dealing with coughing-induced soreness. It can also relieve headache pain caused by sinus pressure.

     6. Lemon

Citrus oils like lemon are able to help treat allergic rhinitis - inflammation of the inside of the nose caused by seasonal allergies - and can do wonders when diffused throughout the day. (5)

How to use essential oils for allergies

When looking to alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms, you can use essential oils one of two ways - topically or through aromatherapy. Adding a few drops of your desired essential oil to a diffuser will allow you to breathe in the compounds and find relief for most symptoms. 

Many people also ask if and how do you mix essential oils for allergies, and using a diffuser is a simple, easy way to reap the benefits of multiple essential oils at once.

However, if you are struggling with skin-related symptoms such as hives or eczema, adding a few drops of your desired essential oil to a carrier oil like coconut oil and then applying to the affected area can also do wonders.

Things to consider

Although essential oils are generally safe for most people, since they are all derived from plants some people may still be allergic to the plant the oil is derived from. If you have any known allergies, make a note and stick to some of the other essential oils on this list.

Also, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding there are some essential oils that should be avoided. It’s always best practice to check with your doctor first before trying essential oils and don’t take them orally as many oils aren’t meant to be ingested.

When purchasing essential oils, be sure to research the brand to ensure you are getting high quality essential oils. Unfortunately, many oils are not 100% pure and include other synthetic additives. 

The takeaway

Essential oils offer a great, natural way to relieve common symptoms of seasonal allergies. Just be aware that they are not a cure for your symptoms and may not eliminate all of your symptoms. If you are experiencing any sort of life-threatening symptoms such as swelling of the throat or symptoms that become chronic, seek out professional medical help immediately.

If you are struggling with seasonal allergies or long-term allergic reactions, it may be time to address the underlying cause. By taking a functional medicine look at what triggers your immune system to react to foreign substances, we can take steps toward healing. In fact, many people with seasonal allergies find that once they address specific areas of their health, their symptoms are greatly reduced.

If you are ready to overcome seasonal allergies once and for all, give functional medicine a try and schedule a consultation today.

As one of the first functional medicine telehealth clinics in the world, we provide webcam health consultations for people around the globe.

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References:

  1. Allergy Facts and Figures. May 10 2021. https://www.aafa.org/allergy-facts/
  2. Tomoe Ueno-Iio, Misako Shibakura, Kanayo Yokota, Michinori Aoe, Tomoko Hyoda, Ryoko Shinohata, Arihiko Kanehiro, Mitsune Tanimoto, Mikio Kataoka, Lavender essential oil inhalation suppresses allergic airway inflammation and mucous cell hyperplasia in a murine model of asthma, Life Sciences, Volume 108, Issue 2, 2014,Pages 109-115,ISSN 0024-3205, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lfs.2014.05.018.
  3. Al-Yasiry AR, Kiczorowska B. Frankincense--therapeutic properties. Postepy Hig Med Dosw (Online). 2016 Jan 4;70:380-91. doi: 10.5604/17322693.1200553. PMID: 27117114.
  4. Lee, Soon-Hee et al. “Effect of German chamomile oil application on alleviating atopic dermatitis-like immune alterations in mice.” Journal of veterinary science vol. 11,1 (2010): 35-41. doi:10.4142/jvs.2010.11.1.35
  5. Lydia Ferrara, Daniele Naviglio, Arturo Armone Caruso, "Cytological Aspects on the Effects of a Nasal Spray Consisting of Standardized Extract of Citrus Lemon and Essential Oils in Allergic Rhinopathy", International Scholarly Research Notices, vol. 2012, Article ID 404606, 6 pages, 2012. https://doi.org/10.5402/2012/404606

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BY DR. WILL COLE

Evidence-based reviewed article

Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.