Natural remedies for allergies: What works?

By Jenilee Matz, MPH Sep 11, 2023 • 4 min

Allergies occur when the body mistakes a normally harmless substance as a danger, called an allergen. If you experience seasonal allergies or hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, you're likely allergic to pollen. A pollen allergy can trigger a host of bothersome symptoms, such as sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, or itchy eyes, mouth or skin. There are many allergy medications available that can help ease allergy symptoms, but some people prefer to use natural remedies for seasonal allergies.


If you're looking for herbs for allergies, you may come across butterbur. Some studies show that a certain butterbur leaf extract (Ze 339) may help decrease some symptoms of allergies. Keep in mind that this research is preliminary, and there have not been any studies on the safety of long-term butterbur use. Butterbur can also cause side effects, including headache, belching, itchy eyes, diarrhea, trouble breathing and fatigue. Note that the raw, unprocessed butterbur plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), which can cause liver damage and can result in serious illness. Manufacturing processes can remove PAs. These products will be labeled or certified as PA-free.


Some people turn to local honey in an effort to relieve seasonal allergy symptoms. Bees use pollen to make honey. It is believed that if you have allergies and you eat local, unprocessed honey containing pollen in small amounts, you'll become desensitized to the allergen. However, there is only a very small amount of pollen in honey. Plus, the type of pollen that's in honey may not be the same kind of pollen that's causing your allergies. Tree, grass and weed pollen are often responsible for seasonal allergies, not the flower pollen used by bees. At this time, there is no scientific evidence showing that eating local honey will improve seasonal allergies. In addition, eating unprocessed or untested honey may also put you at risk for an allergic reaction.


Some people turn to probiotics as a natural treatment for allergies. Probiotics are live bacteria naturally found in our digestive systems that balance and replenish gut flora. Foods that contain probiotics and probiotic supplements appear to aid in digestive health. There has also been research on probiotics and immune health, including allergies. To date, the results of studies looking at probiotics for hay fever have been inconsistent. Some types of probiotics may be helpful, while others are not.

The bottom line

Research is ongoing for home remedies for allergies. Many other natural products have been studied, including stinging nettle, quercetin, capsaicin, grape seed extract, spirulina and omega-3 fatty acids, but results have been inconsistent or too limited to show if these products help or not. The safety of these products is also unclear.

If you have uncomfortable allergy symptoms and are thinking about using herbal supplements or homeopathic remedies for allergies, see your doctor. Even though these products are "natural," they are not always safe. Some products can interact with certain medications, so it's important you tell your doctor about any herbs, vitamins, supplements or other over-the-counter medicines you use. Your doctor or pharmacist can also recommend other ways to relieve allergies to help keep symptoms at bay.

Clinically reviewed and updated September 2023.