Could turmeric reduce allergic rhinitis symptoms?

by | Nov 12, 2023 | allergy, herbal medicine

Hayfever, known medically as allergic rhinitis, is a very common allergic condition that causes misery for millions of people. But, recent research found that a common spice might provide some allergy relief. Read on to find out how to use turmeric for allergic rhinitis.

What is hayfever?

Hayfever, is an allergic reaction that affects the upper respiratory tract. This allergy is very common, affecting up to 30% of adults and 40% of children.

An allergic reaction occurs when your immune system overreacts in response to certain substances. These foreign substances are called allergens. When the allergens trigger the immune response that includes histamine release from mast cells. Histamine causes typical allergic symptoms that are similar to the common cold. These symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis symptoms include:

  • nasal symptoms such as runny or stuffy nose
  • itching of the nose or eyes
  • sneezing fits
  • swelling around nose or eyes

People with severe hay fever symptoms can feel really miserable. Not only that but if you have hay fever your symptoms can affect other areas of your life. For instance, you may struggle to sleep or find it difficult to study or work.

Symptoms can occur at certain times of the year or even all year round. People that have seasonal allergies tend to react to pollen. The pollen comes from flowering trees, grasses or weeds.

If your allergy symptoms are present all year round this is called perennial allergic rhinitis. In this case, the allergenic trigger is likely due to dust mites, pets or mould.

This can trigger an inflammatory process within seconds. Antibodies identify the allergen and trigger a chain of reactions. Affected cells release inflammatory chemicals, such as histamine, that cause the allergy symptoms.

The best way to control nasal symptoms is by avoiding the trigger but this is not always possible. Over the counter antihistamines are available. And these may help to dry up secretions but do little to reduce nasal congestion. Your doctor might prescribe other medication such as corticosteroids. But often these medicines have adverse effects.

What is Turmeric?

Hay fever sufferers increasingly use complementary medicine. And several research studies report benefits from certain alternative treatments for allergies. One such natural remedy is turmeric root.

Turmeric is the bright orange-yellow spice obtained from the root of Curcuma longa and a common ingredient in spicy food. This plant is a member of the ginger family and originates in Asia. Its bright yellow colour means it is also known as Indian saffron, or poor man’s saffron.

Turmeric is actually an amazing herb in many ways. Providing a golden colour and flavour to food, it is also useful as a dye. But, take care as turmeric powder can stain skin and clothes. It is also an important part of religious ceremonies. And has a tradition of medicinal use in India and China for thousands of years. In fact, we are still finding out more and more about its many health benefits.

The medicinal properties of turmeric

Traditional healers use turmeric for a wide range of diseases. It soothes digestive problems, fights infections, improves blood flow and speeds wound healing. It has also traditionally been used as a nasal decongestant.

In the past few decades, there have been several thousand research studies on turmeric. Clinical trials show it to be effective for many chronic diseases. These include cancer, diabetes, lupus nephritis, osteoarthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and acne. It can also lower cholesterol levels and may be helpful in dementia cases.

There are several medicinal constituents of turmeric. The most researched component is curcumin. Curcumin makes up about 5% of turmeric and it has strong anti-inflammatory effects. For example, products containing curcumin showed similar activity to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in osteoarthritis. Curcumin is also antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anticancer.

Curcumin is a fat-soluble, golden yellow-pigmented compound. It has low bioavailability meaning that it is poorly absorbed into the body. The addition of 10% black pepper and some fat to a turmeric extract greatly improves its absorption. Possibly by as much as 20-fold. Some researchers suggest that the oil in turmeric itself may improve curcumin‘s absorption.

However, curcumin is just one of the medicinal compounds in a turmeric supplement. Researchers have recently identified many other medicinal compounds in turmeric. It is also possible that there are synergistic effects between the herbal compounds. An interaction that creates benefits beyond the expected cumulative effects of the individual constituents.

In any case, curcumin-free turmeric also has anti inflammatory properties, anti-cancer and anti-diabetic properties. Suggesting that curcumin is not the sole active ingredient. Indeed, in China, the compound elemene from turmeric is approved for cancer treatment.

Curcumin – a natural remedy for allergic rhinitis

Clinical trials suggest that curcumin reduces inflammation and the allergic response. Trials on guinea pigs sensitised to an allergen showed curcumin treatment meant fewer symptoms. The animals given a curcumin supplement had less sneezing and rubbing. Suggesting relief of runny nose and eyes, and reduced congestion.

follow up trial on people showed similar results. Curcumin reduced symptoms by 70%. With less sneezing, itching and runny nose and less nasal congestion. And, the improvements persisted for 80% of participants after stopping the treatment. And researchers suggested a potential role for curcumin for seasonal allergy symptoms.

Given the tradition of the use of turmeric as a decongestant, it may also reduce allergic rhinitis symptoms. Both turmeric and its constituent curcumin are considered safe at normally recommended doses. Though high doses may increase the risk of bleeding, increasing the effects of anticoagulant drugs.

If you enjoyed reading about turmeric for allergic rhinitis you might also like:
5 natural remedies for perennial allergic rhinitis
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