Herbal Extract Relieves Allergies
An extract of the Indian herb Tinospora cordifolia may improve symptoms in people suffering from allergic rhinitis (sometimes called hay fever), according to a study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology (2005;96:445–9).
Allergic rhinitis, an inflammatory condition affecting the nose, eyes, throat, and sinuses, is caused by an abnormal response of the immune system to different allergens, such as mold, pollen, animal dander, dust mites, and some foods. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, and itchiness of the nose, mouth, throat, and ears. The condition may be inherited; people with allergic rhinitis are likely to have other family members who also suffer from it and other allergic conditions such as eczema and asthma.
Treatments for allergic rhinitis include antihistamine medications such as clemastine (Tavist™) and nasal corticosteroids like fluticasone (Flonase™). While these drugs can offer significant relief from allergy symptoms, clemastine may cause undesirable side effects including dry mouth, drowsiness, and anemia, and fluticasone can cause serious allergic reactions.
Tinospora, known commonly as guduchi, gulancha, and giloy, is an herb used in traditional Indian (Ayurvedic) medicine. Historically administered to increase longevity, promote intelligence, and improve memory and immune function, modern science has shown the herb protects against infections, decreases allergic reactions, and stimulates the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells.
The new study evaluated the effectiveness of an extract of tinospora for the relief of allergic rhinitis symptoms in 75 people. The participants received either 300 mg of a standardized extract of tinospora three times per day for eight weeks or a placebo. At the beginning and end of the study, the participants were evaluated for the presence of a runny nose (nasal discharge), difficulty breathing through the nose (nasal obstruction), sneezing, and nasal itchiness. In addition, tests were performed to determine the number of white blood cells in the blood (an indication of immune status), and samples (smears) were taken from the nose to assess the presence of cells that indicate allergic activity.
Among the participants receiving tinospora, 83% experienced total relief from sneezing, 69% had complete relief from nasal discharge, 61% had no nasal obstruction, and 71% had no nasal itchiness after eight weeks. The tinospora group also experienced a significant increase in the number of white blood cells compared with the placebo group, suggesting an enhanced state of immunity in the tinospora group. Nasal smears showed significant reductions in the numbers of cells that indicate allergic activity in the tinospora group. Tinospora was generally well tolerated; one participant complained of a headache, and two participants had minor nasal pain.
The results of this study suggest that tinospora is a safe and effective treatment for allergic rhinitis. Future studies should compare the effects of tinospora with those of currently used allergy treatments.
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She is a co-founder and practicing physician at South County Naturopaths, Inc., in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp teaches holistic medicine classes and provides consultations focusing on detoxification and whole-foods nutrition.
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