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NCCIH Clinical Digest

for health professionals

Seasonal Allergies and Complementary Health Practices

March 2016
Under a moderately high magnification of 888x, this scanning electron micrograph (SEM) revealed some of the morphologic ultrastructural surface details of one of the very small flower buds clustered in the center of a white dogwood flower, Cornus florida.

Courtesy of CDC/Janice Carr

There is reasonably good evidence that nasal irrigation with saline can be useful for relief of seasonal allergy symptoms. Other complementary practices frequently used for symptom relief, such as the herb butterbur might be helpful, but the scientific evidence is limited, conflicting, or demonstrates safety concerns of the therapies. More studies are needed before researchers can say whether these approaches are (or are not) effective and safe for treating seasonal allergy symptoms.

This issue of the Digest provides information on what the science says about several complementary health approaches for seasonal allergies, such as saline nasal irrigation, butterbur, honey, acupuncture, and other practices.

Modality and Summary of Current Evidence

Saline Nasal Irrigation

Natural Product

There is some evidence to suggest that saline nasal irrigation may modestly improve some seasonal allergy symptoms. Although generally safe, it is recommended that distilled or boiled water be used to prevent rare infections, including N. fowleri.

Read more about the evidence base of saline nasal irrigation for seasonal allergies


Natural Product

There is some evidence that butterbur extract can decrease the symptoms associated with seasonal allergies.

Read more about the evidence base of butterbur for seasonal allergies


Natural Product

There is no convincing scientific evidence that honey relieves seasonal allergies.

Read more about the evidence base of honey for seasonal allergies


Mind and Body Practice

The scientific evidence currently available on acupuncture has not shown clear evidence of clinically significant benefit in treating seasonal allergies. The 2015 updated clinical practice guidelines for allergic rhinitis by the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck lists acupuncture as a treatment option, but cite a low level of confidence in the evidence.

Read more about the evidence base of acupuncture for seasonal allergies

Clinical Guidelines

Scientific Literature

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NCCIH Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, DHHS. NCCIH Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on complementary health approaches, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCIH-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is dedicated to exploring complementary health products and practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary health researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCIH's Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH Web site at NCCIH is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.


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This page last modified March 08, 2016