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NCCIH Clinical Digest

for health professionals

Seasonal Allergies and Complementary Health Approaches

May 2023
A woman and a child outdoors around flowers

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 acupuncture, probiotics, or the herb butterbur, might be helpful. However, the scientific evidence on these practices is limited, conflicting, or demonstrates safety concerns of the therapies. More studies are needed before researchers can say whether these approaches are 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, probiotics, and acupuncture.

Modality and Summary of Current Research

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 Naegleria fowleri.

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

Butterbur (Petasites hybridus)

Natural Product

Some studies of butterbur root or leaf extracts suggest that they may be helpful for symptoms of hay fever (allergic rhinitis), but the data are not convincing. Importantly, there are some safety concerns associated with its use.

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


Natural Product

There is some limited evidence that suggests probiotics may improve some symptoms, as well as quality of life, in patients with allergic rhinitis, but overall the data on probiotics and allergic rhinitis is inconsistent and effects may vary from one probiotic formulation to another.

Read more on what the research shows about probiotics for allergic rhinitis


Physical and Psychological Approach

There are data from some randomized controlled trials that suggest that acupuncture may improve some symptoms of allergic rhinitis, as well as quality of life.

Read more on what the research shows about acupuncture for allergic rhinitis

Clinical Guidelines

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 website 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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