Sneezy livin? Smart, cheap allergy relief

Pollen: now the No. 1 threat to America

Whether those complaints about this being the worst allergy season ever are based on actual science or just more media hyperbole, it’s certainly not the end of the world (that’s still two days away). You could keep paying $30 a month to the drug dealer that is Claritin, or, you can try smart, free and low-cost remedies. Despite the recent NYT takedown of local honey’s tonic qualities, we’ve assembled a list of some other non-medicinal spring allergy relief measures that should make the remaining weeks of tree pollen madness much more bearable. Go ahead big media: try and rain on this parade!

Brooklyn is home to about 150,000 trees, comprised of 160 different specie, but only four varieties make up more than half of the borough’s trees. The most popular among city planners, London Plane, was planted for its winter-hardiness and indifference to pollution and disease. And guess what? As a tree with male flowers it produces loads of allergens, as do other most common trees shading your parks and sidewalks: the Norway Maple, Honeylocust and Pin Oak. If you’ve had allergy issues this year, you may want to check what type of tree you’re spending time near before branding it with the initials of your secret crush.


Pollen sticks to fibers, so the first easy step is to switch to a night shower, or at least rinse your hair before going to bed so you’re not faced with constant exposure. Though your waxed moustache is a magnet for the eyes, keep in mind that hair products also attract airborne allergens. And refrain no matter how powerful the urge from throwing your street-clothes in a heap atop your blankets when you get home.

That yellow patch of dust on the sidewalk will cling to your shoes, so if nothing else take them off before going into your bedroom. The same rule applies for walking your dog or street-wise ferret – brushing off what they might have picked up outside can make a big difference indoors. Another easy fix is to keep your windows closed between 4am and 8am, the time of day when male tree flowers are most active spreading their dusty seed.

Allergies develop when the body’s resistance eventually wears out and floods the system with histamines, the source of the inflammation and itchiness imposing on your spring fever. But this time science is on the too-broke-for-medicine side, thanks to recent studies into the antioxidant quercetin, a natural anti-histamine found in common foods.

Salad staples such as red onions, certain peppers, tomatoes and spinach all have high concentrations of the chemical. But topping them all are loose black and green tea leaves, of which dozens of varieties are available at Porto Rico Importing in Williamsburg. And as far as cost effectiveness goes, a bag of loose tea easily brews ten times as much as the same price will fetch in pre-made teabags. They brew just fine in a French press too!

Blocked nasal passages are a major contributor to poor sleep, and as long as you don’t have green snot, which indicates a viral infection, an herbal infusion before bed can help alleviate this common allergy side-effect. Steep some ginger or peppermint, both traditional sinus anti-inflammatories, and imbibe in the spirit of age-old doctor’s office evasion!

The Times says there’s no medical evidence that eating local honey offsets allergies. But I’m still willing to give it a shot, and here’s why: While the pollen honeybees gather is typically not the kind responsible for spring allergies, nearby male tree flowers that depend on the wind to carry their pollen inevitably scatter it on everything in range. So it’s a leap of faith, but chances are that regional honey will have some amount of Plane, Maple, Locust and Oak pollen in the mix, which, so the lore goes, helps you build up an immunity.

If you’re looking to improve those odds, pick up honey from local apiarist Meg Paska, whose Greenpoint bees gather pollen from a radius of only three miles. Your local Greenmarket is also a good option, and its honey vendor will be happy to discuss the botany his or her bees brush up against.

7 Comment

  • really surprised this article makes no mention of the only thing i think really actually works for allergies: neti pot

  • Pro tip: Don’t walk your ferret in Brooklyn, no matter how streetwise he is! They’re illegal throughout the city, so don’t draw attention to your scofflaw ways.

  • People, NETTLES. Buy you some freeze-dried nettles at Whole Foods or wherever. Take 1 a day the first week. If you need to step it up a notch, take 2/day the second week. If your allergies are really bad, take 3/day the next week.

    They must be freeze-dried: check the container to make sure.

    I’m telling you, this won’t work for everyone, but for those for whom it works, it works.

  • supposedly drinking Apple Cider Vinegar has benefits… the all natural kind with the “mother”, not the cheap kind in the grocery store.

  • If you aren’t allergic to milk and aren’t lactose intolerant this might be the cure for you:

    stir 3/4 teaspoon turmeric in a cup of warm milk with honey— and if you want to go all out add a little vanilla extract, perhaps a little agave and top it off with some whipped cream.

    turmeric has curcumin which is anti inflammatory

  • Even if local honey doesn’t actually remedy allergies, it still tastes good and you’re supporting local business by buying it. I’m just saying.

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