Aromatherapy Soothes Seasonal Allergy Symptoms
For some, pollen allergy or hay fever rears its ugly head each spring. For others, allergy season extends through the summer and even fall. Watery eyes, stuffy nose, scratchy throat and sometimes headaches and fevers are the typical result.
These symptoms can make life miserable for the allergic person during pollen season. Making matters worse, hay fever can also result in significant fatigue and sleeplessness. These can lead to cognitive issues and even depression. Sometimes these go hand in hand as one tries to manage their normal already-stressful daily tasks in addition to having to deal with the allergy symptoms aforementioned.
Yet pollen allergies or hay fever – also called allergic rhinitis – is typically treated by Western medicine with drugs that temporarily mask some of the symptoms. While these drugs might provide temporary relief for a few hours, they also come with various side effects. For example, antihistamines and topical steroids can cause drowsiness, sleep issues and developmental issues among children. They can also harm the liver and damage our microbiome.
Notwithstanding, it is the liver and our microbiome that are necessary to support our long-term health and immunity – and our body’s ability to become allergy-free at some point.
In my book on the topic, I provide strategies to allow our bodies and immune systems overcome allergies. But what about helping to alleviate allergic symptoms now?
Aromatherapy relieves allergy symptoms
Researchers from Seoul, South Korea tested 54 adults between 20 and 60 years old. They all had seasonal allergies. The researchers split them into two groups. For seven days, they treated one group with aromatherapy twice a day using an blend of essential oils.
The other group was also given aromatherapy, except with almond oil as a placebo. Both groups were otherwise treated the same. Neither the treating doctors nor the patients knew which of them were getting the essential oils versus the placebo oil.
The researchers gauged the effects of the aromatherapy on allergy symptoms by using two different measures. These were the Total Nasal Symptom Score (TNSS) and the Rhinoconjunctivitis Quality of Life Questionnaire (RQLQ). They also assessed the patients’ sleep quality using the Verran Synder-Halpern (VSH) scale. They tested fatigue using the Chalder Fatigue Scale (CFS).
The TNSS scored four different types of symptoms. These included sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose and stuffed nose (nasal obstruction). Each of these symptoms was scored in each patient from zero to three – with zero being no symptom, one being mild, two being moderate and three being severe. When all four symptoms were combined, this rendered a total TNSS symptom range from zero to twelve.
The Rhinoconjunctivitis Quality of Life Questionnaire (RQLQ) score consists of 28 questions about ones wellbeing that are graded with a seven point scale.
The patients were all tested prior to the treatment beginning – in a recall of four previous weeks. Then they were retested on day eight after the treatment ended.
The TNSS scores for the group treated with the aromatherapy formula went from a an average of 6.8 to 3.3. The placebo group went from 6.4 to 4.6. The aromatherapy group’s symptoms improved by more than 50 percent.
Meanwhile the RQLQ quality of life scores were also significantly better in the aromatherapy group. Their scores went from 1.87 to 0.71, while the almond oil group went from 1.90 to 1.31.
Fatigue scores were also better in the aromatherapy group. Their scores went from 35.0 to 23.7 while the almond oil group went from 33.5 to 27.8.
Remember also that the treatment group improved in all these scores, with just seven days of aromatherapy. And without adverse side effects.
The slightly improved scores of the placebo group could just be the placebo effect but it could also illustrate that breathing an almond oil infusion – typically considered an aromatherapy carrier – may also have some benefits on allergy symptoms.
What was the aromatherapy formula used?
The researchers used a formula that has been in use for centuries for sinus issues. The formula included:
• Sandalwood essential oil – derived from the resin of the sandalwood tree of the genus Santalum
• Frankincense essential oil – derived from the resin of the Boswellia sp. tree
• Ravensara essential oil – derived from the resin of the Ravensara aromatica tree from Madagascar.
The oils were blended into almond oil at a 0.2 percent dilution (concentration.)
The researchers wrote:
“In conclusion, the current randomized controlled trial showed that the inhalation of blended oil from Ravensara, frankincense, and sandalwood alleviated subjective symptoms, improved the disease-specific quality of life, and reduced fatigue among adult patients with seasonal allergies. This intervention also has potential for improvement in sleep quality. These findings indicate that aromatherapy oil inhalation can be used as a safe and effective complementary intervention to reduce seasonal allergy symptoms and improve quality of life among the patients.”
How did the aromatherapy work for allergies?
These three essential oils above are full of medicinal properties according to their traditional uses. These include being antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, aromatic, antispasmodic and many other qualities.
The success of this aromatherapy is derived from a plethora of biochemicals produced by these trees. Sandalwood oil contains sesquiterpenols, ketones, monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes and monoterpenoles, for example.
Ravensara and Frankincense also have some of these in common, as they both also contain monoterpenes such as cineol, alpha-terpineol and alpha-pinene.
And the compound called santalol in sandalwood has been shown to elevate the parasympathetic nervous system. This produces relaxing effect, easing the hypersensitivities among the mucosal membranes of the nasal cavity.
Ravensara’s antifungal activity was studied in 1999. Researchers found that two dihydro-alpha-pyrone compounds from Ravensara inhibited Candida albicans and Candida cucumerinum.
Previous research on Ravensara aromatherapy blend and allergies
This is not a novel or isolated use of these oils. Aromatherapy essential oils been used for breathing and nasal conditions for centuries. Other studies also illustrate this.
Researchers from the University of Naples tested 100 patients with seasonal allergies and vasomotor rhinitis. The researchers gave them aromatherapy with essential oils of Ravensara and Niaouly mixed with lemon pulp and aloe. The oils were put in a mister and the treated group sprayed the mix into their breathing air twice a day for a month.
The research found the essential oils reduced symptoms and reduced eosinophil granulocytes and mast cells.
The researchers concluded:
“The lemon-based nasal spray was a good alternative to conventional medicine for the treatment of perennial and seasonal allergic and vasomotor rhinopathy.”
Isn’t it synchronicity that the essential oils from certain tree resins provide solutions for pollen allergies. Pollens are worsening due to pollution and pollen season has extended due to humanity’s departure from nature. Yet within nature we can still find solutions – even now.
Learn other natural strategies that help the body adapt to pollen and other allergens:
Choi SY, Park K. Effect of Inhalation of Aromatherapy Oil on Patients with Perennial Allergic Rhinitis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:7896081. doi: 10.1155/2016/7896081.
Ferrara L, Naviglio D, Armone Caruso A. Cytological aspects on the effects of a nasal spray consisting of standardized extract of citrus lemon and essential oils in allergic rhinopathy. ISRN Pharm. 2012;2012:404606. doi:
Andrianaivoravelona JO, Sahpaz S, Terreaux C, Hostettmann K, Stoeckli-Evans H, Rasolondramanitra J. Two 6-substituted 5,6-dihydro-alpha-pyrones from Ravensara anisata. Phytochemistry. 1999 Sep;52(2):265-9.
Adams C. HAY FEVER AND ALLERGIES: Discovering the Real Culprits and Natural Solutions for Reversing Allergic Rhinitis.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.