Treating Hay Fever, Naturally
A naturally-occurring compound sold in health food stores (methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM) is an effective treatment for hay fever, according to a clinical trial published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.1
While many effective pharmaceutical treatments used to treat hay fever cause side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, or impaired coordination, the MSM treatment was well tolerated by all of the participants in this clinical trial and caused no side effects. Researchers have estimated that as many as 22% of Americans suffer from allergy symptoms,2 in many cases due to seasonal allergens such as pollens.
In this study, 55 volunteers diagnosed with seasonal allergies were given 1,300 mg of MSM twice daily for 30 days. A significant reduction in symptoms of both the upper respiratory tract (including nasal congestion) and lower respiratory tract (including cough) was seen in patients taking the MSM. Each participant rated his or her allergy symptoms on a weekly questionnaire, noting changes each week.
Although the researchers concluded that MSM may be an effective treatment for seasonal allergies, the study had significant weaknesses. First, the authors monitored daily pollen counts during the trial, but did not report their findings. Therefore, one cannot exclude the possibility that participants improved simply because the study took place toward the end of the allergy season, or at another time when pollen counts were falling. The failure of the authors to report the pollen counts is of particular concern, considering that the study was funded by a company that sells MSM. Second, as the study did not include a placebo-treated control group, some or all the reported improvement could have been due to a placebo effect. In a previous study of individuals with nasal allergy, 35% rated the placebo as highly or moderately effective.3
While the new report does not prove that MSM is an effective treatment for seasonal allergies, it does provide the basis for a more definitive study.
1. Barrager E, Veltmann Jr. JR, Schauss AG, Schiller RN. A multicentered, open-label trial on the safety and efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane in the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis. J Altern Complement Med 2002;8:167–73.
2. Bellanti JA, Wallerstedt DB. Allergic rhinitis update: Epidemiology and natural history. Allergy Asthma Proc 2000;21:367–70.
3. Mittman P. Randomized, double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica dioica in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Planta Med 1990;56:44–7.
Matt Brignall, ND, is in practice at the Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center and at the Evergreen Integrative Medicine Clinic in Kirkland, WA. He specializes in integrative treatment of cancer. He is a contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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