This post offers you a wealth of quality information on natural remedies for allergies. Using this guide should offer new hope, lots of helpful ideas, and most of all some real freedom (RELIEF!) from your seasonal allergies. If you are not satisfied with your current treatment program, let’s find out if this valuable guide about using natural remedies for allergies is finally your ticket to ride!
For centuries, singers have reacted against and struggled with congestion and phlegm likely coming from plain old allergies. So, you should never believe that you are alone with this irritating, frustrating health issue. Every singer understands that the whole quality of your vocal sound is badly impacted by congestion (phlegm). The amount of congestion, the location(s) of it, and the consistency of the secretions have a great deal to do with exactly how your singing is affected.
Stress has a deeply negative impact upon the immune system, which is one main trigger for allergic reactions. In other words, stress will always make your allergies much worse! You must have a plan for combating stress on a regular daily basis. What works best for you? Prescription medication? Talk therapy? Meditation? Yoga? Prayer? Pilates? Various types of aerobic exercising? Working out at the gym? Sleeping more?
By all means, practice the 4-7-8 Breath Exercise, the first listed remedy, on the Recommended Products page. This is specifically for relaxation of nervous tensions. Important: physical aerobic exercise, at least 20 minutes or so, compounds the positive effects of the 4-7-8 Breath Exercise! You will find the good effects that you get from this fantastic breathing exercise are intensified and last longer, when you incorporate physical exercise. More bang for your buck!
The Big Quagmire for Singing
When our bodies react to allergens, this causes inflammation and swelling of the nose and throat. The body combats this inflammation, producing more (and even more) mucus—phlegm in throat. Soon you’re wondering how it is humanly possible to have so much phlegm and where in the world is it all coming from!
So we understand it is the inflammation, the swelling, and increased mucus that too often ruin singing.
When we are badly congested, battling excessive phlegm in the throat, the smart choice is to safeguard the voice by canceling singing, until the congestion is substantially cleared. Unfortunately, life in the fast lane often pressures us to keep going, when we really should be resting the voice.
Be forewarned: if you are absolutely determined to sing, in spite of having a lot of phlegm in the way, it is a recipe for disaster! Your vocal folds are guaranteed to swell, and then your entire vocal sound will disintegrate. The voice becomes husky, raspy, often with an unpleasant deep quality to the sound, and the top notes of your range will suffer terribly — before they totally vanish — all because of swelling on the vocal folds. To say this problem is common is a huge understatement: swelling of vocal folds, leading to voice loss, is RAMPANT. Vocal fatigue is an epidemic, a crisis. This includes every singer of every genre. We are all human and thus no one is immune from vocal fatigue and its dangers.
What’s Going Wrong With My Voice?!
As mentioned the sound of the voice deteriorates, when we insist on “powering through” singing with swollen vocal folds. The swelling worsens so fast, and the sound of your voice will not be what you expect or want!
At this point, the main treatment anyone can offer is to rest the voice, meaning to stay silent as much as possible. –How long? This will vary, but generally you should carefully rest the voice for approximately 5 – 10 days, to give it a chance to fully heal.
Time for Dr. Prednisone?
Now you might be thinking about a doctor who has ordered prednisone for you, to deal with an emergency situation, so you could eek out a performance or two.
For those of us who have used corticosteroid drugs such as prednisone, we have learned this is not a panacea. In other words there are lots of reasons that prednisone is not and in fact cannot be your go-to solution –not even when you have an emergent problem of swelling on the vocal folds, alongside the pressure of an upcoming live performance.
We will soon have a separate post about using prednisone. For the moment, let’s realize that prednisone (and any corticosteroid) is not a viable solution to be used more often than once or twice in a 12-month period, at most.
What’s the Risk?
Permanent damage results when the voice is subjected to a repeated cycle of misuse, then allowing it to rest and basically recover, but soon followed by more harsh treatment. When we insist upon singing through a lot of swelling and congestion, our bodies rebel and the problem gets worse – quickly. It is the repetition of this vicious cycle which greatly increases the risk of serious permanent vocal damage.
Please don’t fall into this dangerous trap! Permanent damage to the voice is terribly serious, frightening, and has tragically ended many singing careers.
Your best course of action is to think ahead and carefully plan your prevention, as early as possible, for an allergy attack or even when you believe that you are likely to have an allergy attack.
Always tune into your body, paying attention to the earliest signs—post nasal drip, a red, scratchy, sore throat, along with other symptoms you recognize as the beginning of an allergic reaction.
As early on as possible—at the first hint of familiar symptoms flaring up—my own opinion is that you should begin taking natural remedies for your allergies. If you adopt this as your plan of action, it is likely that your allergies will soon be much better under control. Then you will avert damage to your vocal anatomy, and you can safely go ahead and feel great about singing your best!
Over the years, I have learned to trust the advice of Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard-educated medical doctor, who has an undergraduate degree in botany. So, Dr. Weil has vast knowledge of plant life, including herbs used as natural remedies for allergies. And Dr. Weil has a proven track record of advising on which natural remedies are safe and effective and which are not.
Necessity becomes the mother of invention
Bear in mind, I am a retired classical singer who enjoyed a fast-paced performing career, singing as a soloist with symphony orchestras and with opera companies, in concert halls that seat up to 4000 people.
Unless we are singing the National Anthem in a huge stadium, classical singers do not use microphones. We are trained to fill concert halls and opera houses with our unamplified voices. So we have all the more need to learn how we can keep the vocal anatomy healthy and clear!
Excessive phlegm in the voice brings the high risk of canceling singing engagements. In my particular case, separately and in addition to allergies, I was suffering from chronic sinus infections. Talk about excess phlegm! For this reason, I absolutely had to discover real solutions, in order to avoid canceling performances and to always sing my best—free of phlegm!
Your Personalized Treatment Guide
If you take the time to discover how your body can respond by working for you, gradually introducing some natural remedies for allergies, it can be a gold mine of improvement and relief – a tremendous milestone in your recovery and in your entire sense of control over your health and well-being! You should experiment, using common sense, and develop your own treatment program of natural remedies for allergies that works best for you, from one situation to the next.
Always inform your doctor which natural remedies you are taking. This includes herbs, vitamins, homeopathic preparations, nasal sprays, including saline, over-the-counter antihistamines, inhalers, eye drops, and anything else you are taking.
Antihistamines are notorious for drying out the mucosal lining — terribly! Elsewhere on this blog it is detailed that the delicate mucosal lining must be kept moist, particularly if you care about singing. Drinking lots of water might help a little to counteract the severe dryness caused by antihistamines. But whether you buy antihistamines over the counter or with a doctor’s prescription, these medications are miserably drying for a singer’s mouth, nose, throat, and lungs.
In order to sing well, we actually rely upon the health of the fragile mucosal lining. Any antihistamine is sure to dry out the mucosal lining. Then the body’s defense kicks in, producing lots of thick mucus, in an attempt to heal that surface lining. Many people find that even when they drink a lot more water, it just is not enough to compensate for such severe dehydration.
Hearing and Heeding the Wisdom of your Body
If you are taking antihistamines and are happy with the results, my view is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” But if you are ready for a new approach, you are in the right place!
Proceed with caution, please. If you’re interested in trying one or more of these listed natural remedies for allergies, start with a very small amount. Pay attention to how you are tolerating the new remedy. Use common sense and stop immediately if you can tell that any remedy is causing an additional symptom, unwanted side effect, or any issue that bothers your singing.
With the knowledge gained from your own personal experience, including the information provided here, it is my hope that you will design your own treatment plan, whether you are strictly using natural remedies for allergies or whether you decide to use a combination of remedies, including some wisely chosen prescription medications. It is all in accordance with your particular bodies responses and needs for treatment, so your singing can be at its best. You always feel much better, when you take responsibility for your own health and well-being. Now, for the sake of your best singing, please be willing to invest the time and trouble to learn more about what your body needs and which remedies work most agreeably for you.
Now let’s dig into more of the most powerful natural remedies for allergies that I have used with the greatest success – and you hopefully can as well!
The Most Vital Remedy of All!
WATER must be first on your list, whether or not you have allergies. All singers need to drink lots of clean, unflavored water, at least 80 – 90 ounces of water per day (unless otherwise instructed by a doctor). Dehydration is one of the two most serious perils a singer must constantly work to avoid: The physical troubles bought on by dehydration are a form of vocal abuse, and permanent damage is likely to result, for any singer, even if you have no allergies. It is crucially important to drink your water.
When you feel that your situation would benefit by more water, increase to 100 ounces per day, unless otherwise directed by a physician. Focus on drinking clean, unflavored water as much as possible. But this advice should not be interpreted as a need to purchase expensive home delivery of your water. And if squeezing a little fresh lemon into your water encourages you to drink more, this is fine. Be reasonable, hear your body’s own wisdom, and always use your common sense.
Overview of the Best Natural Remedies for Allergies
- Stinging nettle capsules must be freeze-dried to work properly. This herb is a natural antihistamine, without harsh side effects. This means no drying out of your throat and no drowsiness! And Dr. Weil recommends an extract from the freeze-dried leaves of the nettle plant, such as this product:
A word of caution about stinging nettles: it is a diuretic. This means potassium can excreted in amounts that are possibly too great and not advisable for you. Check with your doctor. If using stinging nettles on a regular basis, please be sure and eat bananas and other fresh vegetables, as these foods will help restore potassium. For anyone already using a prescription diuretic medication, you absolutely must first obtain your doctor’s approval, before using stinging nettles.
Dosage is given on the product label. Dr. Andrew Weil recommends taking two capsules of freeze-dried stinging nettles (whether it comes from the leaves, the root, or the whole plant), every 2 hours while symptoms persist. For me this instruction has usually equated to taking only a few doses and has given me relief for the rest of the day.
By far the best brand I have ever found is Eclectic Herb Stinging Nettle Capsules.
Works Fast for Congestion Around Larynx and in Lungs
- Mullein is an herb that is very effective for clearing congestion from the chest and throat. I find mullein to be unique in this way. It works by thinning the secretions, so the phlegm is less of a problem. You will find more about mullein here. Follow dosage instructions on the label.
- Ginger tea with lemon is soothing to your throat, healthy for your body in general, and usually quite helpful for clearing congestion.
Soothing, Cooling Aloe Vera
- Let’s not forget about the miraculous healing plant aloe vera. For our purposes, what works best is aloe vera gel or juice. The finest brand I’ve ever encountered is this one: wonderfully made organic aloe vera products.
Dr. Weil has mentioned before that aloe vera juice can be somewhat upsetting to the stomach. So he recommends the gel instead of the juice. Here Dr. Weil discusses a range of uses for aloe vera and provides dosage instruction for taking internally.
How will this help your allergies, pertaining to your singing? Aloe vera will reduce inflammation on the surfaces it touches and throughout your GI tract. It is an herb that is well known for promoting more rapid healing of the skin. So it follows that aloe vera is soothing and moisturizing as well as lubricating for your mucosal lining.
Definitely NOT Natural Remedies for Allergies!
- Here is yet another reason to avoid drinking alcohol. It is wise for singers to limit use of alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is a substance which will instantly dry out the mucosal lining and will cause your vocal folds to swell. In fact, since alcohol is a diuretic, it will cause water to be more rapidly excreted. Bottom line: alcohol has a generally drying, dehydrating effect upon the whole body. Be careful to limit your alcoholic beverages, drink extra water, and realize that you are wise to abstain from drinking alcohol, at least when you are in rehearsals and during a run of performances as well as recording.
What is External Hydration?
- Simple: think of internal hydration as drinking your water. And external hydration amounts to irrigating the sinuses with either steam or saline. This includes nasal lavage, detailed below.
External hydration is a smart way to care for your vocal anatomy, because it provides a needed boost of moisturization. It is astounding how much better your voice will sound, when it is well hydrated. So, you have a very nice reward coming your way!
Knowing when to inhale steam, when to irrigate your nose and sinuses, and when to use saline mist is a simple yet profoundly effective part of your vocal care routine. You are cleaning out the excess mucus as well as the allergens that are contributing to the problem. How often should you use external hydration? Your answer will vary upon how you are feeling as well as climate conditions. Pay attention to your body and do not hesitate to use your personal steamer, your nasal mist, or your saline lavage, according to your common sense and best judgment of your own needs. If you are in doubt, go ahead and use your saline mist spray. You can’t go wrong!
Which Personal Steamer is Best?
- The Recommendations page includes a personal steamer you might check out. This type of product should be easy to use safely and made by a reliable company with a decent product warranty. Inhaling steam can be a tremendous help to clear away thick mucus that is accumulated in your throat, your vocal anatomy, and your lungs. Please do not go overboard and put yourself at any risk of burning.
Which Brand of Saline Mist Spray?
- Saline nasal spray is a simple, basic remedy that can make a world of great difference. This is physiological saline. It is identical to the saline, which is normally produced in our bodies. Saline nasal spray is a fine mist, refreshing and soothing, promoting lots of healthy moisturization for the nose and sinuses. For years one of the best brands was Ocean Spray available over the counter in drug stores. However, the company discovered a bacterial contamination in the product, resulting in their voluntarily recall Ocean Nasal Spray.
My research indicates that the best brand currently available is from a trusted American company, Arm and Hammer. All singers are wise to familiarize themselves with an excellent brand of physiological saline mist, for the nose and sinuses.
What is Nasal Lavage and How does it Work?
- Nasal lavage is an important technique you should know about. Think of nasal lavage as a more powerful version of saline mist spray. More saline is used to thoroughly wash out the nose and sinuses. You can get great results by using a rubber ear syringe, filled with a homemade mixture of warm water, salt, and a pinch of baking soda. Just like saline nasal spray, these ingredients simulate the natural saline in our bodies. There are nasal lavage kits available in drug stores and many stores over the internet. The point is using saline to flush out the nasal cavity, in order to wash away excess mucus as well as the allergens you are reacting to. Here is a first-rate instruction guide for nasal lavage.
Important: Do keep your steamer, your saline mist, and your nasal lavage equipment clean.
If it is not kept clean, molds and bacteria can build up and be introduced into your system. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for cleaner your personal steamer. For your container of saline mist, wipe the applicator tip with a little rubbing alcohol or a little peroxide and dry it well, after each time you use the saline spray. For nasal lavage equipment, in general use warm soapy water, then rinse and dry well after each use.
A Few Dietary Suggestions
- Eating foods that have a high water content is important. Try strawberries and melon for starters. Raw foods, in general, will have higher water-content. This means it will help clear your system of allergens and help thin out mucus secretions. Broccoli and more raw greens are a smart choice as are organic vegetable juice, cucumbers, tomatoes, and strawberries. Here is a good source of information, listing more foods that have a high water content.
- Remember that caffeine dries out the mucosal lining. This means the surface tissues of your mouth, nose, throat, and lungs, etc. When the mucosal lining is dry, the body’s defenses kick in, by producing mucus that is thicker and thus more of a problem for singing. Avoid caffeine as well as alcohol, which also will dry out the mucosal lining. Many people discover that eating foods such as shellfish and diary products cause increased mucus production – never what you want for singing.
- Quercetin is found in foods such as onions, red wine, green tea, apples, grapes, berries, and tomatoes. It works by suppressing the release of histamines in your body, and this in turn prevents allergic reactions. Dr. Weil recommends adopting the use of quercetin as one of your natural remedies for allergies.
“Nature’s Soft Nurse”
Shakespeare’s play Henry IV (Part 2, Act 3, Scene 1), refers to “nature’s soft nurse,” inimitably expressive poetry meaning sleep.
- You unequivocally must get your sleep! No two ways about it. Plan your entire day around when you can stop and sleep for enough consecutive hours.
Sleep for eight to nine good hours, per every 24 hours or so, at least. But how will this help with your allergies? — When your body is sleep-deprived, even the smallest ailments are terrifically magnified. Inadequate sleep causes lots of stress upon your whole being. And keep in mind that stress on the immune system is the primary culprit, responsible for triggering allergic reactions. If you expect to sing well, getting your sleep is absolutely vital. Make sure you have a comfortable place to sleep and organize your daily calendar with your need to sleep emphasized as top priority.
Various Nasal Sprays
- Flonase is a nasal spray, a topical steroid medication, available over the counter. Allergies cause inflammation to the delicate mucosal lining, particularly throughout the respiratory tract. Inflammation is what causes the body to produce excess mucus/congestion, and this is what interferes badly with singing. Corticosteroid medications are powerful drugs, the purpose of which is to reduce inflammation. Instead of taking systemic corticosteroids, such as prednisone pills, these nasal sprays deliver the steroid medication topically, only to the immediate areas of the nose and sinuses, limited to the exact location where it’s being inhaled.
There will be a very tiny amount of steroid medication absorbed in the rest of the body. But it’s not at all likely you’ll have any sense of this or be bothered by it. If you would like a topical steroid to inhale through the mouth, to treat allergic asthma and the chest congestion this causes, these medications are available but generally require a doctor’s prescription. Again, some topical steroid nasal sprays, such as NasaCort and Flonase and similar medications are available over the counter, without a prescription.
- There is an inhaled drug called cromolyn sodium, which has a similar way of working as quercetin, mentioned above. Both cromolyn and quercetin prevent the release of histamine and other chemicals that cause allergic reactions. Note that some research suggests quercetin works better and is more effective than cromolyn! You might want to try them both and make your own decision, about which is best for you.
Cromolyn can be helpful for preventing allergic asthma attacks as well as nasal allergy symptoms. But I would bet that quercetin just does a better job and is more agreeable in your body than cromolyn!
Not THAT kind of Nasal Spray!
- A big word of warning about over-the-counter nasal sprays such as Afrin or Vick’s Sinex (just two examples): the active ingredient is a harsh drug called oxymetazoline. There is no question this nasal spray will open up and clear your sinuses, for a very few hours at most. Then what happens is known as “rebound phenomenon.” In other words, your nasal congestion returns worse than ever! And you get a strong sense that it is time for another dose of the nasal spray. It can definitely feel as if you are being pulling toward using more of this nasal spray, needing more relief. At first, this nasal spray was likely giving you about 12 hours of relief. But after 2-3 days, you realize that your window of relief is shrinking. You need more of the nasal spray and more frequently. This is actually an addiction forming! And unless you feed that addiction, be prepared for several days of intense nasal congestion, until this chemical and its ill effects are completely cleared out of your system.
So, what we learn from using nasal sprays such as Afrin or Vick’s Sinex (and any other brand with the active ingredient oxymetazoline) is that we stay away from these products, unless it is a full-on immediate emergency need for a clear nose and sinus. (I just politely referred to “these products,” when I actually feel like using considerably harsher language! Let’s get real: these nasal sprays, relying upon the active ingredient oxymetazoline, are garbage!)
They call him the voice of reason: Dr. Andrew Weil has such a great, helpful article with his overview of natural remedies for allergies.
This herb is capable of providing tremendous relief from allergies as well as a wide range of other health issues. If you are running on empty, with no way to rest, and you simply must keep going, this tea might just save you. Yerba maté will give you non-hyper sustained energy. It works by reducing inflammation, which explains why it is effective as an allergy treatment.
Note that if you are sensitive to caffeine, you might want to forego yerba maté; it has less caffeine than coffee but more than green tea.
If you want to try this incredible herb, please purchase yerba maté tea (loose or in bags); there are plenty of good brands to choose from.
In my experience this is the best brand, and it is available here for a reasonable price.
Once again, we have approval from Dr. Weil, for using yerba maté — the most reliable endorsement. Here is Dr. Weil’s excellent article, on the many virtues of yerba maté.
Always More to Come!
This nicely comprehensive list is intended for you to pick and choose from, as you see fit. Let’s add to it occasionally, as we include your opinions and suggestions about natural remedies for allergies!
With some determination and patience, you can design your own routine for successfully dealing with your specific seasonal allergies. I would enjoy helping you fine-tune this, so you have the most effective treatment plan, for your individual needs.
The right foods, the right natural remedies/nutritional supplements, plenty of clean water, limiting alcohol, and getting plenty of sleep should always be your go-to plan, for some real freedom from the misery of singing through allergies!
A private session with me will help us create a personal approach, for your individual needs, aimed at beating your seasonal allergies, so you can SING, SING, SING!
You are to be congratulated for taking action to protect your singing voice from the ill effects of allergies! And for your consistent, knowledgeable efforts, you can look forward to a tremendous improvement in your vocal hygiene and in how your singing voice sounds and feels!
Your voice is going to thank you by working and sounding better than ever!
I offer personalized singing instruction “on demand,” always individually tailored to your specific vocal needs. No appointment necessary. And I actually care about you, your well-being, and your voice.
Remember, if you want to sing, I want to help!
For more information, please use email to contact me: Gretchen@Singingandyou.com.
Find out how we can work together, so you can start singing your personal best today!
This post is all about how you can vastly improve upon the health and well-being of your entire vocal anatomy and your irreplaceable singing voice, using the exact natural remedies for allergies that make the most sense for your individual needs.
And I can’t wait to discuss your specific questions and thoughts on all of this, in the comments below!
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