A reader reports reduced allergy symptoms while using the supplement. Plus: an odd remedy for nighttime leg cramps.
Q: You’ve written about NasalCrom for allergies, and I ordered it with high hopes. I have glaucoma and wanted to get off Nasacort, although it is working beautifully for my nose. I also take Xyzal or Zyrtec daily. Sad to say, despite using it two or three times a day for three months, NasalCrom did not seem to do anything for my allergies.
I did stumble across a supplement that seems to help — quercetin. It was found to help with glaucoma, specifically benefiting retinal cells (Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, online, Sept. 7, 2017). Oddly, I found that it helps with allergies, too! I would be verging on breakthrough sneezing and found the symptoms settle down within 20 minutes of taking quercetin. It is supposed to be taken twice a day. Imagine my surprise when I checked the reviews and read that it helped others quite a bit with allergies also.
A: Thank you so much for alerting us to this approach to managing allergy symptoms. Quercetin is a flavonoid compound that is found in many different plants. Onions, kale and apples are particularly good sources of quercetin in the diet. Capers, berries, brassica vegetables like broccoli or cabbage, grapes and tomatoes are other foods that contain quercetin (Nutrients, March 15, 2016). Even tea has a small amount.
When we checked the medical literature, we were quite surprised to find research showing that quercetin is more effective than cromolyn in blocking the inflammatory compounds released by mast cells (PLOS One, March 28, 2017). These studies were conducted in tissue cultures, and quercetin might not be as effective when it is taken as a dietary supplement. However, research in rats suggests that it may ease allergic rhinitis, aka hay fever (European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, August 2017). We’d love to see a clinical trial in humans, but they are expensive and therefore unlikely.
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Q: I read your article about preventing leg cramps with a bar of soap under your bottom sheet. I am a cyclist and often suffer from leg cramps in bed.
I would like to know the specifics of the possible soap solution. Do you just slide a new bar of soap under your bottom sheet? Does it matter what type of soap?
A: What we hear from readers is that a wide range of soaps will work for this remedy. To try it, unwrap a bar of soap. We think some sort of scent in the soap is essential for this remedy to work. Place the bar under your bottom sheet near where your legs will rest. When it stops working, either replace it or score the surface to help it continue to release scent.
Limonene is a common component of some of the oils that are used to provide fragrance in soap. Studies show that it has “spasmolytic” activity — inhibiting muscle spasms — though this has been demonstrated mostly in smooth muscle like the airways and blood vessels of experimental animals (Natural Product Communications, November 2015). We suspect that people vary somewhat in their response, as many readers report the benefit, but some say soap does not help them.
You can learn more about natural remedies for muscle cramps in our “Guide to Leg Pain.” Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (71 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. RLS-5, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $1 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.