low histamine diet
14 histamine lowering herbs known for their variety of actions and potential health benefits. They can improve inflammatory conditions and studies show some they can be beneficial in lowering histamine. Here are 14 herbs including polyphenols that can help!
Boswellia gum resin – (Boswellia serrata)
Boswellia gum or resin (also known as frankincense) is a significant anti-inflammatory herb that has shown clinical benefit in asthma.
In a clinical study of 80 patients with chronic asthma, 70% of those taking 900mg/day over 6 weeks showed improvement well beyond the placebo.
Improvements consisted of: decreased shortness of breath, a smaller number of asthma attacks and inflammation was also reduced. Overall Boswellia has known for anti-inflammatory effects and can assist conditions such as: asthma, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, lupus, allergic rhinitis and back ache symptom (Gupta et al., 1998).
Butterbur (Petasites spp.) is a purified extract from the butterbur plant. Studies show Petasites to be effective in reducing migraine attack by up to 60% with 50-75 mg twice daily. It reduced the frequency of attacks over a 4-week period significantly. Please note: Safety of prolonged use has not been established (Cunher, n.d.).
Chamomile – (Matricaria recutita)
Traditionally, Matricaria recutita (German chamomile) has been used for a wide range of conditions, including allergic and inflammatory disorders. Allergy and anaphylaxis are linked with mast cell activation which causes the process of degranulation. This results in the release of mediators such as histamine, leukotrienes, prostaglandins, proteases and several proinflammatory and cytokines.
This study showed the anti-allergic activity of chamomile may be due to the presence of tannins and flavonoids which have been shown to have mast cell stabilising effects and reduces the release of histamines from basophils. The anti-inflammatory effects (through a reduction of nitric oxide production) may also inhibit mast cell degranulation. It seems traditional folkloric use of chamomile in allergies is justified (Finney-Brown, 2011). In a mouse model of atopic dermatitis, application of German Chamomile led to decreased scratching behaviour, attenuated lymphocyte infiltration (white blood cells to the area) and reduced serum IgE levels (Lee, Heo & Kim, 2010).
Cinnamon Bark – (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
Procyanidin polyphenols from cinnamon bark possess anti-asthmatic and anti-allergic potential. In this study the procyanidins stabilized mast cells and caused inhibition of the allergic markers such as histamine, and IL-4, and β-HEX in IgE-mediated manner in mice (Kandhare et al., 2017).
Garlic – (Allium sativum)
In this study allicin (the active constituent in garlic), was found to inhibit degranulation in mast cells (in rats). Observations supported the theory that degranulation of mast cells in the cell membrane is supported by garlic.
Garlic possesses hypocholesterolaemia (cholesterol lowering), hypotensive (blood pressure lowering), antioxidant, antiplatelet, anthelminthic, antifungal, antiparasitic, antibacterial, antiviral, hypolipidemic (blood lipid level lowering) properties. It can be effective to assist eradication of candida and promotes microcirculation. It is therefore not specific for histamine responses however it can assist colds and flus due to its antimicrobial, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, antifungal and antioxidant properties. It is best to take fresh (chopped finely) or as a tablet.
High levels of Histamine can cause breathing problems, headache, nausea, feeling burning in the mouth, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and changes in blood pressure. Allium sativum (garlic) and Bunium persicum (Black Zira also known as earthnut), are popular plants with long folk history of use as food additives and, for medical applications. Bunium persicum grows naturally in Iran. The seeds are used as a popular seasoning, widely consumed as a condiment and as a traditional flavouring agent in foods. In this study garlic did not have the same histamine lowering impact as B. persicum however overall histamine levels did decrease with both herbs (Hajimohammadi et al., 2019).
Ginger – (Zingiber officinale)
In a well-controlled study, 100 patients who suffered acute migraines (without aura) were allocated to receive either ginger powder (250 mg) or sumatriptan (50 mg drug). Participants were instructed to take a single dose upon headache onset. Headache severity at 2 hours following treatment demonstrated similar effects for the sumatriptan and ginger groups. In this study, 70% of sumatriptan-treated and 64% of ginger-treated patients showed favourable relief (90% decrease in headache severity). Side effects from sumatriptan included dizziness, sedation, vertigo and heartburn. The only reported clinical adverse effect of ginger was dyspepsia (indigestion) which may be alleviated if taken with food.
Clinical efficacy and safety of oral ginger for the treatment of osteoarthritis was conducted in a literature review. Following ginger intake, a statistically significant pain reduction score was found and a significant reduction in disability was noted in favour of ginger. Daily doses of ginger ranged from 500 to 1000 mg/day (of liquid extract which is a fairly high dose)(Mediherb e-Monitor, 2015).
Licorice – (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Licorice (containing active Glycyrrhizic acid – GA) possesses a wide range of pharmacological actions, including anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties however to date studies have not examined the anti-allergic activity. This study showed that glycyrrhizic acid (GA) can suppress IL-4 (inflammatory marker) and restore immune balance of TH1/TH2 cells. This study showed that GA acted as a “mast cell stabilizer”. It inhibited mast cell degranulation and decreased vascular permeability suggesting it may serve as an effective anti-allergy agent (Han et al., 2017).
Medical Cannabis or Medical marijuana (Cannabis sativa)
Members of the Cannabis plant family have been used for centuries in India, China, and Africa for a host of health issues. They have also been used topically for the remedy of pruritus (itch) and eczema in traditional Indian medicine and it has been used in more recent times in Western Europe and America for similar indications. Cannabis spp. contain several bioactive components known as cannabinoids. The best known are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the non-psychoactive cannabinoids cannabidiol and cannabinol. These compounds affect the itch pathway by acting at cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) and by activating various TRPs. Numerous studies in mice suggest that cannabinoid agonists alter itch perception. Cannabinoids have been shown to downregulate mast cell activation. In humans, topical cannabinoid agonists have been shown to attenuate histaminergic itch, pruritus, and pruritus due to lichen simplex chronicus and prurigo nodularis (Facci et al., 1995; Gaffel et al., Haruna et al., 2015; Kusakabe et al., 2013; Tosun et al., 2014; van der Stelt et al., 2005).
Moringa – (Moringa oleifera)
Bronchial asthma is a chronic respiratory disorder affecting a large proportion of population throughout the world. Moringa is a small or medium sized tree, cultivated throughout India. Its leaves and fruits are edible and rich in ascorbic acid. The plant possesses antimicrobial activity, whilst the seeds have antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and diuretic activity. Moringa elicits positive responses in children suffering from upper respiratory tract and skin infections. It has been reported that the alkaloids from the plant closely resemble ephedrine in action and are useful in treatment of asthma. Alkaloid Moringine relaxes bronchioles (part of the respiratory system). This study suggests that the anti-asthmatic activity of M. oleifera seed kernels may be due to its bronchodilator, anti-inflammatory, mast cell stabilization and antimicrobial activity (Mehta and Agrawal, 2008).
Peppermint – (Mentha piperita) has been used medicinally in Japan and Western Europe for millennia. Its most interesting active component is menthol, which gives the plants in this family the characteristic menthol smell. It boasts a variety of complementary and alternative medicine applications. Applied to the skin, it creates a cooling sensation and activates the thermosensitive sensors, inhibits itch signal transmission. It has been reported as effective in relieving pruritus in conditions such as lichen amyloidosis and epidermolysis bullosa (Frölich et al., 2009; Daniel 2015). Peppermint tea can be used internally to relieve indigestion. It helps to alleviate bloating, flatulence, gastritis, nausea and can help with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Not recommended for GORD/GERD conditions.
Polyphenols are found in foods and plant sources and they have been investigated for their anti‐allergic effects in different disease trials. Their anti‐inflammatory action is known to impact immune cells relating to the skin and assist in preventing the development of secondary infections following disruption of the skin barrier. The interaction of polyphenols with proteins can modulate the processes of allergic sensitization and effect mast cells inhibiting mediator release, resulting in the alleviating symptoms. Their anti‐oxidant ability limits the extent of cellular injury from free radicals during the allergic insult.
Dietary polyphenols are a class of bioactive compounds that are found in abundance in plant (tea, cocoa, coffee, etc.) and fruit (apple, grapes, pomegranate, etc.) sources and have been studied extensively in numerous disease models. Polyphenols are mainly classified into flavonoids, phenolic acids, tannins, stilbenes and lignans (Singh, Holvoet & Mercenier, 2011).
Stinging Nettle Leaf – (Urtica dioica folia)
Anti-histamines are used in allergic rhinitis to stimulate histamine, acetylcholine and serotonin. It appears contradictory that a plant containing these mediators is used to treat allergic rhinitis however histamine also acts as an autocoid (produces a local hormone response) to modulate immune responses. Histamine, serotonin and acetylcholine are concentrated in the fresh stinging hairs on the leaves of nettle species. It also contains chlorophyll.
A study using 300 mg of freeze-dried Nettle leafin the treatment of allergic rhinitis found 69 patients found it to be effective in relieving their symptoms and 48% found it to be equally or more effective than their previous medicine (Mittman, 1990).
Tulsi – (Ocimum sanctum) is found throughout the semi-tropical and tropical parts of India. Ocimum sanctum commonly known as Holy basil is an herbaceous sacred plant found throughout India. Different parts of the plant are traditionally used in Ayurveda for the treatment of diverse ailments such as: infections, skin diseases, hepatic disorders and as an antidote for snake bite and scorpion sting. Different parts of plant including the stem, flower, seed, leaves and root, are known to possess therapeutic potential and have been used, by traditional medicinal practitioners, as an expectorant, analgesic, anticancer, anti-asthmatic, antiemetic, diaphoretic, antidiabetic, antifertility, hepatoprotective, hypotensive and anti-stress agent. Tulsi has been used in treatment of fever, bronchitis, arthritis and convulsion (Sridevi et al., 2008).
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a plant native to South Asia from which it is well-known as a culinary spice. It has been an element of Indian spiritual and medicinal practice for thousands of years and is still used in the Ayurvedic and Chinese systems of medicine today. Touted for antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties within these traditional systems, turmeric is used topically to treat a host of skin ailments including scabies, ulcers, pruritus, and fungal infections.
There is evidence that curcumin, a bioactive constituent of turmeric, is beneficial in a variety of skin (itching) dermatological diseases. In psoriasis, oral curcumin together with topical corticosteroids achieved greater reduction of the disease than topical corticosteroids alone. Although the relationship between curcumin and the itch pathway remains unclear, it has been shown to decrease expression of thymic stromal lymphopoietin. Thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) is a cytokine primarily expressed by surface cells and is a key initiator of allergic inflammation (Bonchak et al., 2017).
Check with your naturopath or herbalist for the herbs that are most suited to your histamine reactions and your condition. Herbs can interact with medications and therefore it is vital to check before taking them. An experienced clinical naturopath or herbalist will be able to assist.
Seek the help of an experienced naturopath, nutritionist and herbalist who understands histamine. Karen is a fully qualified health professional available for consultations via the internet, face to face and the phone. Head to Beyond Histamine workshop and course here: https://gaininghealthnaturally.teachable.com/courses
Bonchak, J. G., Thareja, S., Chen, S. C., & Quave, C. L. (2017). Botanical complementary and alternative medicine for pruritus: A systematic review. Current Dermatology Reports, 6(4), 248-255. doi:10.1007/s13671-017-0200-y
Cunher, J. (n.d.). What is butterbur and how does it work?, retrieved from https://www.rxlist.com/consumer_butterbur_flapperdock/drugs-condition.htm
Danial C, et al. (2015). Evaluation of treatments for pruritus in epidermolysis bullosa. Pediatr Dermatol. 32:628–34.
Facci, L., et al. (1995). Mast cells express a peripheral cannabinoid receptor with differential sensitivity to anandamide and palmitoylethanolamide. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 92:3376–80.
Finney-Brown, T. (2011). Chamomile and allergies. Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism, 23(4), 183.
Frölich M, Enk A, Diepgen TL, Weisshaar E. (2009). Successful treatment of therapy-resistant pruritus in lichen amyloidosis with menthol. Acta Derm Venereol. 89:524–6.
Gaffal E., et al. (2013). Cannabinoid 1 receptors in keratinocytes modulate proinflammatory chemokine secretion and attenuate contact allergic inflammation. J Immunol. 190:4929–36.
Gupta I, Gupta V, Parihar A et al. (1998). Effects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with bronchial asthma: results of a double-blind, placebo controlled, 6-week clinical study. Eur J Med Res, 3(11): 511-514
Hajimohammadi, B., Raeisi, M., Eftekhar, E., Mohebat, R., & Saffari, A. (2019). Studying the effect of allium sativum and bunium persicum essential oils on histamine production in mahyaveh, an Iranian seasoned fish sauce. Journal of Food Safety, 39(1), n/a. doi:10.1111/jfs.12590
Han, S., Sun, L., He, F., & Che, H. (2017). Anti-allergic activity of glycyrrhizic acid on IgE-mediated allergic reaction by regulation of allergy-related immune cells. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 7222-9. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-07833-1
Haruna, T., et al. (2015). S-777469, a novel cannabinoid type 2 receptor agonist, suppresses itch-associated scratching behaviour in rodents through inhibition of itch signal transmission. Pharmacology, 95:95–103.
Hogberg, B., and Uvnas, B. (1958). Inhibitory Action of Allicin on Degranulation of Mast Cells Produced by Compound 48/80, Histamine Liberator from Ascaris, Lecithinase A, and Antigen, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-1716.1958.tb01617.x
Kanda, T., Akiyama, H., Yanagida, A., Tanabe, M., Goda, Y., Toyoda, M., Saito, Y. (1998). Inhibitory effects of apple polyphenol on induced histamine release from RBL-2H3 cells and rat mast cells. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 62(7), 1284-1289. doi:10.1271/bbb.62.1284
Kandhare, A. D., Aswar, U. M., Mohan, V., & Thakurdesai, P. A. (2017). Ameliorative effects of type-A procyanidins polyphenols from cinnamon bark in compound 48/80-induced mast cell degranulation. Anatomy and Cell Biology, 50(4), 275-283. doi:10.5115/acb.2017.50.4.275
Kusakabe, K., et al. (2013). Selective CB2 agonists with anti-pruritic activity: discovery of potent and orally available bicyclic 2-pyridones. Bioorg Med Chem. 21:3154–63.
Lee S-H, Heo Y. and Kim Y-C. (2010). Effect of German chamomile oil application on alleviating atopic dermatitis-like immune alterations in mice. J Vet Science, 11:35–41.
Mediherb e-Monitor (2015). Ginger is Proving to be Clinically Effective for A Variety of Painful, Inflammatory Disorders, No.53 retrieved from Mediherb Library.
Mehta, A., and Agrawal, B. (2008). Investigation into the mechanism of action of Moringa oleifera for its anti-asthmatic activity, Oriental Pharmacy and Experimental Medicine, 8(1), 24-31, DOI 10.3742/OPEM.2008.8.1.024.
Mittman, P. (1990). Randomized, double blind study of freeze dried Urtica dioica in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Planta Med, 56:44-47.
Rogerio, A., Kanashiro, A., Fontanari, C., da Silva, E., Lucisano-Valim, Y., Soares, E., and Faccioli, L. (2007). Anti-inflammatory activity of quercetin and isoquercitrin in experimental murine allergic asthma, Inflamm Res. Oct;56(10):402-8.
Singh, A., Holvoet, S., & Mercenier, A. (2011). Dietary polyphenols in the prevention and treatment of allergic diseases. Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 41(10), 1346-1359. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2222.2011.03773.x
Sridevi, G., Gopkumar P., Ashok,S. and Shastry, C. (2008). Pharmacological Basis for Antianaphylactic, Antihistaminic and Mast Cell Stabilization Activity of Ocimum Sanctum, The Internet Journal of Pharmacology, Vol.7 (1), retrieved from http://ispub.com/IJPHARM/7/1/6038
Tosun, N., Gunduz, O., & Ulugol, A. (2014). Attenuation of serotonin-induced itch responses by inhibition of endocannabinoid degradative enzymes, fatty acid amide hydrolase and monoacylglycerol lipase. J Neural Transm. 3:363–7.
Tsujiyama, I., Tsujiyama, I., Mubassara, S., Mubassara, S., Aoshima, H., Aoshima, H., . . . Hossain, S. J. (2013). Anti-histamine release and anti-inflammatory activities of aqueous extracts of citrus fruits peels. Oriental Pharmacy and Experimental Medicine, 13(3), 175-180. doi:10.1007/s13596-012-0093-z
van der Stelt, M., Trevisani, M., Vellani, V., De Petrocellis, L., Schiano-Moriello, A., Campi, B., McNaughton, P., Geppetti, P., and Di Marzo, V. (2005). Anandamide acts as an intracellular messenger amplifying Ca2+ influx via TRPV1 channels. EMBO J., 24:3026–37.