They’re now in full bloom – trees, bushes, flowers, and plants, and the pollen is swirling. Here we go again: it's allergy season.

Sneezing, runny, itchy nose and throat, headaches, coughing, watery, and red eyes – these are just a few of the symptoms that plague people suffering from seasonal allergies. But before you reach for that over-the-counter or doctor-prescribed medication, let’s discuss what causes allergies and what the best way is to naturally control them!

According to Baltimore-based ENT specialist, Dr. Marilyn Blackston, the cause of allergies rests in our immune system.

“Your body has a natural system to ward off foreigners – anything that’s not natural to your body. So, when we breathe in the pollen, or eat the food that we are allergic to – your body then responds to it and rejects it,” she says.

Pollen will irritate the nasal passages and cause us to sneeze.

Sneezing is a major symptom of seasonal allergies. Photo courtesy of wellnessmama.com

Sometimes an allergy can also develop into sinusitis.

Explains Blackston, “People don’t realize that most asthma is rooted in allergies.”

However, to get to the root of the problem with allergies, stress must be minimized, she warns.

“Many people have migraines that are rooted in allergy, and all of that is rooted in stress," Blackston says. "You have to meditate, do yoga, tai chi, deep breathing, calm yourself down, and you have to actually believe what you profess you believe.”

Blackston teaches a stress-reducing technique called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), also known as tapping, which she says is acupuncture without the needles.

Here are eight natural ways to control allergies:

1. Reduce stress with EFT, yoga, meditation, etc.                                                                             

2. Take probiotics – A weakened immune system begins with a sluggish digestive system. So, taking daily probiotics gives the body the healthy bacteria it needs to strengthen it.

3. Eat raw, unfiltered honey – Eating a teaspoon of locally-farmed raw honey helps the body adjust to the pollen in your environment.

Local- farmed honey helps the body adjust to the pollen.

4. Drink apple cider vinegar – It will reduce the amount of nasal and throat mucus and strengthen your lymph glands that protect against bacteria and viruses.

5. Wash your nostrils – Because the pollen will stick to the nostril hairs and activate sneezing, it is a good idea to wash your nostrils with saline nasal spray, two to three times a day or more, to wash away the pollen.

6. Take stinging nettle leaf or pine bark extract – It reduces bacteria and inflammation in the body.

7. Change your diet – Many of the foods we eat such as orange juice, coffee, dairy products, processed meat, and seafood are loaded with histamines that irritate the body and activate allergy symptoms.

8. Take a shower; wash your hair and pillowcases – “When you have pollen allergies, the pollen gets in your hair, so you have to wash your pillowcases often, because it goes from your hair to your pillowcase, and you wake up stuffy,” cautions Blackston.

For more information, listen to the Partners in Health and Biz April podcast: How to Naturally Control Allergies, and visit your local health food store for natural herbs and other products mentioned in this article.