Quercetin Works

Words: Dr Richard FIRSHEIN

The sun bathes the world in golden warmth, the flowers bloom in vibrant reds and violets, the birds sing a sweet song — and, you’re too busy sneezing and rubbing your itchy eyes instead of enjoying nature. Sounds familiar?

This is the ‘rote’ of spring for over 20 million Americans and millions others worldwide who suffer from allergic rhinitis. Nine per cent of all visits to the doctor stem from these sinus, ear, nose, and throat irritations. In my practice that ratio is even higher. Thankfully, natural remedies are remarkably helpful in banishing allergies for good. Unlike several drugs, which suppress symptoms, natural treatments bring the body into balance as they quench allergic reactions.

Allergies can be as wide-ranging as the world itself. Perhaps, the most common form is allergic rhinitis, the technical name for the sneezing, coughing, runny nose, watery eyes, and itchiness that many of us experience yearly. The seasonal pollination of trees, grass, and weeds distributing airborne allergens varies little from year to year, causing the predictable return of symptoms at the same time and place annually.

Springy Onset

While spring, with its freshly mown lawns and free-floating pollen, is usually associated with allergy onset, the early fall is also prime time for allergies, since the hay fever season [also known as ragweed season] lasts from August to October. But, many allergies aren’t seasonal at all, and you don’t have to be in the great outdoors to fall victim. Sensitivities to cockroaches, mould, dust, pets, household chemicals, and wood mean that you could stay indoors your whole life and still develop the itchy, scratchy symptoms of allergic rhinitis.

True, there is a panoply of pills and capsules lining drugstore shelves that claim to relieve your allergies. Many of these medications, however, have irksome and often dangerous side-effects. Benadryl, for example, can lead to severe drowsiness. Nasal decongestants and cough suppressants can also cause mental and physical impairment [hence, the warnings on the box against “engaging in use of heavy machinery” while under the influence of these drugs]. A commonly used antihistamine, Seldane, was pulled off the market after causing 127 cardiovascular ‘incidents.’

Would you rather relieve your allergies with a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory agent guaranteed to help you breathe in the fresh spring-time air without sneezing — or, fall into a drugged stupor? Look no further than the strange-sounding nutraceutical called quercetin, a seemingly innocuous plant pigment proven to clear up your sinuses without clouding your head.

Quercetin Effect

Quercetin belongs to a class of nutrients known as bioflavonoids, compounds better known for the blue and red colour they give to plants than for the antioxidant benefits they provide the body. Once merely considered useless plant pigments, flavonoids were originally unearthed by Dr Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, PhD, the Nobel laureate who discovered vitamin C in the 1930s.

Dr Szent-Gyorgyi found that flavonoids were able to strengthen capillary walls in a way that the common cold comfort vitamin C could not. Over 4,000 flavonoids have since been identified, and they are increasingly being recognised as a crucial key to health and longevity. One of the most frequently discussed flavonoids is a pigment known as proanthocyanidin, found in red wine, and hypothesised to retard heart disease. This substance is thought to be one reason why wine-swilling French citizens manage to eat four times as much butter and lard as we do with significantly less heart disease. Other flavonoids, such as the catechins, found in green tea, are not only heart smart, they are also believed to prevent cancer.

Other nutraceuticals such as garlic, bilberry, ginkgo, and silymarin, also exert their healthy powers through flavonoids.

Of the bioflavonoids known to us, quercetin appears to be the one with the highest degree of anti-allergy activity, according to a study in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Quercetin stops allergies in their tracks via two routes.

First, it is a powerful anti-inflammatory, keeping the lungs, nasal passages, and eyes from swelling as they normally do when allergens like pollen come into contact with the body. For this reason, quercetin may also be useful in treating inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and asthma.

Second, quercetin is a potent antihistamine that prevents the release of itchy chemicals that make our nose run and our eyes water. Best of all, this natural one-two punch of allergy defence is achieved without the drowsiness, or jitters, that medication can cause; it is extremely rare for quercetin to cause side-effects.

Most people are drawn to quercetin’s amazing ability to alleviate allergies, which is its forte, especially when combined with other natural antihistamines and anti-inflammatories like vitamin C, vitamin B12, bromelain [an enzyme], and nettle [a plant].


I recommend using quercetin whenever you would reach for an antihistamine, or when you are about to enter a season that is particularly difficult for you, such as hay fever, or pollen season. The initial dose is 300mg, twice a day, although I may recommend doses as high as 1-2gm in some severely allergic patients. Short-term use of one to two months is recommended. I, generally, don’t suggest long-term use, unless there is a chronic allergy, such as one related to dust mites.

Dr RICHARD FIRSHEIN, DO, is the Founder-Director of The Firshein Center for Comprehensive Medicine in New York City. He is a leading innovator and authority in the field of preventative and nutritional medicine, integrating Western and Eastern medical practices. He is Board Certified in Family Medicine and has served as professor of family medicine. An internationally recognised leader in the field of integrative medicine and healthy aging, a cancer researcher, prolific author and writer, Dr Firshein has written several ground-breaking books, including the bestselling Reversing AsthmaYour Asthma-Free ChildThe Nutraceutical Revolution and The Vitamin Prescription [For Life]. This article is ©Dr Richard Firshein.

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