Supplementing with vitamin E may help relieve some of the symptoms associated with seasonal allergic rhinitis (hayfever), reports a study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (2004;92:654-8). While previous studies have demonstrated other beneficial properties of vitamin E, this is the first to show its effect on allergic rhinitis.
Seasonal allergic rhinitis is an inflammatory condition of the nose, throat, sinuses, and eyes. It is caused by an abnormal response by the body to allergens commonly found in the environment such as molds, and pollen from trees, weeds, and grasses. People with allergic rhinitis may have eye and nose itchiness, nasal stuffiness, episodes of
sneezing, and a runny nose. The condition is frequently associated with other allergic disorders and is usually inherited; people with allergic rhinitis often have relatives who also suffer from seasonal allergies, asthma, and eczema. Ear infections and chronic sinusitis may result from long-standing allergic rhinitis, as the passages to the ears and the sinuses become blocked.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, meaning that it has the ability to render harmful substances, called free radicals, less damaging to the body. Preliminary studies have shown that vitamin E can calm portions of the immune system that are involved in allergic reactions. The new study investigated the effect of vitamin E on the symptoms of allergic rhinitis in 112 men and women. The participants were assigned to receive either 800 IU of vitamin E per day, or placebo for ten weeks, in addition to continuing on their current anti-allergy medications as needed to control symptoms. The amount of medication used to alleviate symptoms and the occurrence of nasal symptoms (sneezing, itching, stuffiness, and runny nose) and eye symptoms (watering, itching, redness, and swelling) were recorded.
Nasal symptoms were significantly less in the group receiving vitamin E than in the placebo group. In particular, the vitamin E group experienced much less nasal stuffiness than the placebo group. Eye symptoms were not changed by treatment with vitamin E, and the use of antiallergy medications did not differ between the two groups.
The amount of vitamin E used in this study is within the safe daily intake range; much larger amounts have been used to treat other conditions. Vitamin E appears to be a useful adjunct to medical treatment for allergic rhinitis.