Hay fever is not fun. From runny noses to nasal congestion, itchy red eyes to sneezing, coughing to extreme fatigue and more, this seasonal allergy is loved by no one. Many people who expect the onslaught of cold-like allergy symptoms year after year have found treatments that work (and those that do not). Whatever your cure, however, there are claims going around that a classic cocktail could help relieve the hay fever woes.
Gin and Tonic: Can it Really Soothe Hay Fever Sufferers?
Some major publications have been circulating articles claiming that drinking gin and tonic can relieve hay fever symptoms.[1,2] At first read, that logic seems flawed. If you ask almost anyone with allergies or asthma, they will probably attest to the fact that alcohol consumption only makes their symptoms worse. In fact, an Asthma UK survey found that 75 percent of people with asthma say red wine, white wine, beer, and cider trigger their symptoms.
While some would assume it’s the alcohol content that triggers allergy-like symptoms, it’s actually a natural food chemical. Alcoholic drinks such as the ones bolded above contain histamine, the very substance that your body releases during an allergic reaction. You can also find sulphites (a type of preservative) in alcoholic drinks, most often in wine. Sulphites can induce hay fever and asthmatic symptoms from something as mild as wheezing to fatal asthma attacks.
Why Does Gin Get the Green Light?
It doesn’t, necessarily. All the rage about drinking gin happened after Asthma UK’s Dr. Andy Whittamore suggested certain alcoholic drinks can trigger asthma. However, the same logic does not automatically apply to hay fever. The logic went something like this:
Histamine triggers asthma symptoms (which are like hay fever)
Clear spirits such as gin have low histamine levels
Therefore, drinking gin is (somehow) beneficial for hay fever symptoms
It doesn’t take too many reads to realize where the logic begins to fall apart. Yes, drinking gin (which is lower in histamines but not devoid of them) is probably the smarter choice for people with asthma and maybe with hay fever. But drinking a low-histamine drink is not going to be beneficial or aid symptoms in any manner – again, it may just be one of the better options for an alcoholic drink.
That being said, Dr. Helen Webberley who runs the online healthcare service My Web Doctor casts doubts on the widely circulated histamine theory to begin with.
“Histamine is produced by the body in response to a potential allergy, but ingesting histamine may not have the same reaction in the body,” Dr. Webberley told HuffPost UK. “People who are allergic to substances such as pollens or grasses produce too much histamine and this causes sniffs and sneezes, but ingesting it doesn’t follow the same logic.”
What is Gin Good For?
For those of you who are mildly upset that gin and tonics aren’t the answer to your hay fever symptoms, there are some other potential benefits. Apparently, gin may help to:[6,7]
Fight off illness thanks to juniper berries, the main antiseptic ingredient in gin.
Soothe your joints. Some people with arthritis eat gin-soaked raisins to help reduce joint inflammation.
Increase circulation, again, thanks to juniper berries. Some studies suggest that drinking a small amount of gin every day can promote healthier veins and arteries.
There are more but most of them are rooted in the health benefits of juniper berries, not gin. If you’re looking for health benefits in alcohol beverages – though they do exist – it’s probably best to look elsewhere. But if you do enjoy a drink from time to time, take Dr. Whittamore’s advice and “avoid these drinks if you know they are a trigger for you.”