Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine for Seasonal Allergies
Fall allergy season, which can run from mid-August until October, affects approximately 36 million Americans. The most common allergen in the fall is Ragweed Pollen and unfortunately for those with allergies, the northeast is one of the most prevalent areas of the country for ragweed. Chinese medicine has a long tradition of treating seasonal allergies, both the symptoms and the cause.
Ragweed pollen can travel hundreds of miles on the wind, so even if it doesn’t grow near you, it can still affect you. When ragweed pollen comes in contact with the noses of allergy sufferers, their immune systems react. The pollen is treated as a foreign invader and the immune system sends antibodies to attack the invader, leading to the release of histamines in the blood. It’s the histamines that cause the typical allergy symptoms of runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy or watery eyes, among others.
Common treatment for allergies involves allergy shots or over the counter and prescription antihistamines. Allergy shots are designed to make your body less reactive to an allergen over time. Allergy shots must be given frequently, especially in the beginning of treatment, two or more times per week until a maintenance dose has been established. Then shots are commonly repeated every 2-4 weeks for a period of years if the allergies are severe enough.
Antihistamines treat the symptoms by binding to histamine receptors in the body, blocking the ability of the histamines to bind and cause allergy symptoms. What they do not do is treat the reason for the allergies- a deficiency in the immune system. This is where Chinese Medicine shines.
Chinese Medicine has multiple ways to attack allergies. Acupuncture is well known for its immune boosting abilities. There are numerous points located throughout the body that have an impact on boosting the immune system, and treating eye, nose and throat disorders.
Chinese herbs can reduce inflammation in the nasal passages, clear up nasal congestion, stop a runny nose and also boost the immune system. The combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs is very effective at treating allergy symptoms.
In the big picture, Chinese Medicine improves the immune system making the patient less reactive to the allergens over time. In the acute phase of the season, Chinese medicine also works to reduce symptoms associated with allergies: itchy, watery eyes, runny or congested nose, sneezing, headaches and others.
A November 2008 study of 5,237 patients concluded that “patients with allergic rhinitis in routine care with additional acupuncture leads to clinically relevant and persistent benefits1”.
In a 2007 study in Australia comparing acupuncture vs. sham acupuncture for Perennial Allergic Rhinitis (lasts all year, not just seasonal), acupuncture was more beneficial in every category measured2.
Some steps you can take:
• Keep doors/windows shut at home
• Limit outdoor activities on high pollen days
• Keep your pets clean –they can drag pollen in from outside
• Change air filters often or install a whole house air cleaner
• Get some Chinese medical treatment!
If you suffer from Spring allergies, do not wait until the season has started. Come in early and give your immune system a boost before you start experiencing symptoms. It will help you be able to enjoy being outside when Spring comes around!