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Acupuncture for Allergies

Girl suffering from allergies in a field of flowers.Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is caused by an overreaction of the immune system to something in the environment. Two categories of allergic rhinitis exist:

  • Seasonal (typically occur in the spring, summer, or fall) or
  • Perennial (lasts year-round).

Seasonal allergies are triggered by the pollens of trees, grass, or weeds. Perennial allergies might be triggered by dust mites, mold, or animal dander. Exposure to the allergen causes symptoms such as itchy, watering eyes, sneezing, runny nose and sinus congestion. While there are many Western medications that treat the symptoms associated with allergies, they often produce unwanted side effects such as drowsiness and immune system suppression. As practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we believe that the best way to control allergies is to address their cause, treat the whole person, and help balance the immune system.

Allergies and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Young woman in a field of flowers very happy about not having allergy symptoms.According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, allergies are related to Wind and a deficiency in the body's Wei Qi (or Defensive Qi [pronounced “way chee”]). Wei Qi flows on the surface of the body and is responsible for resistance against colds and flu. People with weak Wei Qi catch colds frequently and are more susceptible to allergens.

Treatments often include a combination of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and dietary recommendations. We use a “root and branch” type approach. During allergy season, the focus of treatment is on the acute symptoms (the branch). When allergy season has passed, or when symptoms have subsided, we focus on strengthening the immune system (the root).

Studies on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine for the Treatment of Allergies

A recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that patients treated with acupuncture in addition to receiving standard medical care responded significantly better than patients who received standard care alone.

Another study published in Allergy Magazine (2004) also found that allergy sufferers who received a combination of Chinese herbs and weekly acupuncture sessions during a six week period showed significant improvement in their allergy symptoms when compared to a placebo group.