Acupuncture & Allergies
A runny nose, sneezing, itchy watery eyes…also known as symptoms of allergies. Allergies can really be a pain. It is estimated that nearly 50 million Americans suffer from allergies every year, and spend over $18 billion a year on over-the-counter allergy medications. What if there were a way to combat allergies without the harsh side effects of medications and actually get to the root of the problem instead of just masking the symptoms? In fact, there is. The arm of traditional Chinese medicine called acupuncture has proven effectiveness when it comes to allergies.
Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) offer a safe, holistic approach to allergies that can end up saving you money in the long term. Western medicine sees seasonal allergies as a hypersensitive reaction that occurs when antibodies interact with airborne particles such as pollen. Interestingly, the places in the body where these antibodies are produced align with the energy meridians most strongly connected to allergic reactions in TCM. Both Western medicine and TCM map these sensitivity points onto the gastrointestinal tract and the spleen. Both schools of thought also connect inflammatory foods such as sugar with allergy flare-ups. Through TCM, patients can find allergy relief through a holistic wellness plan that doesn’t necessitate a reliance on synthetic medications. Acupuncture for Allergies: Acupuncture helps build or tonify the energy within the respiratory system and the immune system. This energy is called qi (pronounced “chee”). When lung qi and the Wei qi (aka the immune system) are strong and the body is balanced, then allergies rarely become an issue. Acupuncture stimulates blood flow, which carries oxygen to every cell in the body. The increased blood flow boosts the immune system, dilates the bronchioles and produces anti-inflammatory agents that help improve breathing by relaxing the muscles. Acupuncture Points for Allergies: 1. Large Intestine 20 – This point is located bilaterally on the face, on either side of the nose, in the middle of the nasolabial groove. Large intestine 20 is used to open nasal passages and clear heat from the sinuses. 2. Lung 5 – Lung 5 is located at the end of the outer crease of the elbow, just to the outside of the tendon. This point opens up the airways and the throat, while reducing wheezing. 3. Ren 17 – This point is located in the middle of the chest, midway between both nipples. It is used to open the chest, loosen up congestion, stop coughing and encourage full breathing. 4. Chinese Herbals Formulas for Allergies: Combinations of herbs, known as formulas, are used frequently in TCM. One of the most commonly used formulas is Yu Ping Feng San or Jade Wind Screen. This formula builds up the Wei qi, while decreasing allergy symptoms like sneezing and rhinitis. 5. Another popular formula choice of TCM practitioners is Bi Yan Pian. This formula works to clear the nasal passages, and it usually works within five days to a week. Compare that with the weeks of symptoms many people spend trying to mask with Western medicine. The herbs in Bi Yan Pian work to disperse wind, expel toxins, relieve inflammation and dissolve phlegm. 6. Nutrition for Allergies: For the lungs and respiratory system to be strong, they need proper nourishment, just like the rest of the body. Certain foods are good for increasing immunity, while also opening up the lungs and increasing circulation. Foods like garlic and onions reduce inflammation and fight off infections. Chili peppers open up the nasal passages, stimulating the mucus membranes and fighting off pollen, bacteria and viruses. Peppers, berries and parsley all contain quercetin, which can reduce histamine reactions that occur when allergies flare up.
In 2015, the American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy published research that found acupuncture is effective for the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis is also known as hay fever. The researchers compiled the results from 13 quality studies, which followed 2,365 participants. The various studies confirmed that acupuncture significantly lowers the antibody known as immunoglobulin E or IgE. IgE is the antibody associated with allergies and hypersensitivities. The researchers found not only was the IgE antibody lowered, but so too were the symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis. Additionally, the participants reported better quality of life.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can offer a solution to seasonal allergies that is all natural and will save you money. TCM uses an elemental system to determine where there are excesses and deficiencies in each person, allowing the treatments to be completely customized to each patient. The unique treatment plans not only make them more effective than one-size-fits-all, over-the-counter medications, they also address imbalances in each person that would not necessarily be connected to an aggravation of allergies in Western medical thought.
When using TCM to treat allergies, practitioners focus heavily on something called Wei Qi. Wei Qi is similar to the immune system in Western medicine. Wei Qi protects the body against foreign materials that can lead to inflammation and eventually allergies. People with lower immunity or Wei Qi are more susceptible to allergies and frequent colds. Acupuncture helps to boost the Wei Qi making it more difficult for allergens to attack the body.
Acupuncture by itself will make a difference in fighting allergies, but adding herbs and herbal formulas will provide the final punch to help eliminate allergies for good. Because each patient has different causes for their allergies, adding herbal formulas can greatly increase the efficacy of the acupuncture treatments by extending the effect of the needles. For example, if a patient specifically gets itchy, watery eyes when their allergies flare up, then the practitioner would likely want to draw the excess energy down. In this particular case, the patient would have an excess of fire-creating wind. The practitioner would use acupuncture points known to decrease fire and wind in the body. Then, adding herbs that do the same thing would create a one-two punch type of treatment that has longer lasting, more permanent effects.
Ultimately, acupuncture boosts the Wei Qi while decreasing the inflammatory response in your body that occurs when an allergen is encountered. The other aspect of treatment, as stated earlier, is to look at the patient as a whole versus just the symptoms, perhaps bringing other elements into balance that you might not think would have an effect on allergies. A good acupuncturist will focus on dietary habits that may be contributing. Many times a person’s Wei Qi is depleted from within due to the foods they are eating. Foods like sugar and dairy are often associated with a lower immune system. Eliminating or drastically reducing these items will allow the body to recover more quickly, making allergy attacks easier to resolve.
A comprehensive plan that includes acupuncture treatments, herbs and dietary changes will yield the best results when it comes to fighting al