A stuffy nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing are symptoms of seasonal allergies brought on around specific times of the year, usually in the spring, when trees, flowers, and weeds release pollen. These particles travel in the air, spread by the wind, triggering symptoms collectively known as hay fever. From ancient times chinese people used acupuncture for allergies treatment, but can it help you today?
Besides seasonal hay fever, some people struggle with other types of allergens like dust, mold, and animal dander year round. Regardless of the cause of the allergy, alternative medicine is becoming more and more popular as more patients are looking for relief from symptoms that are not consistently relieved by antihistamines.
A study published in a 2013 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine examined 422 patients suffering from pollen allergies with running noses. The researchers divided the patients into three groups: the first one was offered acupuncture treatments together with their antihistamines.
The second group received a false acupuncture treatment with needles being places randomly on the body; while the third group received only antihistamines. After two months, the participants who received acupuncture treatments showed greater improvement in their symptoms than the other group.
It was also interesting that those who received the false acupuncture treatment also showed improvement, probably due to a strong placebo effect.
After a four-month follow up, the difference between these two groups wasn’t as large; the doctors explained that it probably had to do with the enthusiasm of the patients and their great expectations of acupuncture treatment.
Overall, acupuncture for allergies is very promising, especially for those who seek an alternative to medicinal treatments; however, it is important to book a consultation session with your acupuncturist before starting the actual treatment.
Western modern medicine vs. Eastern traditional medicine
Due to the large number of people suffering from allergies, there are several approaches to treating this condition. For instance, in Western modern medicine, allergies are understood to be a hypersensitive reaction that occurs when pollen particles come in contact antibodies produced by lymphocytes, one of the three sub types of white blood cells.
On the other hand, Eastern traditional medicine has a deeper explanation of the process. The main goal in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is to support a balanced Qi commonly known as the energy that flows through our body meridians.
Therefore, the cause of allergies stands in an imbalanced Qi distribution called Bi yuan. Bi yuan happens when the symptoms of allergies, recognized as wind-cold or wind-heat, coexist with a deficiency of Wei qi equal to our immune system.
This deficiency of the Wei qi can happen in every meridian of our body, so when seeking acupuncture treatment, the practitioner needs to identify which organs cause the allergic reaction in order to successfully improve the symptoms.
Overview of the treatment
Acupuncture for allergy treatment can be very effective in relieving the symptoms or in some cases help the patient tolerate the cause of their allergic reaction. Acupuncture for allergies can also be efficient in eliminating dependency on medicine.
The treatment usually follows a two phase approach, where first the acupuncturist will treat the symptoms of the allergic reaction during the pollen season. Once the symptoms begin improving or are eliminated, the practitioner will focus on identifying the underlying cause of the allergies in the immune system Wei qi which, according to TCM doctors is often related to spleen, kidney, or lung deficiencies. Acupuncture for allergy treatment is personalized for each patient; however, some patients only have to return once or twice a year for a booster, while others may have to do it more often. Sometimes, the treatment is also accompanied by lifestyle changes and dietary advice.
Popular acupressure points
When seeking an acupuncture for allergy treatment, a good way to prolong the effects of your sessions is by stimulating certain points on your own.
In case of allergies, the acupressure is a bit different in the sense that in the first phase you will be stimulating six points at once, all of them symmetrically situated on your face. The name of the points are Large Intestine 20, Stomach 2, and Bladder 2, and the goal is to tackle that part of your body where allergies normally occur, meaning the nose and the eyes. To start the acupressure session you will need the last three fingers from each hand:
- Place the little fingers diagonally-upward just outside the nostrils;
- Place the ring fingers under the eyes, where you can feel a “whole” in your bones in a downward position towards your mouth;
- Place the middle fingers at the inner end of your eyebrows in an upward position towards the top of your head.
The position and coordination of the fingers is important for the pressure, however, it comes pretty naturally.
The second phase of the acupressure session is intended to treat the underlying cause of allergies and includes one point, Spleen 5. This pressure point is located towards the toes right below the big bone of your inner ankle. Spleen 5 is a pressure point used to treat what TCM calls dampness—a running nose and itchy eyes due to an abnormal accumulation of fluids like mucus and phlegm.
Even though more research is necessary, acupuncture for allergies is definitely worth trying as it has been proven to be effective in many cases. The best way to start is to use acupuncture as an alternative in addition to the antihistamines prescribed by your doctor until you start to see some results. After a consultation session, your acupuncturist will be able to tell you how many sessions will be necessary and what to do next to treat your specific symptoms. If you are lucky, you could eliminate the unpleasant symptoms of allergies with only a few sessions.