Most people suffer from two main types of allergies: Seasonal and Perennial. Seasonal allergies, commonly called “hay fever,” result from exposure to airborne substances such as pollens that appear only during certain times of the year. These are the allergies you experience when the flowers bloom in spring, for instance. Perennial allergies result from exposure to substances such as house dust or house pets. Perennial allergies may occur during any season and may last year-round. Both seasonal and perennial allergies can cause symptoms of itching of the nose, roof of the mouth, back of the throat, and eyes. The nose runs, producing a clear watery discharge, and may become stuffed up. Other symptoms include sneezing, headache, coughing, wheezing, and irritability.
The immune system includes antibodies, white blood cells, mast cells, complement proteins, and other substances. It is our body’s defense against foreign substances called antigens. The immune system can overreact to certain antigens, called allergens, which are harmless in most people. The result is an allergic reaction. In other words, it isn’t the allergy itself that is the problem, but the person’s reaction to the allergen.
How Can Acupuncture Help Allergies?
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have been proven to help alleviate the symptoms of allergies when they are active and more importantly, can help to correct the immune system imbalance that causes the allergic response in the first place.
Acupuncture treatment affects allergies in 4 main ways:
- Stabilize the immune system to moderate its response to invading allergens.
- Decrease swelling and inflammation of local tissues to stop itching.
- Decrease secretions of mucus membranes to reduce nasal discharge and watery eyes.
- Strengthen your natural resistance to antigens.
Acupuncture points are selected based on your individual constellation of signs and symptoms. The focus of each treatment will be on relieving the troubling symptoms while simultaneously helping your body stop the allergic cascade. It is also very important to use acupuncture and herbs preventatively, when you are not having allergy problems. Certain acupuncture points have been shown to enhance the immune system’s performance. In addition, it is important to address any other lifestyle habits that may be detrimental to the immune system such as diet, lack of exercise and poor sleep. The frequency and severity of your allergic symptoms can be drastically reduced if the immune system is allowed to fully repair in the off-season.
Herbal Medicine and Allergies
Much like when you go to the doctor for a prescription, herbal medicine can be used to alleviate your allergy symptoms. Your acupuncturist will compile an herbal formula based on your individual symptoms—this means that each patient receives different herbs for their varying complaints. For instance, a person with allergies that cause a runny nose and watery eyes will receive a different formula than someone who primarily complains of a headache and stuffy nose.
More often than not, a person with allergies will benefit greatly from combined acupuncture and herbal therapy which should not cause any side effects if they are administered properly. Herbs are medicine that you can use daily, between acupuncture treatments, to sustain the effects of treatment and continually combat symptoms. Herbs can also be used safely in conjunction with western medicine treatment such as allergy shots or OTC meds.
How many Treatments Will I Need?
The severity and nature of the allergic condition will determine the length and type of treatment. Typically a person will spend 6 months treating their allergies as it is important to treat between acute attacks in order to address the underlying immune system imbalance. After an initial consultation during which you will discuss your health history and current symptoms, your acupuncturist will prepare a treatment plan with you. Allergies are becoming more prevalent each year and it is important to take care of our immune systems so that we as a species continue to thrive in this world.