According to the NIH, allergic diseases affect more than 50 million Americans. Environmental allergies are very common, with over 17 million new diagnosed cases of hay fever annually in the U.S. They result from a hypersensitivity of the immune system, which reacts to particulates or allergens including pollen, dust, molds, dander and environmental toxins. An inflammatory response occurs, releasing histamines and leukotrienes, which cause sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, nasal congestion, headache, runny nose, and possibly sinusitis.
What Is The Western Treatment?
Western Medicine tends to treat allergies in three ways. The first approach involves the use of anti-histamines or anti-leukotrienes, either over the counter (i.e. claritin, benadryl) or by prescription (i.e. Allegra, Singulair). The second type of treatment involves the use of nasal steroids such as nasonex or flonase to reduce swelling and inflammation from the histamine response. Finally, some are treated with injections to the particular allergen to decrease the body’s histamine response. These therapies can often be problematic, carrying the side effects of drowsiness, dry mouth, sleep interference, or, in the case of the injections, a 3-5 year regimen that is time-consuming, and not feasible nor effective for everyone.
What is the Traditional East Asian Medicine Treatment?
Traditional East Asian Medicine employs a combination of acupuncture, herbal remedies, and proper nutrition in order to re-balance the immune system. A randomized controlled study on persistent allergic rhinitis in pediatric patients compared true vs. sham acupuncture in its treatment. The authors concluded that true acupuncture was more effective than sham acupuncture in decreasing the symptom scores for persistent allergic rhinitis and increasing the symptom-free days. (1)
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have been shown to be effective in treating allergies by stimulating and strengthening the body’s immune system, regulating the immune response and alleviating the signs and symptoms of allergic rhinitis. A randomized controlled trial from 2004 studied 52 patients with chronic seasonal allergic rhinitis. The control group received acupuncture to non-acupuncture or sham points and a non-specific herbal decoction. The study group received a semi-standardized treatment of acupuncture and a prescribed Chinese herbal decoction. The results showed an 85% improvement in the study group and only a 40% improvement in the control group. The study group also showed a significant improvement after treatment on the VAS (visual analogue scale) and the rhinitis quality of life questionnaire. (2)
Treatments for environmental allergies address each individual’s needs depending on what signs and symptoms are present. Studies show that treatments are more effective when patients take herbs specifically for their needs in addition to acupuncture (3). This also cuts down the overall cost of treatment, as the patient gets daily support between the acupuncture treatments, thus requiring fewer acupuncture treatments.
1. Daniel K. Ng, FRCP, et al. A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Acupuncture for the Treatment of Childhood Persistent Allergic Rhinitis. Pediatrics. Vol. 114 No. 5 November 2004, pp. 1242-1247
2. Brinkhaus, B., et al. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal Medicine in the treatment of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized-controlled clinical trial. Allergy, 2004; 59 (9), 953-960.
3. Lao L. et al. Is Acupuncture Safe? A Systematic Review of Case Reports. Altern Ther Health Med 2003;9(1):72-83