Spring is around the corner, and while it may seem too soon, now is the perfect time to get ahead of springtime allergies. While Spring certainly brings with it warmer weather and a sense of rebirth, for many, it also brings on those dreaded seasonal allergies. For some, seasonal allergies are mildly uncomfortable, while for others they can be extremely disruptive to everyday life. As a result, millions of dollars are spent every year on allergy medications and shots, which often provide only mild relief.
Western doctors may prescribe antihistamines, decongestants, or even steroid nasal sprays, which unfortunately, only treat the manifestation of the condition. Not only that, but many of these medications cause side effects such as dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, nervousness, dryness, and gastro-intestinal issues. Luckily, Chinese medicine can be an incredible alternative to not only provide relief from allergy symptoms, but address the root cause of why you may be suffering in the first place.
Seasonal allergies, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, or “hay fever” are caused by an over-reactivity of the immune system to certain allergens such as wind-born tree, grass, or weed pollen. This means that your immune system is identifying an airborne substance that is typically harmless, as dangerous. The immune system responds by releasing histamines and other chemicals into the bloodstream, and this is what causes the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
These allergies become worse during certain times of year when plants are blooming and releasing pollen into the air to fertilize other plants. Sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, headaches, fatigue, coughing, wheezing and watery, itchy, or red eyes are common symptoms. In addition, when allergens and antibodies react nasal mucosa becomes swollen and may obstruct drainage from the sinuses causing sinusitis in many people.
Allergies from a Chinese medicine viewpoint
From a Chinese medicine point of view, allergies are seen as poor processing at the surface of the body. This can be due to weakness in the body’s Defensive-Qi and/or blockage at the surface of the body especially around the orifices of the face. Allergens like pollen, dust, and animal hair act as an irritant that the body can not tolerate.
The goal of Chinese medicine in this case is to bring the body back into balance so that it is no longer irritated by the external pathogens. With acupuncture and herbs we can decrease inflammation, boost the immune system, and work to regulate the histamine response. A major difference between Chinese medicine and Western medicine in the case of seasonal allergies, is that Chinese medicine can be used as a preventative measure, before the allergies even begin.
Your acupuncturist will use herbs and acupuncture to help reduce congestion, open the nasal passages, relieve itchiness and clear the eyes. This is treatment of the manifestation, or symptoms, of the condition. However, we know that Chinese medicine does not stop there. The real strength of the medicine is its ability to address the underlying root of the condition, namely, the poor processing of the overpowering external stressors: the allergens at the surface of the body. Together, both the root and the manifestation of the condition are treated to produce lasting results.
Receiving acupuncture treatments during the season in which you suffer from allergies can diminish your symptoms and shorten the duration of or eliminate altogether the allergy season. As mentioned above, starting treatments before the allergy season even starts, is an even better method of attack.
There is also a special classical Chinese medicine treatment administered at the height of the summer heat to help strengthen the lungs and immune system. This treatment addresses long term asthma, seasonal allergies, and chronic colds. Please be sure to schedule appointments as winter winds down in preparation for Spring, and again in mid July to early August to catch this short window of time.
In addition to acupuncture and herbs, nutrition can play a role in seasonal allergies as well. We recommend seeking Chinese medicinal herbal help so that your practitioner can customize a formula that best meets your individual needs. Chinese herbs are often paired with other dietary recommendations and supplements that are helpful for allergies, such as bioflavonoid rich foods, as well as quercetin.