As is the case with any condition treated by a Chinese Medicine practitioner, the treatment of allergies is based on an individualized TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) diagnosis, or pattern. Patterns displayed by the patient may be indicative of the underlying contributing factors for the development of allergies, an understanding of which allows the practitioner to treat the cause and not just the symptoms.
Allergies occur when the body’s immune system perceives an otherwise harmless substance (i.e. pollen, mold, dust, various foods) as a threat to the body – producing an inflammatory reaction that may cause a number of symptoms. While allergy sufferers may experience similar symptoms, the underlying immune imbalances differ person to person. For this reason, Chinese Medicine is a wonderful treatment modality for allergy sufferers, to address individual imbalances for each person.
The goal of the Chinese medicine practitioner is to develop a plan which addresses the person’s acute symptoms and provides immediate relief, while also treating the whole person, with a focus on balancing the immune system to effectively manage allergies for the long-term. A typical treatment for allergies may include acupuncture, herbal prescriptions, and lifestyle and diet recommendations.
In a randomized, controlled study that included 151 adults who were assigned to receive “real acupuncture”, “placebo acupuncture” (twice a week for 8 weeks) or remain untreated, acupuncture was shown to be effective to treat allergic rhinitis. The study examined the effectiveness of acupuncture in relieving allergy symptoms, as well as measured various proteins indicative of an inflammatory response taken from blood and/or saliva samples. The results showed a statistically significant decrease in allergen-specific IgE type for dust mites only in the “real acupuncture” group, as well as a decrease in Substance P and other pro-inflammatory neuropeptides. Nasal obstruction, nasal itching, sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and a non-refreshing sleep significantly improved in the “real acupuncture” group and continued to improve throughout the 4 weeks of follow-up.