HAYFEVER & ACUPUNCTURE: ITCHY, SNOTTINESS VS THE NEEDLE.
A big reason why I expanded my toolbox to include Traditional Chinese Acupuncture was to effectively treat ailments beyond the musculoskeletal realm.
Hayfever was one of the first.
From a Chinese Medicine perspective hay fever comes about through a number of diagnoses – usually a deficiency in Lung, Spleen and/or Kidney functions (as in the Chinese Medicine function, not the physiological function) with an invasion of wind or cold. From a Western medicine perspective this definition doesn’t make a lot of sense, but simply put – when your body’s constitution is susceptible or your barriers are down AND there’s exposure to allergens, you’ll get hayfever-like symptoms.
The treatment theory based on this is quite simple – strengthen the weakened element (Lung/Spleen/Kidney) and expel the invasive, overpowering wind or cold. There is no physiological translation for this, just theories around the effect of acupuncture needles on the body .
The proposed physiological theories include:
• Reduction of IgE and IgA levels (Lai et al., 1991)
• Reduction of nasal and blood eosinophil counts (Zhou & Zhang, 1999)
• Inhibition of the release of histamines (Lai et al., 1992)
And, as exciting as that all sounds *cough* research lately, rather than focusing on the mechanism, has leant more towards whether symptomatic relief is reached or not. This is of far more interest to us.
Current medical management of hayfever symptoms typically involves drugs (antihistamines, decongestants, corticosteroids) and whilst the success of these are fairly well documented, there are limitations – they can be accompanied by the side effects of drowsiness or rebound nasal congestion or, in extreme cases, anaphylaxis and for some people they are just simply ineffective.
With research articles like these showing the effectiveness of traditional acupuncture in reducing nasal symptoms (sneezing, running nose, congestion) and non-nasal symptoms (itchy, watery eyes), with no side effects. Acupuncture is already the preferred choice of treatment for hayfever sufferers and it’s growing fast!