The sun is finally shining this week, the weather is warm enough to drive with the windows down, the birds are chirping, people are smiling to each other on the street…and while springtime means warmer weather, more sunshine, and new life bursting forth, for many of us, it also means the return of seasonal allergy symptoms. Sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, head congestion, running nose, itchy ears, scratchy throat – all are common symptoms of springtime allergy sufferers.
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine can be useful therapeutic modalities to treat seasonal allergies. Both treatments focus on bringing the body into balance so that the exacerbated allergic response is tempered, allowing symptoms to subside. Treatment focuses both on the root cause of the problem, as well as alleviating presenting symptoms (which are somewhat different for everyone.)
A large randomized controlled trial conducted in Germany in 2013 found that acupuncture may be effective in reducing symptoms of allergic rhinitis (a runny nose from allergies.) 422 people were divided into 3 groups. The first group received 12 acupuncture treatments, plus antihistamines to take as needed. The second group received 12 sham acupuncture treatments (not “real” acupuncture), as well as antihistamines to take as needed. (For my thoughts on “sham” acupuncture trials, please read this blog post.) The third group, the control, received just antihistamines to take as needed. After the 8 week intervention period, the group that received 12 acupuncture treatments plus antihistamine reported statistically significantly less symptoms that better quality of life than the other 2 treatment groups. 71% of the patients in the real acupuncture group showed symptom improvement and reduced need for rescue medication.
The fact that acupuncture was shown to reduce the need for allergy medication is significant. Many patients don’t tolerate allergy medication well, and can experience side effects such as a racing heart, insomnia or somnolence, dizziness, or other unpleasant symptoms.