Acupuncture For Allergies

Science supports the use of Chinese medicine and acupuncture for allergies.

Independent research has shown that Chinese medical treatment can provide relief for both respiratory allergies and food intolerances. The bulk of this article is about respiratory conditions, and at the end, I discuss the exciting research indicating that an herbal formula derived from Chinese traditional medicine can significantly alleviate food intolerances.

Acute and Chronic Treatment

During the acute phase, when you are suffering the symptoms of sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itching eyes, and so on, acupuncture and herbal medicine treatment aims at reducing the inflammation and histamine response.

If you have chronic, perennial allergies, you will benefit from an extended course of treatment with acupuncture, herbal medicine, and dietary changes to fortify your constitution and reduce the hypersensitivity of the immune system. Treatment focuses on fortifying the respiratory, endocrine (adrenal), and immune functions.

Acupuncture for Allergies

Although acupuncture has not received much high quality research attention, a review study published in the Annals of Allergy Asthma and Immunology [2009 Apr;102(4):269-79; quiz 279-81, 307] reported that acupuncture for allergies (allergic rhinitis, seasonal allergies, 'hayfever') does improve symptoms:

"For perennial AR [allergic rhinitis], 1 study reported favorable effects of acupuncture on a rhinitis symptoms score and 1 found positive results for a nasal symptoms score compared with placebo acupuncture (n = 152; standard mean difference, 0.45; 95% confidence interval, 0.13-0.78; P = .006; heterogeneity: chi2 = 0.45, P = .50, I2 = 0%). Two RCTs compared acupuncture with oral pharmacologic medications. Their results were in favor of acupuncture.

This means:

1. For perennial rhinitis, real acupuncture reduced symptoms by an average of 55% compared to placebo acupuncture.

2. Acupuncture may provide more relief than pharmacological medicines without their associated side-effects.

Chinese Herbal Medicine for Allergies

Studies on Chinese herbal remedies for allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies or 'hayfever') tend to show that they work well and have long term effects. For example: The Chinese herbal formulation biminne in management of perennial allergic rhinitis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, 12-week clinical trial. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2002 May;88(5):478-87.

RESULTS: The trial outcomes evaluated by four instruments showed a statistically significant improvement in some of the symptoms of AR, whereas others exhibited a positive trend that did not reach statistical significance. Followup 1 year after completion of the trial suggested that benefit of the treatment persisted. A pilot dose-response study showed both half and full strengths were effective. Total serum immunoglobulin E was reduced after the herbal treatment. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest the Biminne formulation is effective in treatment of perennial AR. Its mode of action is unknown.

Treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis using Shi-Bi-Lin, a Chinese herbal formula. This study used a modified version of Cang Er Zi San, the basic formula in the herbal combinations I most frequently use for rhinitis and sinusitis.

"RESULTS: SBL was found to be safe and effective in relieving some symptoms of perennial allergic rhinitis, improving the nose condition, and enhancing some domains of quality of life when compare to placebo, (p<0.05). In the 2 weeks follow up after treatment completion, the SBL enjoyed a prolongation of symptom control (p=0.05). CONCLUSION: SBL relieved symptoms of nose blockage among patients with perennial allergic rhinitis, and some aspects of the quality of life were also improved. The improvement was sustained for at least 2 weeks after treatment. No serious adverse events were encountered."

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in the treatment of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized-controlled clinical trial.

"RESULTS: Compared with patients in the control group, patients in the active treatment group showed a significant after-treatment improvement on the VAS (P = 0.006) and Rhinitis Quality of Life Questionnaire (P = 0.015). Improvement on the Global Assessment of Change Scale was noted in 85% of active treatment group participants vs 40% in the control group (P = 0.048). No differences between the two groups could be detected with the Allergic Rhinitis Symptom Questionnaire. Both treatments were well-tolerated. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study suggest that traditional Chinese therapy may be an efficacious and safe treatment option for patients with seasonal AR."

Food Allergies and Herbal Medicine

Some food intolerances and allergies are caused by foods from genera that our ancient hunting and gathering ancestors did not eat or rarely ate during most of the ~2 million years of human evolution, namely grains (wheat, rye, barley, oats, rice, etc.), legumes (beans, peas, and lentils, including peanuts), dairy products, shellfish, and eggs.

In November 2010, at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, allergists discussed the use of Chinese herbs in treatment of food allergies. A Chinese herbal formula dubbed Food Allergy Herbal Formula (FAHF-2) has produced a significant reduction in peanut-induced anaphylaxis in mice, with a preventive effect of up to 40 weeks, and Phase I clinical studies have shown that FAHF-2 is safe in humans.

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