Treating Springtime Allergies
with Acupuncture and Herbs

Does the bloom of spring trigger the onset of allergies for you every year? Spring is the season of rebirth, bringing flowers, greenery and warm weather. The spring air is filled with new hope after winter along with various pollens from budding trees, flowers, weeds and grasses, bringing misery in the form of sneezing, head congestion, watery itchy eyes, coughing, runny nose and loss of energy.

Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) which is usually not necessarily related to hay and is not associated with a fever, can appear as early as February and last throughout the summer. People with multiple pollen symptoms may continue to experience troublesome bouts of allergy symptoms as the different allergenic plants come into bloom and their pollen spreads everywhere.

Geographical location will often dictate when a person will develop symptoms by the type of foliage present there. Also, there can sometimes be a family history that predisposes one to be sensitive to pollens.

An estimated 22 million Americans suffer from springtime allergies. Millions of dollars are spent on medications and the allergy shots.

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It's important to understand that symptoms are a sign of a malfunctioning immune system. Substances that are normally harmless, such as pollen, represent a threat. It isn't the allergy itself that's the problem, but a person's reaction to the allergens. The histamine produced in attempting to fight off these allergens causes the classic hay fever symptoms. Conventional medical treatments, which consist primarily of antihistamines and steroid nasal sprays, focus on suppressing the symptoms. While effective in that regard, they can also create side effects and potential health risks.

Fortunately, traditional Chinese medicine or TCM is a safe and natural option available for treating these seasonal problems. TCM, which includes a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs, provides very effective relief. The goal of TCM is to promote the healthy flow of qi (energy) that travels through the meridians of our bodies.

Allergy symptoms, according to TCM are caused by an imbalance in the distribution of qi. The blockages, excesses and imbalances that can occur in each of the different meridians and organs need to be identified and corrected. In Chinese medicine, allergies are referred to as "Bi Yuan," which literally means "nose-pool. Bi Yuan is due to repeated invasions of "Wind-cold" that eventually turns to "heat" if not treated properly.

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Allergy symptoms will either present as Wind-cold or Wind-heat. There is also usually an accompanying underlying deficiency of the body's protective qi or "Wei qi" (roughly translated as our immune system). We like to use a two-pronged approach when treating seasonal responses. First, during the pollen season, attention will be directed at treating the acute symptoms, i.e. expelling Wind-cold or Wind-heat. Next, outside of the pollen season, or when the symptoms have cleared, the focus will be on treating the underlying problem, i.e. strengthening the immune system or Wei qi.

Treatment with TCM can either dramatically lessen allergic reactions, or in some cases it can actually help the person to tolerate what previously caused the symptoms. Most people end up significantly reducing or eliminating their dependence on allergy medication. Usually people get some relief during their first acupuncture treatment.

After an initial series of treatments, further treatments will be done on an as-needed basis. Some people may come back once or twice a year for a booster, while others may come more often. Treatment is always individualized.

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There are also excellent Chinese herbal formulas that help to treat allergy symptoms as well as ones that strengthen your immunity. Lifestyle and dietary recommendations are often suggested as well.

Allergies may be affecting more and more people, but they are definitely treatable. TCM provides an alternative that doesn't require taking medications that can have unpleasant or even serious side effects. If you suffer from the annual assault of spring pollen, you may want to consider the natural approach with acupuncture and herbs.

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For more information about allergies, please also see:
Allergies and Respiratory Health
Tips for Lung Health

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SAN FRANCISCO NATURAL MEDICINE
formerly: SOMA Acupuncture & Natural Health Clinic
Carl Hangee-Bauer, ND, LAc
Erika Horowitz, ND • Natalie Metz, ND
Jacqueline Blakely, ND, LAc • Nafysa Parpia, ND • Stephen Meeneghan, ND, LAc
1615 20th St • San Francisco CA 94107 • 415-643-6600

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