Sunny springtime is just around the corner: birds chirping, the sweet smell of flowers in bloom, finally exposing your shins to fresh air again … it’s a time of year that most people look forward to. Unless, of course, you suffer from springtime allergies. In that case, it is more likely that you are observing spring from the confines of your home, surrounded by an air cleaner, allergy medication, and a mountain of tissues.
Allergies occur when our immune system mistakenly identifies harmless substances such as pollen or pet dander as something we need protection against and mounts an immune response to protect us. In Chinese medical theory, there are two components to an allergic reaction: a root cause (an underlying disharmony of the body’s energetic system) and a symptomatic manifestation (the allergy attack itself).
In most cases, allergies occur when there is an underlying deficiency in the energy, or qi, of the lung and digestive organs. Because the body’s qi is not strong enough to properly protect us from pathogens, our body is constantly reacting to and trying to fight off irritants from our environment.
So, how does acupuncture help with allergies? Treating allergies with Chinese medicine requires a two-pronged approach. First, we need to alleviate the symptoms of an active allergy attack (itching, sneezing, coughing, runny nose, congestion). Second, we need to address the underlying weakness in order to harmonize the body’s energy and prevent or minimize future symptoms.
Acupuncture helps to rebalance the body by manipulating energy in the acupuncture meridians. When being treated for allergies with acupuncture, you can expect to have needles placed all over the body – the most common sites include the legs below the knees, arms below the elbows, feet, hands, abdomen/back, and head.
One of the beautiful things about acupuncture is that treatments are completely individualized. The points used for seasonal allergy relief will vary from person to person, as well as with each person’s specific symptoms on the day of treatment. For example, different points on the body might be used if someone is experiencing an active allergy than when they are between acute exacerbations.
Although treatment frequency and length of treatment can vary from one person to another, you can generally expect to see improvements in your allergy symptoms with 3-6 weeks of regular acupuncture and/or herbal medicine. A treatment plan should be discussed with your acupuncturist at your first visit, although a typical plan might look something like: weekly sessions, starting one month before allergy season, with more frequent sessions during an acute attack. Additionally, you can support your immune system by taking supplements like Natural D-Hist; AllerEase, as well as immune-boosting herbs and supplements like Vitamin E Complex. You can access our supplements and retail products from our online store. We will continue to add products to our store, but in the meantime, if what you’re looking for is currently not listed or if you are looking for a refill on something that you have bought in our centers, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for shipping options. You can also reach out to your practitioner with any questions about which herbs or supplements are right for you.
Allergy attacks will likely become less frequent and severe with regular acupuncture, and most people are eventually able to space out to regular (usually monthly) maintenance sessions. Since it can take a few weeks for acupuncture treatments to reach full effectiveness, we recommend that you begin treatment about a month before allergy season starts for the best results.