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Spring: Addressing Allergies with Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture
Allergies and Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), including a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs has a high success rate for treating allergies. The goal of all TCM is to promote the healthy flow of qi (vital energy) that travels through the meridians of our bodies. TCM interprets the cause of allergic rhinitis, referred to as “bi yuan,” as an imbalance in the distribution of qi. The blockages, excesses, deficiencies and imbalances that can occur in each of the meridians and organs need to be identified and corrected in order to eliminate allergy symptoms, strengthen the immune system, and decrease reactivity to typical allergens such as pollen, dust and animal dander.
Bi yuan occurs due to invasions of “wind-cold” that eventually turns to “wind-heat” if not treated properly. Allergy symptoms will either present as wind-cold or wind-heat. Wind, like the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, causes congestion. This wind often coexists with a deficiency of the protective qi or “wei qi.” Wei qi is analogous to our immune system. Those with wei qi deficiency catch colds easily, and their allergy symptoms may be especially acute in spring or autumn, which are windy seasons, that easily circulate typical irritants such as pollen and grass seeds.
Treatment using TCM can dramatically lessen allergic reactions, or in some cases help the sufferer tolerate what caused the symptoms. It also enables most people to reduce or eliminate their dependence on allergy medication. We like to use a two-phased approach when treating seasonal allergies. First, during the pollen season Spring- late Summer, the focus will be to treat the acute symptoms by expelling the wind-cold or wind-heat. Second, after the pollen season, or when the symptoms have cleared, our focus is on treating the underlying problem by strengthening the immune system or wei qi. This is best done Autumn-Winter, especially if the client suffers colds easily in Winter or at change of season. After an initial series of treatments, further treatments are provided as needed. Some people may need to return a few times a year at season change for a booster, while others may need to come more often. Your treatment will always be individualized to meet your needs.
When we treat someone for allergies, we also look for constitutional or more deeply rooted signs. The idea is to treat the person as a whole. According to TCM, people with chronic allergies often show signs of ‘Pi/spleen’ or ‘Shen/kidney’ deficiency as well as Fei/lung problems (NB: spleen , lung and kidney here refers to Chinese definitions of these organ systems, not the Western organ) . The goal of the practitioner is to develop a treatment plan that will alleviate the patient’s acute symptoms while addressing the underlying immune system imbalance at the root of the allergy. Treatments often include lifestyle and dietary recommendations. There are also excellent Chinese herbal formulas that help to treat allergy symptoms and strengthen immunity.
TCM provides an alternative that doesn’t require taking medications which can have unpleasant or even serious side effects. If you suffer from allergies, you may want to consider the natural approach offered by Traditional Chinese Medicine.