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Seasonal Allergies: Acupuncture & Herbal Treatments
By: Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM
Q: My allergies kick into high gear in the spring. Antihistamines and over-the-counter medications make me drowsy. What can I try that is more natural to stop my seasonal allergy symptoms?

A: It's springtime. Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining and the brisk spring breeze is scattering seeds and pollen, and dust. Allergy season begins.

While many over-the-counter medications offer temporary relief, an increasing number of allergy sufferers are exploring natural allergy remedies that have longer lasting results and none of the troubling side effects associated with Western drugs.

Natural medicine, herbs, and diet can alleviate or prevent allergies and asthma in four ways:
  • Controlling inflammation of air passages
  • Dilating air passages
  • Thinning mucus in the lungs
  • Preventing food-allergy reactions that can trigger respiratory allergies and asthma
How can you incorporate these benefits into your life?

Try acupuncture and TCM! TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) has been used to treat allergies for hundreds of years. Several studies have confirmed that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be helpful for allergic conditions such as asthma, eczema, and food allergies.

In a study published in Allergy, 52 people with allergic rhinitis were randomly assigned acupuncture treatments and Chinese herbal tea or sham acupuncture and herbs for six weeks. Nearly 85 percent or the people receiving the real acupuncture and herbs had 100 percent or significant improvement of their symptoms, versus 40 percent of those getting the placebo treatment.

Spice it up: Spicy dishes can thin mucus secretions and clear nasal passages. Try adding cayenne pepper or ginger to your foods. Ginger is a natural antihistamine and decongestant. It may provide some relief from allergy symptoms by dilating constricted bronchial tubes.
 
Eat the right fat: Omega-3 essential fatty acids can counter the formation of chemicals that cause inflammation of the air passages. Good natural sources include flaxseed oil and salmon.

Eat yogurt and increase fiber: Food intolerances seem to be connected with seasonal allergies. A healthy and active colon can decrease food sensitivity, which can, in turn, lighten the burden on your immune system and may reduce the impact of seasonal allergies. For maximum colon health, increase the fiber in your diet and eat yogurt. The active cultures in yogurt can restore the balance between good and bad bacteria in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. In a study conducted at the University of California, patients who were fed 18 to 24 ounces of yogurt a day experienced a decline in their allergic symptoms by 90 percent

An apple a day: Some foods, including apples, contain the flavanoid, quersetin that can cross-react with tree pollen. Quercetin can reduce allergic reactions by having an antihistamine effect. It also decreases inflammation.

Quercetin is found naturally in certain foods, such as apples (with the skin on), berries, red grapes, red onions, capers, and black tea.

Go orange: Carotenoids are a family of plant pigments, the most popular being beta-carotene. Although no randomized controlled trials show that carotenoids are effective treatments for hay fever, a lack of carotenoids in the diet is thought to promote inflammation in your airways.

There are no guidelines or research that suggests a certain target intake for hay fever. Many people don't even get one serving of carotenoid-rich foods a day. If this is you, consider striving for one to two servings a day.

Good sources of carotenoids include apricots, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, kale, butternut squash, and collard greens.

Learn more about acupuncture and allergies