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April 15, 2013

Beating allergies with acupuncture and herbal medicine

Written by: Matthew Wagner, L.Ac., M.S.O.M.

The winter is finally starting to loosen it’s icy grip, and as most of us eagerly await long summer days filled with sun, warmth, and time spent outdoors, many of us also feel a twinge of apprehension - allergy season is on it’s way! If you’re one of the whopping 20% of Americans who suffers from seasonal allergies, (1) you know that your love of warm weather comes with a price, and all of the fun summer activities spent outside with friends and family are often accompanied by sneezing, coughing, runny nose, headache, and just plain feeling lousy. This can leave many of us looking for whatever relief we can find, be that staying indoors, using over-the-counter medications, or searching for any number of alternative remedies. Among this long list of possibilities, Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine is one of the best-kept secrets; it is oftentimes one of the most effective long-term allergy treatments available, and can even keep allergies from coming back.

The standard medical treatment for allergies is the use of over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants. Antihistamines block the histamine (allergy) response in the body, while decongestants block mucus secretion from mucus membranes, such as the nasal passageways. For more severe allergies, a doctor may recommend allergy shots, which slowly increase the body’s exposure to allergens over time, in an effort to decrease the body’s immune response.

While these solutions will work better for some allergy sufferers than others, they all carry the risk of unwanted side effects, such as dry mouth, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and vomit, urinary difficulty, irritability, confusion, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and sleep disturbances. More alarmingly, they can become addictive, requiring a higher and higher dose to get the same effect. On the other hand, allergy shots are generally considered to have less risk of side effects. However, during treatment, they can create the same allergy symptoms that they are trying to alleviate, and if effective, the patient may require consistent monthly treatment for 3-5 years. (2)

In contrast, Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine has a high rate of success in treating seasonal allergies, while also having a low incidence of side effects. This is because it regulates the immune system, as opposed to blocking, or disrupting it. As Acupuncture gains popularity, more and more studies are pointing to acupuncture as being a safe and effective alternative to conventional treatments. For example, a 2013 study found that:

“Active acupuncture showed a significantly greater effect on symptoms of allergic rhinitis than either sham acupuncture or no active treatment. The symptoms of allergic rhinitis decreased significantly after treatment in both acupuncture and sham acupuncture groups. Acupuncture appears to be an effective and safe treatment for allergic rhinitis.” (3)

Given, Acupuncture’s success rates and its low risk of side effects, it may just be the ideal choice for treating allergies this season. If you suffer from allergies, and want to be healthy, symptom free, and ready to enjoy the summer, give Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine a try! I’d be happy to talk with you about how we can help to improve your quality of life.

1 - http://www.webmd.com/allergies/allergy-statistics 2 - http://www.webmd.com/allergies/allergy-shots-immunotherapy-for-allergic-rhinitis 3 - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23253122