As a health care practitioner, effectively dealing with seasonal allergies has been a continuing challenge. As a (mostly former) sufferer of allergies myself, there is a particularly personal note added to the quest for workable solutions. In years prior to my exposure to Chinese medicine, I tried everything – from pharmaceuticals to natural supplements to homeopathic remedies. I can not claim that any of these roads led to very satisfied results for either in the moment relief or more permanent resolutions. Indeed, each passing year brought a more severe allergic response.
What I have discovered as both practitioner and patient is that long-term regular acupuncture treatment significantly improves airborne allergies, regardless of whether they are being directly addressed by treatment. Acupuncture works to resolve each person's unique imbalances. With each year of ongoing treatment, allergy symptoms become less and less exaggerated until they actually disappear. The allergic response is the body reacting to harmless particles (dust, pollen, mold spores) as if they were a real threat to the body. With prolonged treatment, the body corrects its pathological expression of being overly reactive to its other benign surroundings. As an aside, most acupuncture patients also handle stress more easily, as the mind learns to not emotionally react to every situation as if it were a real threat. Stressors are put into their proper perspective and there is less emotional upheaval. It's the same energetic pattern as the physical allergic reaction.
RELIEVING SYMPTOMS NOW – IN HOME CARE
Long term acupuncture treatment is of little comfort when the pollen is driving you crazy right now. There are a number of in-home strategies you can use to get sweet relief.
- Steam Infusions
The primary system affected by allergy symptoms is the Lung Qi system. According to the Chinese medical classics, the Lungs respond well to being misted with warm vapors. Place steaming water in a large bowl. Add a few drops of essential oils. Breathe infused steam for 5 to 10 minutes. Use a towel drape to intensify. (My favorite oil combination is peppermint, tea tree and eucalyptus.)
- Neti Pots
Daily irrigation of the nasal passes gives surprisingly good results in keeping allergy symptoms at bay. Neti pots are readily available at health food stores and even some mainstream pharmacies. A mild saline solution is placed in the ceramic pot and scattered through the spout into one nostril at a time, as it drains out the other. It can be a little awkward at first, but once mastered, it is quick and not as uncomfortable as it sounds!
- Chinese Herbs
In the rare event that I may still suffer a short stint of allergy symptoms, I turn to Chinese herbs. The most effective formula I have found is Aller Ease by Blue Poppy Herbs. My patients and I have found that it is as effective as over the counter pharmaceuticals for symptomatic relief, without any of the side-effects. (Sorry, but I have not found the multitude of herbs and formulas at the health food store to give much relief.
- Good Diet
Eating a diet that avoids phlegm production will help clear your head. That means limiting or avoiding processed foods, dairy, refined flour, sugars, artificial sweeteners, and food additives. Focus of fresh veggies, whole grains and good quality meat.
- No Cold or Iced Drinks
Really! This makes a big difference. The Lung Qi can not handle cold and responds by “rebelling” upwards. That translates into coughing or sinus and nasal congestion.
GETTING PROFESSIONAL TREATMENT
If you find that you need more power to keep allergy suffering at bay, acupuncture treatment can offer significant short-term symptomatic relief. I particularly like using non-needle electrical stimulation to help alleviate sinus and / or nasal congestion and irritated itchy eyes. For coughs and chest congestion, gua sha (Chinese skin scrapping technique referred in many of my past newsletters) on the upper back is particularly effective.
I hope the tips above provide useful insights into your comfort and care. I wish you a healthy, productive and joyous spring!