The One Thing You May Not Have Tried for Your Allergies
Houston may have earned the 12th spot on the 2023 list of allergy capitals in the United States, but for seasonal allergy sufferers who have tried it all, promising modern research backs an unexpected, ancient solution for your sniffles and sneezes.
Acupuncture is a branch of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate healing and promote wellness. While acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat everything from back pain to Bell’s palsy, did you know it can also help to ease your seasonal allergy symptoms?
Allergic rhinitis is a common issue affecting millions of people around the world. It occurs when the immune system overreacts to harmless substances, such as pollen, dust mites, or pet dander. This can trigger symptoms, like sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose or an itchy throat.
One 2015 meta-analysis in the American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy, which examined 13 studies with 2,365 total participants, assessed the clinical efficacy of acupuncture for the management of allergic rhinitis, finding it to be a safe and valid option for allergy sufferers .
“Pollen and mold are two of the most common allergens that affect our patients here in Houston,” says Henry Nguyen, owner of Nguyen Wellness + Recovery. “My patients often notice the severity of their seasonal allergies are much less than in previous years, when they come in for regular acupuncture sessions.”
Nguyen also notes that many of his patients report being able to cut back on their allergy medication usage after beginning acupuncture treatments.
“I’ve had patients go from taking daily antihistamines to only having to take medication once or twice a week, which is huge for them,” says Nguyen.
A 2018 clinical trial out of Germany supports this outcome often seen in many acupuncture clinics. The trial analyzed three groups of patients receiving treatment for their allergy symptoms: patients receiving acupuncture, patients receiving sham (fake) acupuncture, and a control group receiving only antihistamines. Patients receiving acupuncture were instructed to take antihistamines as needed. It was found that patients receiving acupuncture used half as much medication as the control group .
How Does Acupuncture Work?
From an Eastern perspective, allergy symptoms are a simple sign that the body’s immune system is out of balance and requires support. When specific acupuncture points on the body are stimulated, a biochemical reaction in the body occurs, which can help to stimulate the immune system and also reduce inflammation in the body, by regulating the body’s flow of energy, known as qi.
Modern Western research suggests that acupuncture works by supporting the down-regulation of serum IgE, IL-1 β, and TNF-α. These substances are all pro-inflammatory mediators, meaning they produce inflammation in the body and can sometimes make symptoms and diseases worse. IgE is an antibody produced by the immune system, but is also involved in hypersensitivity related to asthma, sinusitis, and allergic rhinitis. IL-1 β is a pro-inflammatory cell-signaling protein (also known as a cytokine) with fever-producing properties. TNF-α is another cytokine involved in systemic inflammation and acute reactions .
While acupuncture can help to manage allergy symptoms, one of the best ways it can be used is preventatively, to help modulate the immune system before symptoms even occur. There is even an ancient herbal formula that many acupuncturists commonly prescribe to patients leading up to cold and allergy season, that helps to strengthen and support the body to prevent seasonal illnesses altogether.
What to Expect During a Treatment
We always take a patient-centered approach in our Houston acupuncture clinic, targeting specific acupuncture points based on individual needs for seasonal allergy symptom relief. For example, we may use a point between the eyebrows called Yintang if a patient is experiencing sinus pressure. Congestion can quickly be treated with particular points alongside the nose, like Ying Xiang or Bitong. Inflammation can be addressed using points at each elbow.
During your appointment, you can expect a relaxing session that will often yield quick relief. However, with acupuncture, consistency is key when seeking prolonged relief. The frequency of treatments are dependent on a patient’s personal needs and the severity of their symptoms. While many experience relief with just a session or two, others may require regular sessions over the span of four to six weeks, to help re-balance the body’s immune system response and address potential gut health and digestive issues, which can also play a large role when it comes to allergies.
If you are considering acupuncture for your seasonal allergies, it is important to seek out a qualified, licensed acupuncturist. Similar practices, like dry needling, are not the same as acupuncture, as they lack the holistic approach required for helping to balance the body as a whole. A licensed acupuncturist will be able to evaluate your individual symptoms and recommend a treatment plan that is tailored to your needs.
Nguyen Wellness + Recovery in Houston offers many natural and holistic solutions to help support your body and address seasonal allergy issues, like acupuncture, express acupuncture, herbal medicine and infrared sauna. Contact us for more information, or book online!
1. Feng S, Han M, Fan Y, et al. Acupuncture for the Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy. 2015;29(1):57-62. doi:10.2500/ajra.2015.29.4116
2. Adam D, Grabenhenrich L, Ortiz M, Binting S, Reinhold T, Brinkhaus B. Impact of acupuncture on antihistamine use in patients suffering seasonal allergic rhinitis: secondary analysis of results from a randomised controlled trial. Acupunct Med. 2018 Jun;36(3):139-145. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2017-011382. Epub 2018 Feb 10. PMID: 29440045; PMCID: PMC6029641.
3. Zheng, X. L., Tian, Y. P., Luo, H. Y., Zhao, Y. D., Liu, X. Y., Jiang, Y., Ma, C. X., Wang, M. J., & Liu, M. (2018). Zhen ci yan jiu = Acupuncture research, 43(1), 35–38. https://doi.org/10.13702/j.1000-0607.170064