The immune system is our body's defense against foreign substances called antigens. The immune system can overreact to certain antigens, called allergens, which are harmless in most people. The result is an allergic reaction. In other words, it isn't the allergy itself that is the problem, but the person's reaction to the allergen.
Most people suffer from two main types of allergies: Seasonal and Perennial. Seasonal allergies, commonly called "hay fever," result from exposure to airborne substances such as pollens that appear only during certain times of the year. Perennial allergies result from exposure to substances such as house dust or house pets. Perennial allergies may occur during any season and may last year-round. Both seasonal and perennial allergies can cause symptoms of itching of the nose, roof of the mouth, back of the throat, and eyes. The nose runs, producing a clear watery discharge, and may become stuffed up. Other symptoms include sneezing, headache, coughing, wheezing, and irritability.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have been proven to help alleviate the symptoms of allergies when they are active and more importantly, can help to correct the immune system imbalance that causes the allergic response in the first place.
Acupuncture treatment affects allergies in 4 main ways:
The focus of each treatment will be on relieving the troubling symptoms while simultaneously helping your body stop the allergic cascade. It is also very important to use acupuncture and herbs preventatively, when you are not having allergy problems. The frequency and severity of your allergic symptoms can be drastically reduced if the immune system is allowed to fully repair in the off-season.
Much like when you go to the doctor for a prescription, herbal medicine can be used to alleviate your allergy symptoms. Your acupuncturist will compile an herbal formula based on your individual symptoms—this means that each patient receives different herbs for their varying complaints. For instance, a person with allergies that cause a runny nose and watery eyes will receive a different formula than someone who primarily complains of a headache and stuffy nose.
If administered properly, a person with allergies will benefit greatly from combined acupuncture and herbal therapy without any side effects. Herbs are medicine that you can use daily between acupuncture treatments to sustain the effects of treatment and continually combat symptoms. Herbs can also be used safely in conjunction with western medical treatment such as allergy shots or OTC meds.
The severity and nature of the allergic condition will determine the length and type of treatment. Typically a person will spend 6 months treating their allergies as it is important to treat between acute attacks in order to address the underlying immune system imbalance. After an initial consultation during which you will discuss your health history and current symptoms, your acupuncturist will prepare a treatment plan for you.