Allergy, Rhinitis and Sinusitis

What are allergies and how do they happen?

Allergies occur when the body's immune system misidentifies a normally harmless foreign substance as a threat to the body. An inflammatory reaction takes place in an attempt to eject this substance from the system, resulting in a variety of symptoms inflaming skins, sinuses and nasal passages, airways or digestive system. The severity of allergies varies from person to person and can range from minor irritation to anaphylaxis - a potentially life-threatening emergency. While most allergies can't be cured, treatments can help relieve the symptoms.

What are common allergens (substances that produce allergic reactions)?

Foods, pollen, animal dander, mold, insect venom, drugs, and dust mites, etc.

What are the causes and symptoms of allergies in Oriental medicine?

Typically, an underlying weakness, often a deficiency of Lung and Spleen Qi, makes persons susceptible to allergic reactions. Lung Qi is responsible for the proper function of the entire respiratory tract, including the nasal passages. Spleen Qi controls the transport of fluids. When Spleen Qi is impaired, the digestive function is weak, which leads to an overproduction of mucus collecting in the lungs. Pathogenic Wind is the major cause in all cases of allergies, usually combining with another pathogenic influence in dampness, cold or heat.

In seasonal allergies, such as hay fever, the most common diagnosis is wind and dampness. This combination produces a sudden onset of symptoms, including sneezing, itchy noses, eyes or throat, runny and stuffy noses, watery, red or swollen eyes, and a heavy sensation in the head with copious mucus. A food allergy can cause a tingling sensation in the mouth, swelling of the lips, tongue, face or throat, hives, or even anaphylaxis. Atopic dermatitis, an allergic skin condition also called eczema, can cause the skin to itch, red, flake or peel off.


What can Oriental medicine do to treat allergies?


Acupuncture is effective in relieving the itchiness of atopic eczema, nasal congestion and sneezing of allergic rhinitis and sinusitis, and symptoms of stable bronchial asthma. 



Biernacki, W., & Peake, M. D. (1998). Acupuncture in treatment of stable asthma. Respiratory medicine, 92(9), 1143-1145.

Christensen, P. A., Laursen, L. C., Taudorf, E., Sørensen, S. C., & Weeke, B. (1984). Acupuncture and bronchial asthma. Allergy, 39(5), 379-385.


Ng, D. K., Chow, P. Y., Ming, S. P., Hong, S. H., Lau, S., Tse, D., ... & Kwok, K. L. (2004). A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of acupuncture for the treatment of childhood persistent allergic rhinitis. Pediatrics, 114(5), 1242-1247.


Pfab, F., Huss‐Marp, J., Gatti, A., Fuqin, J., Athanasiadis, G. I., Irnich, D., ... Darsow, U. (2010). Influence of acupuncture on type I hypersensitivity itch and the wheal and flare response in adults with atopic eczema–a blinded, randomized, placebo‐controlled, crossover trial. Allergy, 65(7), 903-910.


Sheehan, M. P., Rustin, M. H. A., Buckley, C., Harris, D. J., Ostlere, L., Dawson, A., ... & Brostoff, J. (1992). Efficacy of traditional Chinese herbal therapy in adult atopic dermatitis. The Lancet, 340(8810), 13-17.


Xue, C. C., English, R., Zhang, J. J., Da Costa, C., & Li, C. G. (2002). Effect of acupuncture in the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized controlled clinical trial. The American journal of Chinese medicine, 30(1), 1-11.


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