Allergies

Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is an example of misplaced immunity. It is a learned response by the immune system wherein rapid physiological changes resulting in itchy eyes and throat, sinus congestion and sneezing, asthma, and even diarrhea are produced. Typically, exposure to an allergen such as tree pollen elicits a massive release of IgE antibodies which attach to white blood cells known as mast cells. These cells are mostly located in the lungs and upper respiratory tract, the lining of the stomach and the skin. When these cells are stimulated, they release a number of chemicals including histamine which produce the allergic symptoms.

Traditional Oriental Medicine views allergic rhinitis as related to Wind noting that symptoms come and go rapidly, cause congestion, and make the person want to avoid windy situations. This Wind often coexists with a deficiency of the Protective or Wei Qi. The nearest thing we associate with the Wei Qi in the west is resistance to colds and other respiratory infections. People with Wei Qi deficiency catch colds easily, and allergy symptoms may be particularly bad in the spring or fall, seasons which are generally windy.

The acupuncturist also looks for constitutional, or more deeply-rooted signs in each person who presents with allergies. The principle in acupuncture is to treat the whole person. Often, people with chronic allergies show signs of spleen or kidney deficiency as well as lung weakness according to Oriental Medicine. The goal of the acupuncturist is to develop a plan which addresses the person’s acute symptoms and provides relief, while addressing the underlying immune system imbalance which is thought to be at the root of the person’s allergies. Treatments often include dietary modification, the use of specifically chosen herbal formulas, and acupuncture.