Support Your Seasonal Allergies with Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
The asian medicine view of allergies is related to a syndrome called wei qi deficiency. The wei qi is seen as the most superficial Qi of the body that acts as a barricade between the individual and their environment. When the wei qi defenses are sufficient a person will have a resistance to external pathogens, preventing common colds and also assisting with allergies. When these defenses are normal a person will not be effected by irritants in the air, such as pollen, dust mites, cat or dog hair, etc. Therefore, if an individual suffers from allergies, it is of key importance to strengthen their wei qi. There can be other underlying syndromes and deficiencies that cause a person to be prone to allergies that are more specific to an individual, but in general the strength of the wei qi plays a key role in an allergic presentation.
It is very helpful to begin the treatments with acupuncture and herbal medicine a season ahead of time. These treatments are also helpful during an acute onset and are important for individuals who have allergies all year round, so it is perfectly acceptable to begin treatments during the acute onset. However, if it is the summer and you usually have allergies in the fall or it is the fall and you usually have allergies in the spring, don’t wait until the season that your allergies begin to start treatment. If you treat your allergies the season before hand, there is the possibility of preventing the occurrence of allergies for that year. This, of course, depends on the severity as well as the length of time that a person has had allergies. It may take longer then 1 cycle of preventative treatments for an individuals with severe allergies to obtain the desired results. It is easier to prevent the occurrence of allergies than it is to treat in the acute stage. The unchecked acute onset of allergies can create further weakness in the wei qi and cause local tissue damage, creating a viscous cycle that makes a person prone to prolonged and reoccur attacks. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are wonderful and strong preventative treatments.
A Western herbal medicine that is a wonderful ally for seasonal allergies is Nettles in the extract, fluid extract, and freeze dried forms. This herb can be taken both as a preventative and during the acute phases of allergies. Some individuals have also found benefit from consuming Wild Flower Honey as a seasonal allergy preventative. If you have any adverse reaction to Nettles or Wild Flower Honey, and/or feel worse after taking, then please avoid these substances. Nettles and honey are nourishing, supportive and safe, so adverse reactions are very rare. Also consuming warm cooked foods and avoiding raw/cold/and frozen foods will help to build and support the immunity. In addition, doing a neti pot or other nasal rinse can help to minimize and/or prevent allergies. In general, it is best to add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda (NOT powder) to 1 cup of pre-boiled water. The baking soda is added to protect the tissues from the salts abrasive effect on the tissues. If you are sensitive to the salt, you can add additional baking soda (not too much). Do the nasal flush when the water is still warm, but not too hot. If it feels comfortable to keep your finger in the water, then it is probably the right temperature. It is important that the water not be too hot, so as not to damage the tissues. The water should also not be cold or room temperature, because it will not effectively cleanse the nasal passages. The goal, when doing this flush, is for the water to go in one nostril and out the other one. Be sure to change the angle of your head if the water runs down the back of your throat, etc. If your nasal passages are already clogged, do not do a nasal rinse. If doing the nasal flush doesn’t feel good or flows down the back of your throat, it is probably best to ask a health care practitioner for assistance on how to apply correctly. The nasal rinse is a wonderful tool, but is not for everyone.
Another key component to minimizing and or preventing the onset of allergies, is to identify which allergen aggravates you. Many peoples allergies are aggravated by certain flowers and trees (such as Acacia, as seen in picture, has yellow flowers that are a common allergen when blooming). If you are aware that there is more pollen in the air on certain days or that a potential allergen is beginning to bloom, it can be essential to take preventative measures by avoiding exposure. It can be very helpful to close bedroom windows, so that the pollen doesn’t blow into your room, onto your bed and pillow. Also a protective cloth can be placed on the bed or furniture if windows must be left open. On days of exposure, washing your face or taking a shower immediately upon coming inside can help to minimize the allergic response. This is also key for other types of allergies, such as to cats or dogs.
Yasmin Spencer, LAc, DAOM, Dipl. OM
1460 G Street, Arcata, CA 95521
- Five Branches University education