Springtime is a wonderful time of year and many people’s favorite season; flowers blooming, warmer weather, sunshine and being outdoors. For many of us though, Spring is the beginning of allergy season. Tree and flower pollens cause millions of Americans sneezing, itchy eyes and throat, sinus congestion, and pure misery.
Allergic Rhinitus, or hay fever, is a good example of an immune system run amok! Typically, exposure to an allergen like tree or flower pollen elicits a massive release of IgE antibodies which attach to white blood cells known as mast cells. These cells live in the lungs, upper respiratory tract, stomach, and the skin. When these cells are stimulated they release histamines and other chemicals which produce allergy symptoms.
While many over-the-counter medicines ( antihistamines like Benedryl and Claritin) promise symptomatic relief, they also cause numerous side effects like drowsiness, immune suppression, dry mouth and insomnia, to name a few.
According to the 8 Principles of traditional Chinese medicine, allergies are the result of an imbalance in the Wei Qi, or Protective Qi, a concept roughly akin to our immune system. People with a Wei Qi imbalance tend to catch colds easily and are more susceptible to “external evils” like wind, cold, heat, and damp. Usually allergies are a combination of wind and cold or heat. The wind enters the acupuncture meridians and disrupts the normal flow of Qi, especially in the Lungs, which gives rise to sneezing and sinus congestion.
The treatment is a combination of acupuncture and herbs that strengthen the Lungs and Wei Qi and expel the pathogenic wind.