It's nearly spring and the seasonal changes really have started to affect us. For some it's the nasal congestion and runny nose, for others it's the itchy eyes and headaches, but for all that suffer from seasonal changes, it's unpleasant. As with all clinical presentations in Chinese medicine, we look for the root cause and at the branch symptoms. What do we mean by the root cause of these symptoms? It's the pollen isn't it? Well, sort of.
Pollen versus Your Immune System
Sure, the pollen is the trigger and part of the root cause, but the other part is how your immune system responds to the pollen. When your immune system senses the pollen, it floods your system with antibodies to attack the allergen. These antibodies trigger a cascade of events that cause the symptoms you experience the change of seasons with a runny nose, congestion, itchy eyes, and/or chest tightness, these are the branch symptoms. Sure, you can take over the counter medications to help alleviate symptoms, but what can you do to address the root...the immune response.
In Chinese medicine we use acupuncture and herbal medicine to regulate the immune system response.
How Do Acupuncture & Herbs Help?
When acupuncture needles are placed at specific points on the body, they "down regulate" pro-inflammatory cytokines and increases regulatory T cell count. This means that acupuncture can help quiet down unwanted or overreactive immune response, such as is seen in seasonal allergies.
Down regulating cytokines helps reduce the inflammation that causes headache and congestion. Increased T cell count helps your body mediate immune response.
This is how acupuncture can be used to make an impact on the root cause of allergies. By addressing the root, acupuncture addresses the symptoms as well. Acupuncture can help open up the sinuses, promote thinning of congestion, and reduce other inflammatory responses such as red and itchy eyes.
Herbs can play a roll in supporting this process too. Astragalus (Huang Qi), used often in treatment of allergies, has an immune regulating function. In Chinese Medicine theory, it has the function of strengthening the lung Qi and enhancing the body's response to stress through its role as an adaptogen. In this way, it effects the root cause of allergies. We also have herbs like Xanthium Seed (Cang Er Zi) which has a primary use of addressing the nasal congestion, runny nose and headaches that come with allergies.
At the clinic, our favorite approach for addressing seasonal changes is a combination of acupuncture, DAO Labs Immunity Support, and nutrition evaluation and modification.