The spring flowers and sunshine bring with them pollen and wind that for multitudes signal the beginning of allergy season. Pollens from trees are actually more prevalent than flower pollens during springtime and are prolific pollinators. Weed and grass pollens come in mid and end of spring and up to the end of summer; airborne mold spores, on the other hand, proliferate all year round, as well as other common allergens such as animal dander, dust mites and dust.

The most common forms of relief for allergy symptoms are over-the-counter drugs. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) specialists know that identifying the causes of allergies, treating the person holistically, and helping balance the immune system result in significant long-term benefits in the management of allergies.

What are allergies?

Hay fever or allergic rhinitis is a sign of misplaced immunity. This is a learned reaction by the immune system in which quick physiological changes produce symptoms such as asthma, sneezing, sinus congestions, itchy throat and eyes and even diarrhea. Usually when you are exposed to an allergen, it forces your body to release massive amounts of IgE antibodies that stick to white blood cells known as mast cells. These cells are usually found in the skin, the stomach lining, upper respiratory tract and in the lungs. These cells release chemicals such as histamine when they are stimulated causing the allergic symptoms.

Allergies that are IgE-mediated almost instantaneously produce symptoms and can be life-long. Some types of allergic reactions are transient. The delayed hypersensitivity is one example of this. This is an allergic response that may take three days (72 hours) to become evident. These types of immune system reactions are usually evident with inhalant or food allergies and are usually IgG-mediated. Besides, specialists may likewise utilize the term allergy to characterize other immune system reactions such as nonspecific intolerances or hypersensitivity that are not classic allergic responses but cause problematic health effects in reaction to environmental exposures.

The Total Load Theory states that for certain individuals, exposure to a single allergen may not be strong enough to bring about a symptomatic reaction; however, if they are exposed to a number of allergens near the same time, it may elicit an allergic reaction. For people who, for example, are allergic to cypress pollen or cow’s milk and to cypress pollen they can drink milk everyday without manifesting tangible allergic reaction; if cypress pollen abounds, they can suffer from allergies. In order to avoid getting dairy product allergy reactions during pollen season, the person needs to decrease lessen his/her “allergic load” as well as his/her symptoms without the need for symptomatic drugs.

Allopathic Therapy for Allergies

Western or allopathic medical treatments usually depend on suppression of the allergic reaction; examples of these are antihistamines like Benadryl and Chlortrimetron among others. Other kinds of drugs for asthma or allergic rhinitis include those that influence the nervous system like decongestants, corticosteroids like prednisone and epinephrine such as Albuterol.

Western medicine also stresses the need to avoid the allergen at all times, if possible, as well as use air filters to lessen exposure. When elimination or avoidance is impractical or not possible, the one thing you can do is desensitization, which is injecting small amounts of the allergen in gradually increasing doses over the course of time to neutralize the amount of antibodies present in your body.

The problem with allopathic medicine though is its side effects that may include over dependence on these drugs, suppression of the immune system and drowsiness in some people. These compel people to consider safer alternative therapies to manage their allergies. A lot of them go for acupuncture treatment.

Traditional Chinese medicine, Respiratory Health and Allergies

TCM usually considers allergic rhinitis as associated to Wind since symptoms come and go rather quickly, produce congestion, and force the person to avoid windy situations. Wind usually comes with Wei Qi (Protective) deficiency. The nearest thing one can relate with Wei Qi is resistance to respiratory infections such as colds. Individuals with deficient Wei Qi develop colds easily, and their allergy symptoms may be especially bad in the fall or spring, seasons that are considered windy.

The acupuncturist observes any deeply-rooted pr constitutional signs in each patient with allergies. Acupuncture therapy is about treating the whole individual. Individuals with chronic allergies manifest signs of Kidney or Spleen Deficiency and Lung signs. The acupuncturist’s aim is to formulate a plan that targets the patient’s acute symptoms, treat them and at the same time resolve the underlying imbalance in the immune system that is believed to be at the root of the patient’s allergies. The treatment plan usually consists of acupuncture, herbal remedies, and dietary changes.

TCM treatment for allergies

Some patients manifest acute allergy symptoms that may involve occasional loose stools, extreme fatigue, copious watery phlegm, runny nose and sneezing. The acupuncturist starts by taking the patients medical history and performing an examination. The specialist then evaluates the patient’s condition based on TCM methods as Wei Qi Deficiency due to a weakness of the Spleen and Lung. Apart from general recommendations for his/her condition, the patient can be prescribed with specific Chinese herbal formulas that contain decongestant qualities for those presenting with copious clear phlegm. Other formulas that may be given include those designed to tonify the Spleen and Lung Qi. The patient may be advised to stay away or minimize consumption of dairy products and excessively spicy or sweet foods.

When the patient’s condition improves, he/she and the acupuncturist will concoct a treatment plan to reinforce his/her immune system to prepare him/her for the next allergy season. This plan may include substituting green tea for coffee. This tea will be rich in catechins that are endowed with anti-allergy effects, and a biolfavinoid known as quercetin. This substance has shown to stabilize mast cells and in the process slows down the release of histamine and other chemicals associated with allergies.

The acupuncturist should devise a treatment plan consisting of both general treatments useful for the treatment of allergies as well as a customized modality to each patient. When the allergy symptoms are properly managed, the acupuncturist can then start to devise a long term plan of altering the patient’s reaction to his/her environment; if successful, this will decrease the severity and frequency of future allergic reactions.


Christina Prieto is an Orlando acupuncturist, a certified Yoga instructor and the founder of Harmony Wellness center in central Florida.