As summer comes to an end and autumn sets in, over a quarter of Americans find themselves grappling with the uncomfortable symptoms of fall allergies. Today, an increasing number of people are looking to natural therapies, including acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbal medicine, to relieve their symptoms.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is an ancient healing system with over 4000 years of empirical evidence. It is widely recognized in the United States for its fast-growing modality: acupuncture. TCM practitioners use acupuncture and herbal medicine to address the root cause, or underlying imbalance, rather than suppress the symptoms of their patients.
From a TCM perspective, dis-ease arises when there is a disruption of the body’s flow of Qi (pronounced “Chee”), or vital energy. When the flow of Qi is disrupted or imbalanced, certain organ systems are affected, and physical and emotional symptoms arise. Acupuncture - the insertion of thin needles at specific points on the body - is thought to restore balance, allowing the body to heal itself.
In the case of fall allergies, Chinese medicine recognizes two common root imbalances: the spleen and the lung organ systems. The spleen is closely related to whole-body energy, and is a key component in the strength of the “defensive Qi”. When the spleen is weak, one may experience fluid metabolism issues, digestive irregularities, sluggish-feeling bodies, excessive overthinking, and - you guessed it - allergy symptoms. In TCM, the spleen is closely connected to the lung, the other key organ involved in the defensive qi. When the lung is effected, one may experience fatigue, frequent skin issues, intolerance to hot or cold temperatures, weakness, frequent colds, shortness of breath, susceptibility to frequent bouts of sadness or depression, and - once again - allergies.
Because no two people are the same through the lens of Chinese medicine, the practitioner would assess the tongue, feel the pulse, and inquire about current symptoms to determine what the root cause or “pattern diagnosis” is for each patient. The practitioner would then prescribe herbal medicine and acupuncture treatments to correct the underlying imbalances and strengthen the body’ defense mechanisms. For example, acupuncture point lung 7 would be used to strengthen the lung, and the herb poria root (fu ling) would be used to strengthen the spleen. In western terms, acupuncture and herbal medicine work by modulating the histamine response to allergic irritants, strengthening the body’s overall immune system, and regulating the digestive system (yes, the digestive system plays a large role in allergies!).
There are plenty of ways to boost your lung and spleen energy, therefore decreasing the risk of allergies, that do not include a consult with a Chinese medicine practitioner. These include: avoiding frozen foods and iced drinks, protecting your neck, abdomen, ankles and feet from the wind and cold air, drinking bone broths and warm soups, and getting plenty of rest.