Sneezing? Runny nose? Itchy eyes? Spring is the time of year for allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever. This is caused by an allergic reaction to pollen floating through the air. The common understanding is that this is caused by a disorder in the immune system.
According to Chinese medicine practitioner Bing Tian from Canberra: “It's caused by the weakness of ‘defense qi,’ which is defense energy.” There is a remarkable similarity in these two understandings if the function of defense qi in Chinese medicine can be likened to the function of the immune system.
Ms. Tian explained in an interview with The Epoch Times that there are different kinds of qi. In treating hay fever, a Chinese medicine practitioner will tonify the defense qi with herbal medicine and unblock the nose through acupuncture.
Ms. Tian also explained what causes defense qi to be lower in the first place. She said: “Firstly, it's improper diet because … the [source] of energy comes from nutrition.” This can be understood in the same way that power is needed to operate anything. “Just like power, our power is from the food we eat—and sleeping.”
Chinese medicine understands that different foods have different “temperatures,” which is different from the understanding of nutritional content in Western medicine. Foods may range from hot to cold to neutral. Different foods have different effects on the body, depending on their “temperature.”
The idea is to restore balance to the body. Thus, if an ailment is said to be “cold,” such as a cough or runny nose, “warmer” foods should be taken, such as ginger and shallot soup. Conversely, if an ailment is “hot,” such as a dry, sore throat and sweating, “cooler” food should be taken, such as a banana, cucumber, and tofu.
Impaired digestion can also lower defense qi. Ms. Tian explained that people with malabsorption problems would find that their energy is lower because poor absorption of food means that food cannot be broken down adequately to provide energy.
Lack of physical exercise may also diminish defense qi, according to Ms. Tian. Treatments are tailored to the patients, who are diagnosed by recording “the symptoms, and every detail we need to know, including the sweating conditions or energy level, tiredness or digestive function.”
Herbs are thus prescribed according to multiple factors. Ms. Tian explained that there are hundreds of different kinds of herbs, and any one prescription may be a combination of up to 10 different kinds.
Chinese herbal medicines, including bupleurum, Chinese skullcap, ginger, licorice, and ginseng, have a history of use in China and Japan for the treatment of hay fever. Other products may contain magnolia derivatives.
Chinese herbal remedies have been used to combat hay fever and other allergies for centuries. Studies on the efficacy of herbal and acupuncture treatments of Chinese medicine in treating hay fever have been published in medical journals. This field has not been widely explored, but there is evidence of the efficacy of traditional Chinese medical treatment of hay fever.
A German study published in the journal Allergy found that hay fever sufferers who received weekly acupuncture treatments and took three daily doses of Chinese medicinal herbs showed fewer symptoms and were less likely to say their hay fever was infringing on their daily activities than people who received placebo treatment.
After six weeks, it was found that 85 percent of patients showed overall improvements in their hay fever, compared with only 40 percent of the placebo group.
Ms. Tian says, “Clients usually tend to see the difference, sometimes after one session, sometimes after a week.”
Please consult your physician before starting treatment for any condition.
Please do not take herbs for long periods of time because doing so may produce symptoms from taking the herbs themselves.
Dr. Benjamin Kong from Sweden and Dr. Xiu Zhou from Germany are the principal editors of the China Research Group.