Acupuncture and herbs alleviate hay fever (allergic rhinitis). Symptoms include postnasal drip, runny nose, sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, and ear or throat irritation. Lishui Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine researchers conducted a randomized controlled clinical trial. Their findings document that a treatment regimen of acupuncture combined with herbal medicine results in a 91.1% total effective rate for the alleviation of allergic rhinitis.
Using only herbal medicine achieved a 71.1% total effective rate. Acupuncture, as a standalone therapy, achieved a 66.7% total effective rate. Based on the data, the researchers conclude that acupuncture plus herbal medicine is a superior treatment protocol to using either approach as a standalone therapy. The researchers document the regimen of acupuncture points and herbal medicines used to achieve the significant positive patient outcomes.
The primary acupoints were:
- Dazhui (DU14)
- Fengchi (GB20)
- Yintang (extra)
- Yingxiang (LI20)
- Hegu (LI4)
- Lieque (LU7)
Filiform acupuncture needles (0.25 mm x 40 mm) were applied. Manual acupuncture techniques were employed to elicit deqi using both reinforcing and reducing stimulation methods. Acupuncture needle retention time was set to thirty minutes per acupuncture therapy session. Acupuncture was applied at a rate of once per day for ten days, comprising one course of care. A total of three courses of care were applied (30 acupuncture treatments) with a one day break between courses of care.
The herbal formula Yu Ping Cang Er San consisted of the following herbs:
- Huang Qi 60 g
- Bai Zhu 20 g
- Fang Feng 15 g
- Bai Zhi 15 g
- Ju Hua 10 g
- Xin Yi Hua 10 g
- Cang Er Zi 10 g
- Wu Wei Zi 10 g
- Sang Piao Xiao 10 g
Additional herbs were added based on differential diagnostics per each patient in the acupuncture continuing education study. For patients with external pathogenic cold influences, the following herbs were added:
- Chuang Xiong 10 g
- Gui Zhi 10 g
For excess dampness, the following herbs were added:
- Huo Xiang 10 g
- Tang Cao 10 g
For patients with damp-heat, the following herbs were added:
- Dong Gua Zi 15 g
- Che Qian Zi 10 g
The herbs were decocted in 200 ml of water and served in warm 100 ml portions, twice per day, morning and night. Herbs were given the same rate of administration as acupuncture: three courses of care comprised of ten days each with a day break between courses.
The researchers conclude that acupuncture combined with herbs is significantly more effective than using only acupuncture or herbs for the alleviation of hay fever. This research is not isolated. Other studies demonstrate that acupuncture and herbs are efficacious for the relief of allergic rhinitis.
One groundbreaking study was published in the American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy. The study demonstrated important subjective and objective improvements for patients with allergic rhinitis. Acupuncture significantly lowered IgE (Immunoglobulin E) levels, an antibody associated with allergies and hypersensitivities. The researchers conclude, “This result showed strong and consistent evidence that acupuncture treatment leads to favorable responses in immunologic outcomes, which have been shown to be helpful in trials of proven therapeutic modalities, such as allergen-specific immunotherapy.”
On the subjective side, acupuncture significantly improved quality of life scores. Nasal related symptoms improved significantly. The researchers note, “Acupuncture group produced significantly greater diminution of nasal symptoms than did [the] control group.” The quality of life score measured improvements in sleep, eye related symptoms, emotional well-being, nasal symptoms, and activities of daily living.
The research published in the American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy is important because it is a secondary study, a type of study carrying significant weight in the scientific community. A primary study is an individual investigation. A secondary study involves a meta-analysis of multiple primary studies.
The researchers sorted through 174 randomized controlled allergic rhinitis studies. Thirteen high quality trials passed stringent inclusion criteria. The final and sorted total sample size for the meta-analysis was 2,365 patients. The researchers note that the study includes “multicenter, randomized, parallel-controlled trials with high quality.” The researchers conclude, “Our meta-analysis showed that [the] acupuncture group has [a] superior effect in reduction of both rhinitis symptoms and the requirement for antiallergic medication compared with [the] control group.”
Perhaps acupuncture’s ability to provide long-term relief is most significant. Liu et al. find that acupuncture provides an 86.7% long-term effective rate whereas the anti-histamine loratadine provides a 56.7% long-term effective rate. The results were achieved using the following primary acupuncture points for all patients:
- Yingxiang (LI20)
- Yintang (extra)
- Bitong (extra)
Liu et al. conclude, “The acupuncture at three nasal points and the acupoints selected by syndrome differentiation achieves the similar short-term efficacy on perennial allergic rhinitis as compared with the oral administration of loratadine. The acupuncture therapy presents the obvious advantages on long-term efficacy.” Given the prevalence and severity of allergic rhinitis, this research highlights an important treatment strategy.
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