Can Acupuncture Help Ease Allergy Symptoms? Experts Explain
Acupuncture is one of the five branches of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and as acupuncturist Snow Xia L.Ac., once told mbg "acupuncture can be a powerful preventive modality for supporting the immune system." Acupuncture has been used for centuries, and now, there's even promising modern research to back up some of the potential benefits.
How acupuncture may help allergy symptoms.
One meta-analysis, which looked at the results of 13 studies with 2,365 total participants, found that acupuncture can be a safe and valid treatment option for people with allergic rhinitis. Common symptoms of allergic rhinitis (aka inflammation in the nose) include sneezing, nasal congestion, postnasal drip…you know, the usual.
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According to TCM, "These allergy symptoms are a sign of an imbalance in the body's immune system that are triggered by seasonal pollen, dust, or other substances," says Shari Auth, DACM, LAC, LMT, co-founder and chief healing officer at WTHN. "Acupuncture can be an effective treatment for allergies because it [has] natural anti-inflammatory [actions] that reduce the body's response to allergens, including inflamed nasal passages and mucus membranes that result in the common allergy symptoms mentioned above."
What to expect when getting an acupuncture treatment.
While acupuncture can help manage allergy symptoms, Auth says it's best when used preventively to help modulate the immune system. In other words: Don't wait until you're feeling crappy to give your immune system the support it needs—that's a 24/7 job.
If you do decide to go in for a treatment, Auth says it's highly likely that your acupuncturist would focus on the acupoints Yintang and Bitong, among others.
"The Yintang point located on the 'third eye' brings clarity to the mind and relieves pressure around the eyes, nose, and head," she states. "Bitong is alongside the nose, right where the nasolabial groove meets the nose," she adds.
In an animal study, researchers found that the Yintang acupoint injection helped to relieve allergic symptoms in rats. Another study (this time on humans) had similar results: The researchers compared three acupuncture points, including Yintang and Bitong to an oral antihistamine and found that both treatment options provided short-term relief from allergic rhinitis symptoms, with acupuncture being slightly more effective (96.7% compared to 93.3%).
Other ways to help with allergies.
"Your immune system is most definitely growing (i.e., producing specialized immune cells like neutrophils, macrophages, natural killer cells, B-cells, T-cells, etc.) and functioning every day," mbg's VP of scientific affairs Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, once wrote. Which is why it's important to make sure you're giving it the attention it deserves.
Additional habits like hydration, nutritional support, sleep, and more can help strengthen your immune system.
Auth also recommends pairing acupuncture with targeted herbs used in TCM, like these:
- Xanthium Fruit: "Xanthium Fruit (Cang Er Zi) is a popular TCM herbal remedy for allergies," she says. "Research has shown that its beneficial effects on sinuses are due to a molecule in Xanthium, called caffeoyl anthocyanoside, which has anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effects." Note: These studies have only been conducted on rat models, so more research is needed to understand the impact on humans.
- Red Magnolia Flower: "Red Magnolia Flower (Xin Yin Hua) is used widely in TCM to clear the sinus passageways," she adds.
- Astragalus and Reishi: Astragalus and reishi may also help to modulate the immune system (though these are best taken before symptoms arise, Auth says).
Allergy season can be a doozy, but taking care of your immune system—even before the sneezing begins—can help ease the effects. Research shows that acupuncture may be a safe and effective treatment option for some of the common symptoms caused by allergic rhinitis. Though it should also be paired with other daily immune-supporting habits.