Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine provide a powerful boost to your immune system, whether you are dealing with an acute cold, chronic immune issues, acute or chronic allergies, or asthma. As with all conditions, we evaluate your personal situation to determine our diagnosis and course of treatment. Herbal formulas and essential oils can enhance the effects of your treatment and provide much needed relief from your sniffles and sneezes.
When considering the immune system, we think first of the Lung channel and organ, representing the respiratory system, and its paired Large Intestine channel, which opens into the nose and sinuses, clears heat (inflammation, elevated histamine levels) and alleviates pain. Both of these channels assist the body’s production of white blood cells, strengthen the immune and respiratory systems, and impact the nose and throat. Working with the Lung channel expands the lungs and chest, making breathing easier and supporting the body’s elimination of phlegm from the lungs. Enabling the Large Intestine channel opens the head as well as supports the body’s elimination via the bowels, which is important for detoxification and removal of pathogens.
The Kidneys relate to one’s deeper constitution and are often indicated when genetic or longstanding immunodeficiency is involved. Strengthening the Kidneys’ support of the Lungs and respiratory system can take time yet has a profound impact on the immune system. For some, stress takes a toll on the immune system, representing the need to treat the Liver channel. The Lung channel begins in the Stomach (similar to our current understanding in Western medicine of the immune system beginning in the gut; we love to witness these correlations!) and we often see the need to support the Stomach and Spleen channels (yin-yang pair) to boost the immune system, strengthen digestion and resolve dampness (congestion, heaviness, bloating, diarrhea). We look at your whole picture to identify your specific pattern of imbalance and treat most effectively.
Do you suffer from allergies? From itchy eyes to stuffy sinuses and skin conditions, we can help! Acupuncture decreases pain and inflammation, supports your immune system, and regulates your body’s histamine response to its various offenders.
We evaluate your individual allergy picture to determine the best treatment approach for you. The Lungs relate to the immune system in general and typically need support for allergies regardless of season. For some people, deficiency of the Lungs is at the root; for others, an overactive wei qi (defensive/immune qi) and/or heat is prevalent.
The Lungs relate to the Fall season and are especially important in treating Fall allergies. Lung patterns of imbalance tend to manifest with sinus and respiratory issues, such as runny nose or congestion, cough, skin problems and fatigue. The Liver corresponds to Spring, a time of year when yang (heat) is beginning to rise. Spring allergies often show more heat signs: red, itchy eyes, yellow congestion, inflamed sinuses, red rashes. When treating Spring allergies, we commonly use points on both the Lung and Liver channels.
For some, a deeper, constitutional weakness of the immune system indicates the importance of engaging the Kidney channel in treating allergy symptoms. For others, dampness related to the Spleen and Stomach makes them more prone to phlegm, showing up as heaviness of the head, foggy thinking and congestion. We recommend addressing the underlying issues in the preceding months to stay ahead of those uncomfortable allergy symptoms.
A Chinese Medicine Toolkit for Allergies: Our Favorite Remedies
One of the many strengths of Chinese Medicine is that it can be used as preventative medicine to stop allergies before they start as well as nip acute symptoms in the bud. If you are a seasonal allergy sufferer, you may find relief with these natural healing remedies:
*Lifestyle: Drybrushing – Daily drybrushing along the related channels (and always the Lung channel) stimulates the immune and lymphatic systems. This facilitates your Lungs’ detoxifying function via the skin and keeps other channels engaged and open. The Lung channel traverses the upper chest and inner arm down to your thumb. The Large Intestine channel (the yang channel paired with the Lungs) starts at your index finger, travels up your outer arm to your elbow and shoulder, and ascends your SCM/neck to your nostril. The Liver channel starts at the inner corner of your big toe and moves up your inner shin all the way up your leg to your groin and then spreads over your lower ribs, ending on your ribs below your breast. Drybrushing leading up to and during allergy season keeps your body better able to handle the pollens and viruses you encounter.
*Food Therapy: Apple Cider Vinegar – Especially pertinent for Spring allergies and a nice aid throughout the year, apple cider vinegar boosts the smooth flow of the Liver, thereby supporting its detox function and proper histamine levels. Drink a teaspoon to a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in your water first thing in the morning (and throughout the day, if you like). Apple cider vinegar is alkalizing (or “cooling” in Chinese medicine terms), helping your body counter the heat of elevated histamine levels and inflammation. Note: If you drink apple cider vinegar throughout the day or in large amounts, use a straw so you are less likely to damage the enamel of your teeth.
*Essential oil: Niaouli – An oil extracted from the Melaleuca plant, Niaouli is related to Tea Tree and has similar antiviral and immune strengthening properties. Niaouli decreases your histamine response and is most effective when used preventatively – that is, before you anticipate an allergy attack. Use a chest rub, steam inhale, or just hold a bottle up to your nose for a quick sniff before and during allergy season to help keep symptoms at bay. Note: We do not recommend use of Niaouli during an acute allergy attack as it may increase histamines at that time.
*Herbal Formula: Bi Yan Pian – Often used to treat sinusitis, rhinitis, and nasal allergies, this formula helps stop a runny nose and opens stuffy sinuses. The formula contains herbs that clear heat and reduce toxicity, so it is best for nasal allergies that present with inflammation, infection, yellow phlegm, and heat in the face.
*Single Herb: Ju Hua (Chrysanthemum) – This bright yellow flower is used to clear heat, disperse wind, and clear the liver and eyes. The herb is cooling and enters the Lung channel which opens into the nose, and Liver channel, which goes to the head and opens into the eyes. “Wind” refers to sensations (like pain or itchiness) or maladies of the body that appear quickly and are constantly changing. Allergies can come on suddenly and may present with sneezing, headaches, and dry, itchy eyes. Ju Hua is a great herb to use as a tea when allergy symptoms hit. Make a compress from the tea and put over the eyes when they feel hot, dry and itchy.
*Supplement: Quercetin – A common flavonoid found in many fruits and vegetables, quercetin offers significant antioxidant protection for cells lining the sinuses, reduces allergic responses by stabilizing mast cells (which release histamine and other inflammatory signals), and boosts the immune system. Foods with the highest quercetin content include apples, onions, and green tea.
*Acupressure point: Large Intestine-4 (LI-4): Located in the meaty muscle between the thumb and index finger, this point is used to treat all symptoms of the head and face. A popular acupressure point for headaches, this point is used to alleviate red, itchy eyes, fevers, heat in the face, sinus troubles, toothaches, and jaw pain. In combination with other points, LI-4 boosts the body’s defensive Qi and strengthens the immune system, regulates sweating, and moves qi and blood stagnation to stop pain.