A Chinese Medicine Approach to Spring Allergies

By Helen Spieth, L.Ac

From the perspective of Chinese Medicine, allergies are a sign that the defense system is behaving inappropriately. Cat dander, pollen, mold, gluten, dairy, none of the common allergens are actually dangerous pathogens, but the body behaves as if it was under attack and so mounts what it thinks is the best course of action to fight it. Allergy symptoms are the noise, the cry for help.

Fighting pollen is fighting a losing battle, which leaves you feeling miserable. But you can work on improving the reaction your body has to it. There is no magician who can wipe out pollen in Spring in Oregon, but you can take steps to help your body's response and defense system behave more normally. In doing so, your overall health will benefit. Improved immunity, a reduction in food sensitivities, being less susceptible to colds and flu in winter are benefits you might expect to see. Other "side effects" of receiving regular acupuncture and herbal prescriptions can include relaxation, a better response to stress, a reduction or absence of headaches, improved digestion, sleep, and energy levels are examples that patients report. A good acupuncturist and herbalist will also take time to look at your diet and help you understand how what you eat may contribute to your symptoms, and how to eat to support your overall health.

With Chinese medicine, we are not treating the allergies, we are treating you, the individual. When you come in for a consult you will be asked if your allergies make you itchy and irritable, or if they leave you feeling tired and wiped out. Normally patients say both but one will likely predominate. You will be asked about your sleep, your digestion and bowel movements, your diet, your habits and lifestyle, if you tend to hot or cold, if you suffer frequent colds, other outstanding symptoms, anything that helps us understand the landscape that is uniquely you.

There is no one cure for allergies in Chinese Medicine. But there is helping the individual who has the allergies. This is the principle of any true Chinese medical approach - we do not treat the disease or the symptoms - we treat the person who has them. Chinese medicine is at least a 3000 year old comprehensive medical system that views the body as an integrated whole. Though there are guidelines for treating allergies within this system, every body is unique. When we treat the individual holistically, other aspects can be and are brought into balance. Your allergy symptoms are just sign posts, a road map, leading you and I to where your body needs support. And your body will thank you for listening to those signs.


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