When spring is in the air, so is the hayfever season. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture treatments can also be useful for allergic rhinitis (perennial & seasonal). And acupucture can work in conjunction with your existing medications.
I love spring, and I don’t suffer too badly from hayfever allergies myself, but my sons do, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time working out what is going on, and what to do about it (just to make sure they are able to help me out in our flower-filled garden). Hay fever (or allergic rhinitis) affects nearly 15% of adults and children in Australia.
There is always a lot to do in the garden when spring arrives – weeding, planting, pruning and generally preparing for the summer. It’s wonderful to feel the gentle sunshine and warmth, see signs of new life everywhere, and breathe in the intoxicating fragrance of the blossoms – but it’s not so much fun when all this fragrance and growth makes you sneeze endlessly and feel totally miserable.
It helps to understand what is going on in your body. Now that spring has arrived, your body has changed its focus from winter storage to spring cleaning, to prepare your body for the more active physicality of the warmer seasons. Your spleen takes on the huge task of cleansing, including helping the kidneys to remove the previous winter storage that is no longer required. For many, this overloads the spleen.
The sudden exposure to spring’s pollens and other allergens also puts a huge demand on our lungs which need to process the phlegm that has built up in our bodies. The lungs now urgently require the assistance of the spleen as well, to clear out the sudden flood of phlegm. If your spleen’s already overloaded by the process of coming out of hibernation, you can imagine what will happen. It’s like a cooking pot that has had the lid on tightly – when you remove the lid everything boils over. Your eyes and skin are itchy, puffy and red, your ears may hurt, the throat is irritated, and your nose is sniffling and stuffy. You sneeze and feel headachy and miserable. Productivity plummets and fatigue sets in.
Pharmaceutical medications such as antihistamines, corticosteroids and decongestants may go some way towards helping with the symptoms. Whereas Chinese medicine is about building the strength of your health in areas where it is lacking, rather than just symptom relief.
TCM helps by boosting your system which clears and reduces hay fever symptoms.
In Chinese Medicine, hayfever falls under three main types:-
- Lung Deficiency
Main symptoms: Itchy nose, lots of sneezing, clear nasal secretions
Other symptoms: Poor immune system, frequently catches colds
Base herbal formula: Yu Ping Feng San
- Spleen Deficiency
Main symptoms:Tired, low energy
Other symptoms:Poor appetite, fuzzy headed feeling
Base herbal formula: Su Jun Zi Tang
- Kidney Deficiency
Main symptoms:Lumbar pain, sore knees
Other symptoms:Feels the cold easily, night sweating
Base herbal formula: Liu Wei Di Huang Wan
The treatment for hayfever with either acupuncture or Chinese herbal remedies varies depending on the type and severity of your symptoms, your age, and other health issues present.
Acupuncture may decrease your hayfever symptoms. Acupuncture can immediately open up blocked or congested sinuses, clear sinus headaches, clear red itchy eyes and boost the immune system. Treatment is generally recommended weekly for 3-4 weeks, and is then gradually tapered off.
Chinese herbs may need to be continued for the whole season. Then the following hayfever season may have reduced symptoms.
Ideally, treatments for hayfever should begin 6 months prior to the hayfever season, in order to greatly reduce the severity of hayfever and this may even prevent hayfever symptoms from arising. If you miss the 6 month pre-season treatments, then definitely come into the clinic when the very first signs appear, because it is much easier to treat in the early stages, before the symptoms fully set in.
The best way to keep clear of hayfever is to avoid all allergens. However, as it is practically impossible to completely avoid all your triggers, you can often take steps to reduce your exposure: like staying indoors on days where there is a strong, hot, dry wind blowing, or when there is a high level of pollen in the air. Turn air conditioners to recycle. For example, in November 2016 there was a lot of spring growth in the grasslands across western Victoria after a wet winter, and the winds carried huge amounts of airborne grass pollen into the urban areas of the city of Melbourne, because grasses and weeds usually have a lighter pollen which can travel vast distances on the wind. If a heavy rain occurs at this time, the grass pollen can absorb the moisture and burst into fine, tiny particles, which can get into the small bronchial tubes in the lungs and cause an allergic reaction, which is sometimes called “thunderstorm asthma”.
Planting Australian native plants in your garden may be helpful because these generally have less and heavier pollen, and are bird or insect pollinated, rather than wind pollinated. Just be aware that some of the more fragrant Australian native flowers can still affect sensitive noses. Introduced species, like deciduous trees are generally wind pollinated. Also, try to keep the lawns mowed regularly to stop the grass from pollinating, although this will not stop the airborne pollen blowing in from the surrounding park-lands and homes.
So the suggestion is to start earlier to prepare your system for the symptoms of spring. When you come to see us in the clinic, we will also tell you about a few more things related to your body type that you can do at home to help your body eliminate toxins more effectively in between your Chinese medicine treatments. These can be simple things like staying hydrated.
It’s time for you to re-balance your system and to fall in love with the joys of spring.