top of page

Allergy And Tradition Chinese Medicine



What are allergies?

Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is an example of misplaced immunity. It is a learned response by the immune system wherein rapid physiological changes resulting in itchy eyes and throat, sinus congestion and sneezing, asthma, and even diarrhea are produced. Typically, exposure to an allergen such as tree pollen elicits a massive release of IgE antibodies which attach to white blood cells known as mast cells. These cells are mostly located in the lungs and upper respiratory tract, the lining of the stomach and the skin. When these cells are stimulated, they release a number of chemicals including histamine which produce the allergic symptoms.


IgE-mediated allergies result in almost immediate symptoms and may be life-long or "fixed." There are also other types of allergic responses, which can be transient. One example is the delayed hypersensitivity reaction in which the allergic response may take up to 72 hours to manifest itself. These immune system reactions are often IgG-mediated and are commonly seen with food as well as inhalant allergies. One useful theory of allergy is the Total Load Theory, which states that for some people exposure to a single allergen may not be enough to trigger a symptomatic response; however, exposure to several allergens near the same time elicits an allergic response. 


What exactly is allergic rhinitis?
When a person is first exposed to a specific allergen, certain antibodies bind onto the mast cells of the upper respiratory tract, triggering a release of histamine from the mast cells. This results in an increase of nasal secretion, congestion, itching, and sneezing , allergic rhinitis.


Drug therapies

Oral decongestants, antihistamines, intranasal topical corticosteroids, cromolyn sodium and allergy shots. While these drugs may offer temporary relief, they cannot cure the condition. Except for cromolyn sodium, which is one of the more expensive treatments on the market, most of these drugs display adverse effects. Topical corticosteroids are generally considered safe, but can inhibit adrenal function with long-term use and can lead to yeast infections (candidiasis) within the nose and chronic nose-bleeding (epistaxis).


How to explain the allergy symptoms in Traditional Chinese Medicine

When we inhale something in the air or external pathogen, our body is alerted after such a inhaling. Then, body trys to defend by pushing it out. Sneezing, watery eye, diarrhea are all some of the ways our body try to let out the pathogen/or allergen in this case. 


What are the root causes of allergy in Traditional Chinese Medicine theory
In the case of allergic rhinitis, the blockage of qi is situated in the lung meridian. Under normal conditions, the lungs control respiration and ensure that one breathes freely through the nose and with an acute sense of smell. In TCM, the lungs are also responsible for dispersing function throughout the body and for preventing pathogenic factors from invading the body. According to TCM, allergic rhinitis is due to an invasion of External Wind Cold or Heat (exopathogens) with an underlying Lung Qi deficiency that in some cases is further complicated by the deficiency of the Spleen or Kidney. Treat both the symptoms and root of the cause at the same time to ensure the improvement. (Please note the organ name mentioned here is not the exactly same as western term)


Acupuncture Treatment

The ideal time to treat seasonal allergic rhinitis using acupuncture is at least one to three month before symptoms normally begin. While some patients may experience immediate relief after only a few treatments.



  • Krapp K, Longe JL (eds.) (2001) Gale encyclopedia of alternative medicine: volume 1 Detroit: Gale Group. 

  • Maciocia G (1994) The practice of chinese medicine: the treatment of diseases with acupuncture and chinese herbs. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

  • Maclean W, Littleton J (1998) Clinical handbook of internal medicine-the treatment of disease with traditional chinese medicine-volume 1. Sydney: University of Western Sydney.

  • Phillips S. Allergic Rhinitis and Acupuncture. Accessed 2003-01-24 from 
    Ying ZZ, De JH (1997) Clinical manual of chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone



bottom of page