The Winds of Spring are coming! All about Allergic Rhinitis & Chinese Medicine


Wattles & other beautiful Spring flowers can be a source of unrest for some members of our community. 


Achoo! Hello, Spring! Whilst these wattle flowers are truly beautiful, for hayfever sufferers it means staying indoors and away from the pollen.  If you’ve ever suffered from hayfever, or Allergic Rhinitis, you’ll know that at this time of year it can be debilitating, interfere with your enjoyment of life and your productivity at work . The good news is that acupuncture can help! Chinese herbal formulas have also been found to help alleviate symptoms and offer general immune support. 

The incidence of hayfever

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1 in 5 Australians suffered from hayfever in 2014 – 2015.  That’s quite a lot of people, quite a few days off work to stay indoors, and quite a few antihistamines to combat the symptoms.

Antihistamines – The Biomedical Solution

Antihistamines are widely used in general practice and pharmacy to temporarily resolve hayfever symptoms, by reducing histamine production.  Histamines are produced by our bodies in response to allergens and are the first step in homeostatic management of inflammation. Antihistamines stop histamine production and assist with allergic rhinitis. But they don’t stop it from coming back, and can also have side effects that make them problematic to use.

So why not look to some other therapies to help?

What else is available?

Chinese Herbs for Allergic Rhinitis

In Chinese herbal medicine, as with any type of disease, it depends on what symptoms are present alongside a person’s natural constitution as to what formula would be prescribed.  There are numerous major classical formulas that have traditionally been used for millennia, for different types of diseases with equivalent symptoms to the Western diagnosis of hayfever.  The Chinese Society of Allergy Guidelines for Diagnosis and Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis explains these different syndromes in great detail, along with biomedical mechanisms and associated treatment protocols that are used in Chinese hospitals.  These include pharmaceuticals and TCM working alongside each other.

Chinese Herbs: Specifically tailored formulas just for you

Chinese herbal medicine has formulas that have been used traditionally for allergic rhinitis or “Exterior Wind Heat” since before they were documented in the Song dynasty

Cang Er Zi SanXanthium fruit, Magnolia buds, Angelica root & Chinese mint – a commonly used Traditional Chinese herbal formula for Allergic Rhinitis – Originating from the Ji Sheng Fang, published in 1253CE.

Chinese herbal, the Ji Sheng Fang in the 13th Century.   A retrospective epidemiological study published in 2014 discovered that patients with chronic rhinosinusitis who used Chinese herbal medicine  needed surgery less often than those who did not (Hung-Rong et al 2014). The current consensus on Chinese herbal medicine for allergic rhinitis by Western science is that it “may” help, as the body of research is “not conclusive”, despite numerous high quality studies confirming positive results.  Research into the individual components that are useful in Chinese herbal medicine is complex, because Chinese medicine is always based on context rather than assuming that every person and every disease is exactly the same.  This combined with disparity in terminology between Chinese and Western medical classification makes for an interesting challenge. Most research with moderate to reasonable quality suggests further study in the area and the knowledge base continually grows as this occurs.


Acupuncture for Allergic Rhinitis. Backed by science.

Acupuncture, has a supporting evidence base as a stand-alone or adjunct therapy to antihistamine medication (Taw et al (2015); Choi et al (2013); Seidman, Gurgel & Lin (2015)).  The most usual type of treatment for nasal congestion when visiting an acupuncture clinic is the insertion of extra fine needles (.14mm or .12mm) into points either side of the nose. Whilst there are no guarantees that this will be a pain-free experience, in most cases pain is minimal and far less than that of a standard immunisation injection or blood sample collection. On clinical observation, needles inserted in the correct points seem to relax the area and decrease inflammation in the sinuses, allowing them to drain and clear.  McDonald et al (2016) have investigated biochemical & physiological mechanisms of action to find out exactly why it works, and why the inflammatory response is relevant when assessing the effectiveness of acupuncture in this area (McDonald et al, 2013).  You may wish to investigate via the reference list to check the study out and see for yourself.

Chinese medicine for Hayfever

Perhaps you thought there were no other options to help with seasonal hayfever, but had not thought of this one.  Acupuncture & Chinese medicine are not just for musculoskeletal complaints, after all.

Chinese medicine does not only provide medication and treatment in the clinic. We worklemon-91537_1920 on your diet as well, so you’re not making things worse with the food you eat.  Giving you credit for your own intelligence and empowering you to take control over your own health is an integral part of the Chinese medicine framework. If you’re interested in seeing how these therapies can help with hayfever & allergies, book yourself in for a complete assessment & acupuncture session in our Daylesford clinic. 

Reference List

  • Choi, S. M., Park, J. E., Li, S. S., Jung, H., Zi, M., Kim, T. H., … & Hong, Z. (2013). A multicenter, randomized, controlled trial testing the effects of acupuncture on allergic rhinitis. Allergy68(3), 365-374.
  • Fan, W., Fan, L., Peng, C., Zhang, Q., Wang, L., Li, L., … & Wu, C. (2019). Traditional Uses, Botany, Phytochemistry, Pharmacology, Pharmacokinetics and Toxicology of Xanthium strumarium L.: A Review. Molecules24(2), 359.
  • Hung‐Rong, Mao‐Feng, Cheng‐Li, Fung‐Chang,Chen‐Chi & Kai‐Li (2014) Adjunctive traditional Chinese medicine therapy for patients with chronic rhinosinusitis: a population‐based study [URL: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/alr.21446%5D [DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/alr.21446 accessed 5/9/19]
  • McDonald, J. L., Cripps, A. W., Smith, P. K., Smith, C. A., Xue, C. C., & Golianu, B. (2013). The anti-inflammatory effects of acupuncture and their relevance to allergic rhinitis: a narrative review and proposed model. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine2013.
  • McDonald, J. L., Cripps, A. W., & Smith, P. K. (2015). Mediators, receptors, and signalling pathways in the anti-inflammatory and antihyperalgesic effects of acupuncture. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine2015.
  • Phillips, D (2016) Adverse Reactions to Antihistamines More Common Than Thought (Medscape article) [URL: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/862387 accessed 5/9/19]
  • Taw, M. B., Reddy, W. D., Omole, F. S., & Seidman, M. D. (2015). Acupuncture and allergic rhinitis. Current opinion in otolaryngology & head and neck surgery23(3), 216-220.
  • Yang, S. H., & Yu, C. L. (2008). Antiinflammatory effects of Bu-zhong-yi-qi-tang in patients with perennial allergic rhinitis. Journal of ethnopharmacology115(1), 104-109.
  • Zhao, Y., Woo, K. S., Ma, K. H., van Hansselt, C. A., Wong, K. C., Cheng, K. F., … & Leung, P. C. (2009). Treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis using Shi-Bi-Lin, a Chinese herbal formula. Journal of ethnopharmacology122(1), 100-105.

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