Having Seasonal Allergies? Acupuncture Offers Proven Relief

Acupuncture is now used not only in China but all over the world for many conditions, including seasonal allergies. It is even included as a therapy option in the United States Clinical Guideline for ENT diseases, stating that acupuncture can be offered to “patients with allergic rhinitis who are interested in non-pharmacologic therapy.” And who doesn’t want relief without the side effects of medications? 

Numerous studies have shown that acupuncture is effective for treating seasonal allergies. The ACUSAR (Acupuncture in seasonal allergic rhinitis) Trial, designed in 2010, investigated the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating Seasonal allergic rhinitis, also known as seasonal allergies. This trial was a randomized controlled trial, which is considered the gold standard in clinical research design for determining cause and effect. The study divided more than 400 patients suffering from allergic rhinitis into 3 groups:

  • one received acupuncture plus a rescue medication (cetirizine – Zyrtec),
  • another received sham acupuncture (needles placed superficially in areas that are not acupuncture points), plus the rescue medication,
  • the third group received only the rescue medication.

The acupuncture and sham acupuncture patients received 12 treatments over 8 weeks. They got the typical acupuncture points (that I always used in my Scottsdale acupuncture practice) for seasonal allergies, plus other points depending on their symptoms and underlying conditions. 

The acupuncture group showed statistically significant improvements in quality of life after 8 weeks of treatment compared with the sham acupuncture group and with the group that received only the rescue medication alone. Moreover, the group that received acupuncture used antihistamines significantly less than the other two groups. 

This trial and many other studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating seasonal allergies; however, the mechanism for its action was not entirely clear. A sub-study of the ACUSAT trial published in 2022 in the European Archives of Oto-rhino-laryngology also measured blood and nasal concentrations of different inflammatory markers. They found that the patients treated with acupuncture for 8 weeks had the lowest levels of inflammatory cytokines (small proteins that are part of the body’s immune and inflammatory responses) and the best improvement in nasal symptoms, confirming that acupuncture helped allergies by reducing inflammation.

Understanding the difference between real and sham acupuncture is crucial. Real acupuncture requires precise placement of needles at specific points to achieve the desired therapeutic effect, a skill cultivated through extensive training and practice. This distinction underscores the importance of seeking treatment from a qualified practitioner.

If seasonal allergies are diminishing your quality of life, consider acupuncture as either a standalone solution or a complementary treatment. It promises more good days with minimal to no symptoms, enhancing your overall well-being.

Questions? Feel free to reach out. I provide free consultations to help you determine if acupuncture is right for you. 

For further reading and evidence supporting acupuncture’s benefits, including detailed findings from the ACUSAR trial, please see the references below.

References:

https://www.entnet.org/resource/aao-hnsf-cpg-allergic-rhinitis-press-release-fact-sheet/

Benno Brinkhaus B, Ortiz M, Witt C, et al. Acupuncture in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2013 Feb 19;158(4):225-34.

Adam D, Grabenhenrich L, Ortiz M, Binting S, Reinhold T, Brinkhaus B. Impact of acupuncture on antihistamine use in patients suffering seasonal allergic rhinitis: secondary analysis of results from a randomised controlled trial. Acupunct Med. 2018 Jun;36(3):139-145. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2017-011382. Epub 2018 Feb 10.

Gellrich D, Pfab F, Ortiz M, et al. Acupuncture and its effect on cytokine and chemokine profiles in seasonal allergic rhinitis: a preliminary three-armed, randomized, controlled trial. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2022; 279(10): 4985–4995.

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