If you’re allergic to tree or grass pollen, your eyes, nose and throat have already sounded the alarm: allergy season is upon us. For the typical mild allergy sufferer trying to survive the season, antihistamines might do enough. For others with more severe allergies or symptoms, conventional pills, nasal sprays and eye drops may not be successful. Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) may just be the path to relief.
In China, herbal medicine is considered a powerful form of therapy used to treat most health conditions, including allergies. Herbal formulas are customized to each individual patient and can be taken as a tea, a capsule, or a powder dissolved into water. Due to their long history, the workings of the classical herbal formulas are extremely well understood by practitioners.
If your allergies persist despite conventional treatment, if you experience any negative side effects (drowsiness, dizziness, restlessness) from your antihistamines or if you have chronic sinus problems or other lingering allergy-related issues, Chinese herbal medicine can offer help, according to Weiyi Ding, MD (China), MS, RN, LAc, a clinical supervisor Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the teaching clinic of Bastyr University. “I see many patients who are simply not responding well to Western medical treatment for their allergies, and they come to us for help," Dr. Ding says. "They find that CHM and acupuncture treatments can help clear up that chronically runny nose or those constant sinus headaches without side effects.”
So how do traditional Chinese medicine practitioners approach allergy treatment? “We don’t talk about allergens,” says Allen Sayigh, MAc, LAc, manager of the Chinese Herbal and Ayurvedic Medicine Dispensary at Bastyr Center. "We talk about four elements – ‘wind’, ‘cold’, ‘heat’ and ‘dryness’ – that can invade the body. The goal of treatment is to expel those factors through the use of herbs.” Sayigh says TCM practitioners prescribe herbal formulas based on the patient’s unique “presentation.” That means a dozen patients might be prescribed any of a dozen different variations of herbs.
Sayigh says those who come in before or at the outset of allergy season receive treatment that goes to the root of the problem so allergies don’t recur or decrease in severity. “If we treat the person in advance, we’re attempting to regulate their qi (or life force) and strengthen their ability to ward off those environmental influences,” he says. “CHM can have a regulating effect on the body, promoting harmony and balance in the individual’s qi.”
For more information about how Chinese herbal medicine can help your allergy-related health concerns, make an appointment at Bastyr Center by calling (206) 834-4100.