Allergy in TCM Point of View
Authors: Chun Yi Lu O.M.D., LAc.
Spring is here and for some people, it means a great time outdoors sporting. But for those millions of people with chronic or acute allergy problems, spring can be a dreaded event. In spring, the flowers are blooming, and some people are sneezing away as the pollen wafts through the air. According to WHO, allergy problems affect at least 10-25% of the population, and is one of the most common complaints of patients seeking medical attention in the season of spring.
Allergy infections can be both acute and chronic. Usually, the infection starts with a cold due to factors such as weather changes; or an allergy episode that causes swelling of the mucous membranes and increases production of watery mucus. The classic allergy symptoms are nasal congestion, thick yellow nasal discharge (or thin and clear discharge in mild cases), frontal headache, and possibly fever with a sore throat.
Western Medical treatments for allergy include prescribing decongestants, mucolytics (drugs that thin mucus secretions), pain relievers, and antibiotics. Nasal decongestants can become ineffective and can lead to dependency if used for a long time. Antibiotics work well in some conditions, but not all. There are often cases that do not respond to them at all. As a last resort, surgery may be used to clean out and drain thick secretions that are blocking the allergy if drug therapy is not effective, or if there are structural abnormalities.
Ancient healing traditions such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believe that in order to treat any condition, the body as a whole should be analyzed. Any imbalances of yin and yang can be corrected by using herbs and/or acupuncture. According to TCM principles, cold temperatures can weaken the digestive power. This leads to a weakened immune system and creates a fertile environment for viruses and bacteria to attack. Drinking hot liquids (herbal teas, soups etc.) and dressing warmly helps keep immune system strong. One of the best-proven TCM herbs for fighting allergy is Huang Qi (Astragalus Radix). Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) has been shown to increase nearly every phase of immune-system activity. One study showed that astragalus increases the production and storage of interferon, a substance that alerts the body to invading viruses, bacteria and stimulates cells to begin their defense, and to increase interferon's effects in fighting illnesses. It is indicated in bacterial and viral respiratory infections including common cold, and acute allergy.
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* Articles Originally Published in SUN TEN Quarterly Newsletter Spring 2007
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