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Hayfever, or allergic rhinitis, is a huge problem for many, and a big money-maker for pharmaceutical companies.
By the way, in case you wonder how you’ve arrived here, this site is about how Chinese medicine explains health problems and diseases in English.
So how does Chinese medicine explain this problem?
Tiresomely, Chinese medicine doesn’t seem to have a neat way of describing ‘hayfever’. We in the West have that one convenient word to convey a whole range of symptoms, such as:
Strictly speaking, some of the above symptoms aren’t allergic rhinitis because they pertain to the eye or ears, and rhinitis specifically refers to the nose.
For some people these symptoms lead on to others, including headaches, chest congestion, cough, asthma, sinusitis and difficulty sleeping. For instance, if your allergic rhinitis turns into sinusitis, that’s different and is treated if and when it occurs.
In turn that affects work output and performance, relationships and the ability to relax and enjoy life.
So, Thank Heavens for antihistamines, you may say. After all, they suppress your body’s normal reaction to allergens. You can take them every day without needing to visit your doctor, so everyone’s happy!
Antihistamines do, however, have side-effects including ‘drowsiness, dizziness, headache, photo-sensitivity and respiratory depression’.
As you probably realise, traditional acupuncture is based on a theory of channels or meridians which encompass all parts of your body. This idea goes back at least 2,500 years and possibly far beyond even that.
Sri Lanka claims the idea was its own, but then the early Chinese came and ‘borrowed’ and ‘developed’ it.
Acupuncture theory forms an important part of the theory of Classical or Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). TCM is a comprehensive way of explaining health and disease which, in its own way, is as subtle and sophisticated as modern ‘Western’ or ‘orthodox’ medicine, the kind your doctor is an expert in.
At any rate, TCM has been in daily use for 2500 years and its merits are being increasingly revealed through modern research. For more on this see WHO. In the UK there are controls on what may be said on web-sites, so on this site we merely seek to explain Chinese medicine.
On this site you’ll read words like lungs and kidneys, Lung(s) and Kidney(s), the difference being in the Capital Letter eg Heart.
When you see the Capital Letter at the front of the word, it means it in the Chinese medical sense. If so, it refers to the Zangfu, or Energy Organ, being the Chinese medical use of the word.
If you read those linked pages, you’ll see that the Chinese medical theory use of the word means rather more than the Western medical use of the word. For instance, the Liver expresses itself not just in its functions but along the Liver channel – see picture.
Wind is an important cause of disease in Chinese medicine. For more on this, click the link, but the idea covers a huge range of experience, the following being external:
You can see from this list that they all include some kind of movement, either physical or emotional. That movement represents an ‘inner’ form of Wind.
To grasp the next bit of theory you’ll now have to delve a bit into the linked pages!
Modern medicine is very good at suppressing the acute symptoms of Wind-Cold and Wind-Heat but this can lead to chronic problems.
When a condition becomes chronic we resort to ongoing medication, which is subject to Primary and Secondary Actions.
For example, the primary action of an antihistamine is to stop the histamines your body releases from ruining your life.
The secondary actions include the drowsiness and dizziness mentioned: often you need other medication (could be coffee!) to counteract the primary actions, but that will also have secondary actions.
So some of us end up taking more and more medications, each aimed at counteracting the secondary effects of earlier drugs. That’s not good for out metabolisms, though it is good for manufacturers, pharmacies and the Inland Revenue! That is, until the Revenue has to pay your bills for still more medication, as in many Nationalised health services.
The way Chinese medicine thinks about it is as though the Wind is trapped in your nose, spurred to react by sources of external Wind.
When pollen enters, suddenly the trapped Wind goes mental!
What happens then, with allergic rhinitis or hayfever?
You get (some of) the symptoms of Wind-Cold.
There are two strategies in Chinese medicine.
Acupuncture is thousands of years old, and must have been used to treat allergic rhinitis/hayfever on millions of people, even if they didn’t call it ‘allergic rhinitis or hayfever’ because they were treating the syndromes of disease as defined in Chinese medicine. I must have treated Wind-Cold and associated syndromes thousands of times.
Herbs are just as good and sometimes even better, but of course you have to take them, and they aren’t sold on taste, so don’t suit everyone. (But then, why should medicine be made to taste nice? Surely that’s ridiculous for many of us? Shouldn’t it taste revolting so that you’d do anything to help yourself rather than take the stuff?)
I expect to add and alter this page as time goes by.
Here I’ve tried to express what I think Chinese medicine has to say on allergic rhinitis and hayfever, but fellow practitioners and students may have interesting ideas – as well as those who suffer from the condition.
If you have views or experience, either as a practitioner or sufferer, do use the box below to add to the common experience and knowledge.
You can be fairly certain that someone, maybe many people, will benefit from it.
Here are several other pages which you could read:
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