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08 Mar 20247 min

Suffering from hay fever? Acupuncture could be your natural remedy

In a world where natural and non-invasive solutions are increasingly sought after for various health issues, acupuncture stands out as a popular practice, especially when it comes to spring allergies. In this article, we'll delve into how acupuncture can effectively treat seasonal allergies, particularly those common in spring.

The impact of seasonal allergies: spread and statistics

Allergies are among the most common health issues of our time. About 50% of the European population has a predisposition to developing allergies. It's estimated that over 300 million people worldwide, roughly 6% of adults and 12% of children, suffer from asthma, while more than 500 million individuals are affected by allergic rhinitis. In Switzerland, around 500,000 people have asthma, and up to 2 million, approximately 20% of the population, suffer from pollen-induced allergic rhinitis.

The pollen from the most common allergenic trees in Switzerland belongs to the Fagales order or the beech family (birch, alder, hazel, hornbeam). The allergens from these pollens are highly cross-reactive, causing symptoms during the spring months (from January to April). In April, ash pollen joins birch pollen. Both belong to the olive family.

For seasonal allergic rhinitis in the months of May, June and July, the most significant representatives are timothy grass (Phleum pratense), cock's-foot grass (Dactylus glomerata), and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne).

The so-called late summer pollinosis, which occurs in August/September, is caused by herb pollens, especially mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), and in Ticino and Geneva, by ragweed pollen (Ambrosia artemisiifolia). Ragweed pollen is highly allergenic and can cause severe respiratory problems even at low concentrations. (Ballmer-Weber and Helbling. 2017).

Hay fever: symptoms

Seasonal allergies are an overly sensitive response of the immune system to external substances, commonly known as allergens. These allergens, such as tree pollen, grass, and flowers, are particularly frequent in the spring season. People affected by seasonal allergies may experience symptoms like sneezing, nasal congestion, itchy eyes, and sometimes difficulty breathing. The main goal of allergy treatment is to reduce or eliminate these bothersome symptoms.

Acupuncture, a natural remedy for pollen allergy

Recent studies have begun to explore the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating spring allergies. The therapeutic approach of acupuncture for allergies focuses on improving the body's tolerance to allergens and reducing inflammation. The practice can help modulate the immune response, reducing excessive reactivity to environmental allergens.

Acupuncture can act on different levels in allergy treatment. One key aspect is its ability to modulate the immune system. Significant changes have been observed in lymphocyte subpopulations and cytokine concentrations, suggesting that acupuncture could positively influence the immune system. (Joos et al., 2000).

According to some research, acupuncture can stimulate the production of neurotransmitters and hormones that have an anti-inflammatory effect, thus reducing allergic symptoms. Additionally, stimulation of acupuncture points can improve blood and lymphatic circulation, helping to reduce inflammation and promote an overall sense of well-being.

Another study found that acupuncture has regulatory effects on mucosal and cellular immunity. After acupuncture treatment, significant reductions in total serum immunoglobulin (IgE) concentrations and peripheral blood eosinophil counts were observed. Additionally, a significant increase in T lymphocyte subpopulations (CD3+, CD4+, and CD8+) in peripheral blood was noted. (Yang et al., 2013).

The effectiveness of acupuncture demonstrated by clinical studies and results

Several clinical studies have examined the effects of acupuncture on seasonal allergies such as those in spring. In one study, patients treated with acupuncture showed a significant reduction in allergy symptoms compared to those who did not receive the treatment. Another study revealed that acupuncture, when combined with conventional treatment, improved the effectiveness of the treatment itself, reducing the need for antihistamine medications.

A 2023 review and meta-analysis suggest that acupuncture might have a beneficial effect in treating asthma in adults, with improvements seen in both asthma control scores and patients' quality of life. (J. Pang et al. 2023)

A 2022 review and meta-analysis concluded that acupuncture is effective in improving symptoms of allergic rhinitis and reducing the need for antihistamine medications. (Min He et al. 2022)

A literature review from 2020 indicates that acupuncture may reduce atopic eczema in terms of severity and improve patients' quality of life. (R. Jiao et al. 2020).

High-quality randomized controlled trials demonstrate the efficacy of acupuncture in both seasonal and perennial allergic rhinitis (Malcolm B. et al. 2015).

Navigating acupuncture: safety and key considerations

Acupuncture is generally considered safe and virtually free of side effects when performed by a qualified practitioner. For this reason, it's crucial to choose an experienced and qualified acupuncturist, especially when dealing with conditions like spring allergies.

At Sinomedica, we stand out for offering highly qualified acupuncturists with years of experience in the field. Our professionals undergo rigorous selection and receive thorough training, ensuring adherence to the latest protocols based on clinically proven effectiveness from evidence-based medicine. This approach ensures that the treatments provided meet the highest standards of safety and quality, aiming to optimize therapeutic outcomes for our patients, especially those with spring allergies.

A fundamental aspect of acupuncture is the customization of treatment based on individual needs. Each person reacts differently to allergens and presents unique symptoms. Therefore, a qualified acupuncturist will assess the patient's clinical picture to identify the most effective acupuncture points to treat specific symptoms.

Keeping pollen allergies at bay with acupuncture

Utilizing acupuncture as a preventive measure before the onset of the traditional allergy season can play a crucial role in mitigating both the occurrence and intensity of allergic reactions. Commencing acupuncture sessions a few weeks prior to the expected arrival of seasonal allergens, such as pollen, allows the body to adapt and fortify its innate immune defenses. This proactive approach is particularly beneficial for individuals with a history of allergic responses, empowering them to effectively manage potentially exacerbating conditions.

To optimize outcomes, adhering to a consistent acupuncture treatment plan is essential. This typically entails an initial cycle of 10 sessions conducted weekly, followed by a transition to 2 sessions per month, and ultimately, maintenance with 1 session per month. While some patients may experience noticeable improvements after just a few sessions, others may require a more extended course of treatment.

Acupuncture emerges as a promising avenue for addressing seasonal allergies, including springtime allergies, by alleviating symptoms and enhancing overall quality of life. It serves as a valuable complement to conventional medical approaches, offering a tailored strategy for managing seasonal allergic reactions. 

Discover the transformative potential of acupuncture in enabling you to fully embrace the splendor of each season. For personalized guidance, we invite you to consult with one of our knowledgeable experts.

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Dr. med. Francesco Giombini

Dr. med. Francesco Giombini, Sinomedica Editorial Scientific Manager, is a Specialist in Anesthesia-Pain Therapy and Traditional Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture. He's an expert in Preventive Medicine and Antiaging. He has been practicing acupuncture since 2009. He's currently practicing as an acupuncturist at Sinomedica centers in Locarno and Lugano. He has a diverse educational background, including degrees in Medicine and Surgery, specialization in Anesthesia and Resuscitation, and training in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. He is affiliated with various medical organizations in Switzerland.