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Every year its the same thing, a lot of people seek help for itchy eyes and runny noses, symptoms varying in degree from sneezing to allergic asthma. Most patients I see with this problem are taking some sort of western medication i.e. antihistamine, nasal decongestant spray or cortisone based inhalers. Although these drugs alleviate their symptoms, they all wish to stop taking them as they feel the drugs do not address the root of the problem and might cause side effects.

So how can Chinese medicine help? Well, I often use a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs - acupuncture to balance, unblock or strengthen the energy, depending on the patient's constitution and pathology and herbs to strengthen the Wei Qi (this is your defensive energy that blocks out pathogens i.e. pollen, bacteria and viruses etc.). This is often enough to see them through the summer. However, some patients seek help late in the season, when their symptoms have progressed from a runny nose to sticky yellow mucus with red, hot itchy and swollen eyes. We say in Chinese medicine that the pathology has gone from Wind-Cold to Wind-Heat and if this is the case I have to add herbs that also clear heat and resolve phlegm/mucus.

Case history 1: Sabine (43), came to see me last May seeking help for her hay fever. She complained about breathing difficulties, especially at night, sore/ itchy eyes and continuous sneezing. Although she had been using antihistamines plus inhaler - twice/day for 15 years in the summer season, she still had to refrain from outdoor activities between May and August, as this made her symptoms unbearable. Having two young children and not being able to play with them in the park put an extra strain on her, resulting in further stress aggravating her condition.

I started to treat Sabine's underlying pathology with acupuncture, concentrating in making her Lung Qi descend to stop sneezing and ease breathing, at the same time unblocking Liver Qi stagnation to relieve stress, combining both body and ear acupuncture. I also gave her a herbal formula, beautiful in its simplicity (Yu Ping Feng San), containing only three herbs.

The effect of the treatment was instant and after two weeks Sabine enjoyed a day out on a farm together with her children. I continued to see her every two weeks for acupuncture and the herbal formula was taken throughout the summer. She used her inhaler three times that season.

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