Seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is caused by a hypersensitivity of the mucus membranes in the nose to the pollen particles being released in the air by trees and flowers. Hay fever is manifested by nasal congestion, nasal discharge with watery mucus, sneezing, headaches, and red itchy eyes. In one in five cases the sufferers are also asthmatics.
Hay fever can have an influence on other aspects of our health as well. The resulting nose inflammation of rhinitis makes those afflicted more prone to catching the common cold. It can also lead to sinus and ear infections and can make the symptoms of asthma a lot more severe.
While the cause of this seasonal allergy is different from other forms of rhinitis caused by irritants such as dust mites or animal fur, the inflammatory response remains the same.
In what is medically called “an antigen antibody reaction”, the body’s defence system (igF antibodies) wrongly identifies these pollen particles as a threat. This triggers a defensive immune reaction in the body, releasing histamine.This, in turn, causes fluid to move out of the small nasal blood vessels (capillaries), resulting in excess watery mucus.
Unfortunately, every time the sufferer breathes, more pollen gets inhaled, which triggers the release of more histamine and nasal fluid - creating a self destructive feedback loop until the nose becomes totally blocked.
The Western medical approach to treatment is to prescribe antihistamine medications, which prevent the histamine from reaching the receptors. Unfortunately, as with most modern medications, there are side effects. These include, dizziness, insomnia, fatigue, and digestive problems.
It has long been speculated that the increase of seasonal rhinitis might be a consequence of living in a modern, cleaner environment.
Not as many kids grow up living with farm animals, or playing in the dirt as they used to. So the immune system doesn’t get a chance to develop through regular exposure to germs.
There is additional evidence that the presence of pets, especially multiple dogs, in the home at the time of birth can protect against the development of allergic diseases such as hay fever later in life.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the onset of respiratory disease is viewed from a different angle.
Amongst the many forms of Qi (energy) circulating in the body, the Wei Qi represents the defensive Qi, and the ability to fight pathogens and stay healthy.
In the Oriental medical framework, hay fever is regarded as being caused by a weakness of the Wei Qi. Since the nose is the opening of the lung, and that organ the most superficial in the body, it is the first to be affected.
In addition, the kidney organ represents the fundamental energy of the body. It controls the hormonal changes that occur from the onset of puberty to menopause. It also controls the circulation of the fluids in the body.
So while the symptoms are associated with the lung, it is due to a weakness in the kidney that the defensive Qi and the lung are unable to function adequately. Ultimately, in the treatment protocol, the comparative weakness of all these factors will need to be taken into account.
One way to strengthen our immunity without using needles is by stimulating specific acupuncture points using a herbal substance called mugwort, also known as Artemisia vulgaris. This form of therapy called “moxibustion” has been used in China and Japan for nearly two thousand years. For these people the medical benefits of that plant have almost magical status.
The heat from moxibustion is very penetrating, making it effective for boosting the immune system.
When it is applied to specific acupuncture points for allergies, the body absorbs the heat into its deepest levels, restoring the body's anti-pathogenic qi and energy.
Medical research has demonstrated that warming up certain acupuncture points with a lighted herbal stick of mugwort increases the production of white defensive blood cells, and strengthens the respiratory function, even in cases of allergies.
In Japan, there is a specific professional license for moxibustion specialists. Some of them have been practising their art from generation to generation for over a century, and they are real masters.
One of the main points used in moxibustion is located three inches below the knee on the lateral side of the tibia. Zusanli (ST36) has been used for centuries to increase longevity, strengthen the immune system, improve digestion, and relieve fatigue.
In my own experience, stimulating that single point for a few minutes every day can have a huge effect on your ability to stay healthy. It is a safe and easy way to avoid getting sick. Next time you visit an acupuncturist, get him to demonstrate moxibustion on that point. According to millions of Chinese, it could really change your life!
Olivier Lejus BHSc.MHSc. is a registered acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist practising in Sydney. A former casual university lecturer and tutor in Oriental medicine with over 15 years experience in clinical practice, Olivier specialises in Japanese- style acupuncture for the treatment of male and female infertility, migraine, pain, and insomnia.www.olejusacupuncture.com