Spring Allergies and Respiratory Problems
Shanghai’s damp and dusty environment is a nightmare for allergy and asthma sufferers, and spring brings a new round of suffering. During spring, both nature and the human body are coming out of a state of winter passivity and transitioning to a more active (and hot/yang) period. Unfortunately, after a long, cold winter, the body is generally weak and vulnerable to external pathogenic factors. Therefore, the meridians transporting the flow of Qi (energy) and lying under the skin are greatly exposed to the changing weather conditions.
TCM interprets allergies as a disharmony in the body, often diagnosed as a “wind” disease accompanied by another pathogenic factor like dampness or heat which disturbs the balance of the system. Additionally, allergy sufferers are often thought to have an underlying weakness of the lung or spleen system.
TCM tackles allergies with a combination of herbs, diet and acupuncture. Specific herbs can help eliminate the wind from the patient’s body, clear the nasal passages and sinuses and soothe itchy eyes and skin. Herbs help with the flow of Qi (typically deficient/stagnant when spring allergies occur) to put the body back in balance. Some commonly used herbs include:
- Adenophora Root (Nan Sha Shen / 南沙參: grows throughout the mountains in East Asia. The root is used to release respiratory problems and suppress a Yin deficiency. Its properties will stimulate the Yin and tonify the Qi, thus help removing the Qi stagnation in the nose and sinuses.
- Glehnia Root (Bei Sha Shen / 北沙参: is sweet and slightly bitter in taste. It is a lung Qi tonifying herb which helps getting rid of lung heat causing itchy throat and dryness. It nourishes the lung Yin and moistens and clears the lungs by generating body fluids that will remove the Qi stagnation in the nose and sinuses. It also moistens the skin and will reduce skin dryness and itchiness.
- Spirodela (Fu Ping / 浮萍): is a Chinese plant collected from June to September having an acrid and cold effect which expels wind from the body and reduces swelling. It promotes sweating and helps to push pathogens to the exterior. It suppresses itchy skin symptoms. Spirodela also drains fluids in the upper body helps to reduce edema and swelling around the sinuses, thus relieving symptoms.
Allergies are often related to excessive mucus production. Mucus is part of the digestive/spleen system so a healthy digestion may prevent sensitive people from developing allergic symptoms. Sweets, dairy, chicken products and cold foods should be avoided as they increase mucus. Certain foods soothe the lungs and can provide relief, such as almonds, pears, honey, and loquats.
Additionally, acupuncture has been proven effective in treating allergies and providing relief, especially in combination with herbal therapy. By targeting specific acupoints, acupuncture increases the protective Qi in the lungs, strengthens the immune system and calms the body’s overreaction to the allergens. The Annals of Internal Medicine reported on a 2013 study done at Berlin’s Charité-University Medical Center, in which allergy sufferers who received acupuncture required less antihistamine medication. Several studies have documented acupuncture’s effectiveness for relieving headaches, a frequent spring allergy symptom.
Thanks to its approach in viewing the whole person in concert with the environment, TCM offers natural allergy solutions for both symptom relief and long-term help rebalancing the body. Have a more pleasant spring with a little help from TCM!