By John Scott, DOM –
I am writing this article in the hopes that it will act as a reminder to practitioners treating sinus allergies that they can achieve superior results if they address the root as well as the manifestations. Quite often when treating sinus allergies, the immediate focus is on symptom relief – a branch treatment. In Chinese medicine, we don’t treat the allergen; we treat a weakness or an imbalance in the system. Since in Chinese medicine there are no isolated systems, we look for the different patterns involved in this particular disharmony.
Allergies represent an attempt by the body to enclose potentially harmful foreign substances. Stress is an important factor. When an individual is under increased stress they are more likely to be reactive in general. Once this foreign substance elicits an allergic response—such as itching, swelling or sneezing—and a pattern of such response is established, it is thereafter deemed an allergen. An allergen can be anything that triggers an allergic reaction: foods, pollen, mold, chemicals, even a family member! Of course, certain substances are more likely than others to cause reactivity. Here in the New Mexico desert, we have airborne pollens from juniper/cedar, mulberry, cottonwood, chamisa, and tumbleweed (to name a few of the heavy hitters). In addition to airborne substances, certain damp foods like wheat and dairy have large, difficult-to-assimilate proteins, which can cause more irritation than other substances.
In my practice, the underlying constitutional issues I see that are most often out of balance are from the liver/kidney systems. There are two primary patterns that I see with environmental allergies; stress is a factor in both of these presentations.
This type of allergic presentation is characterized by clear, copious, nasal drainage. There may also be sneezing, sniffling, post-nasal drip, fatigue, feeling chilled, a weak lower back, or lower back pain. The root cause is often adrenal exhaustion, and kidney yang or qi deficiency.
• The tongue will be pale, maybe swollen.
• The pulse will be weak and/or deep, especially in the proximal position on the right wrist.
Xanthium & Magnolia Formula to address the allergic symptoms.
For the root: Nourish Essence Formula is a good formula to work on the pattern underlying the allergies. It has a number of astringent herbs that help to dry excessive fluids, as well as supporting the kidneys and the adrenal glands.
Essential Yang Formula is an excellent formula for supporting the kidney yang. Other Chinese formulas that support kidney qi and yang are Ba Wei Di Huang Wan and You Gui Wan.
Ear Acupuncture Points: Suprarenal gland, kidney, endocrine, lung, inner nose
Acupuncture points: Fuliu (Ki 7), Zusanli (St 36), Hegu (LI 4), Lieque (Lu 7). Additional point possibilities: Shangjuxu (St 37), Shanglian (LI 9), Shousanli (LI 10), Shenshu (UB 23), Fengmen (UB 12), Feishu (Ub 13), Gaohuangshu (UB 43)
Moxibustion: Mingmen (Du 4), Shenshu (UB 23), Qihai (Ren 6), Guanyuan (Ren 4)
This pattern is characterized by inflammation and heat symptoms. The patient will have sinus congestion and/or inflammation, headaches, burning eyes. If there is phlegm, it will be yellow or green for more than just the first nose blow of the morning. The most common root cause of this is an imbalance in the liver and/or gallbladder meridians; a close second is heat in the lung meridian. Addressing the liver and gallbladder channels will provide a treatment that will be more effective than just a branch treatment. This will greatly assist the body in coping and clearing the inflammatory response to environmental irritants like pollen.
• The tongue will be red and there may be scalloped edges. There may also be a yellow coat.
• The pulse will be tight and perhaps rapid or wiry.
The formula of choice for symptom relief is Jade Screen & Xanthium Formula. Xanthium Nasal Formula is appropriate when there is copious yellow phlegm. Jade Screen & Xanthium Formula can be used as a preventative throughout the patient’s allergic season or just when symptoms arise.
For the root: The formulas that I recommend to address the constitutional issues are Free and Easy Wanderer Plus or Bupluerum and Tang Kuei Formula. Free and Easy Wanderer Plus is also a very good formula for chemical sensitivities.
Ear Acupuncture Points: Liver, kidney, endocrine, lung, inner nose
Acupuncture points: Zhaohai (Ki 6), Zusanli (St 36), Hegu (LI 4), Lieque (Lu 7), Taichong (Liv 3), Xingjian (Liv 2), Extra points Yintang, Pitung, Zanzhu (UB 2) Chai Pai. Additional point possibilities: Fengmen (UB 12), Feishu (UB 13), Gaohuangshu (UB 43), Ganshu (UB 18), Danshu (UB 19)
Zhaohai (Ki 6) and Lieque (Lu 7) are used as a combination for sinus congestion, inflammation, headaches and burning eyes. Use Zhaohai (Ki 6) first, followed by Lieque (Lu 7). Leave in for about an hour then remove and replace in opposite order for five minutes. Using gold needles for this treatment increases the effectiveness.
There can, of course, be other patterns a patient may present with besides these two. Please consider other constitutional factors and possibilities. Just keep in mind that you will get fantastic results – and even lessen or eliminate allergies for that patient in future seasons when you support the constitution and treat the root in addition to the branch symptoms.
Formulas mentioned in this article are from Golden Flower Chinese Herbs and are available to qualified practitioners in Canada from Eastern Currents.
About the author
John Scott is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine (DOM) currently in practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has been in private practice since 1982 and is the founder and president of Golden Flower Chinese Herbs Inc. John has been active his entire career in promoting Oriental Medicine on a local, state, national, and international level. He has taught classes in the field, been active in research, and has served on many boards and committees. His particular passion for Chinese herbal medicine has guided his writing and teaching. Some noteworthy achievements include: helping to develop the NCCAOM Chinese Herb Exam (1995), being named “Acupuncturist of the Year” by the American Association of Oriental Medicine (1997), was appointed in April of 2010 to the United States Delegation for TAG (Technical Advisory Committee) for ISO TC 249, sitting Board Member of the Neuroacupuncture Institute (2015), joined the NCCAOM Taskforce for Public Awareness (2015), and was elected President of the NMSAAM (2018 to present).
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