Archive for tag: sinus

Allergies and Chinese Medicine

For the past month or so, I've been seeing quite a few patients in clinic, primarily students, who have complaints of sinus issues due to allergies. Many say that they're reacting to seasonal pollens or to molds and are experiencing symptoms such as itchy eyes, sinus pressure, stuffy or runny nose, headache, post-nasal drip and sneezing. I've been keeping track of the air quality this season and have noticed that level of pollens and air particulates have been pretty high this summer season, which could be causing or exacerbating their symptoms.


In Chinese medicine, allergies fall within a few different patterns of disharmony. The one consistent factor in all cases on allergies is the external pathogen wind. Characteristic of wind, it comes on suddenly without warning. In the case of allergies, wind combines with other external pathogens - damp, cold, heat or dryness. In the case of summer/seasonal allergies like hayfever, it would most commonly be due to damp, which is what creates the feeling of heaviness of the head or there is mucus or stuffiness involved.

Usually with allergies, there is also some underlying deficiency that is allowing this "excess" of wind and damp or other external pathogen to affect the body. In Chinese medicine, the Lung is responsible for our respiratory tract, as well as our defensive qi, which fights off external pathogens. It opens to the nose, which is usually the sense organ most affected by allergies. If it is deficient due to constitution, smoking, or long-term grief and sadness, it's necessary to address that first.

The Spleen also plays a role in allergies; when it's deficient and the digestive functioning is compromised, fluids aren't properly transported, which leads to damp and an overproduction of mucus, which will then affect the Lung's functioning.


A compromised spleen may make students more susceptible to allergies, especially during exams. The Spleen gets taxed by "pensiveness". Traditionally this would be worry and overthinking, two things that students do a lot of. But in modern day, this includes the excessive mental activity of studying. Eating in a hurry and reaching for sweets for an afternoon or late night pick-me-up make matters worse. One of my teachers once told me that AOM students will usually start suffering from Spleen Qi deficiency within 6 months of starting school.

An underlying deficiency, especially in the Spleen makes it all the more important for one to have a diet that doesn't contribute to the dampness, especially in the summer when the humidity is high and external dampness is at its peak. This means avoiding dampening foods like dairy products (say no to ice cream in the summer!), cold foods (iced tea and iced water), fried foods, sugars, and overconsumption of raw fruits and veggies. Although it might sound counterintuitive to drink warm drinks in the summer like herbal teas, they can actually be beneficial, since they don't tax the spleen and the warmth helps to dry the dampness.

Chinese herbal formulas are very effective at treating both acute and chronic allergies. In Hawaii, the volcano has been producing a lot of volcanic emissions (vog) in the past few years, causing many people to suffer from allergies and asthma. One of the most effective products I've seen to alleviate sufferers is a product called 'Vog Buster'. It's a tea made by acupuncturists in Maui who modified a Chinese herbal formula that helps with wind-invasion symptoms. I believe they also make a 'Smog Buster' for southern Californians who suffer from respiratory distress due to poor air quality. I personally have made up formulas for allergy and sinusitus patients using the same herbs used in those products.


Acupuncture is also effective for treating acute symptoms, as well as helping to tonify underlying deficiencies and alleviate chronic allergies. Local points around the nose and on the forehead can help to alleviate congestion, sinus pressure, headache and itchy eyes. Other points on the Lung channel can help with the respiratory tract to clear the nose and stop wheezing, while working to tonify the Lung and build up the body's resistant to that pesky wind!