Chinese Medicine for the Treatment of Hayfever

Chinese Medicine

Allergic rhinitis or “hayfever” is caused by a variety of substances from pollen to dust mites. The most common form of allergic rhinitis is seasonal allergic rhinitis, which typically occurs at the same time each year when flowers and plants are in bloom. Approximately 15 percent of the general population is believed to have some form of allergic rhinitis.

The symptoms of hayfever usually include itching of the nose, roof of the mouth and eyes together with sneezing and clear watery nasal discharge. This may also be accompanied by headache, irritability and insomnia. Many patients with hayfever will have a history of being treated with repeated antibiotics as children as well as eating a diet high in sugars, dairy products, fruit juices and yeasted grain products. It is suggested that the immune response of hayfever sufferers has been hampered in some way as a result of these elements.

According to Chinese Medicine airborne pathogens are categorised as external wind evils. The Lungs are considered a delicate internal organ affected easily by externally invading evils particularly those entering via the nose – the sense organ associated with the Lungs. These evils disturb the lungs ability to disperse and descend the life force energy or Qi. If the Lung Qi does not descend it stagnates, accumulates and eventually counterflows upwards causing sneezing. Because the Lungs also have a role in dispersing and descending fluids in the body, dampness and phlegm can also congregate as a result and lead to nasal discharge and congestion. Wind evils in themselves cause itching and within Chinese Medicine we have the phrase “No wind, no itching”. However for these wind evils to invade in the first place the patient is believed to have an underlying weakness in the Wei Qi – or Defensive Qi. This ancient theory is remarkably similar to modern Western Medical theories if we understand Wei Qi as representing the function of the Immune System.

Therefore the treatment of Hayfever according to Chinese Medicine should address the presenting symptoms but also the underlying weakness, such that the patient’s Wei Qi is strengthened to withstand future attacks of these external pathogens.

In China, acupuncture and Chinese herbal remedies have been used to successfully combat allergic rhinitis symptoms for centuries. A study in the West outlined in Allergy magazine concluded that a combination of Chinese herbs and weekly acupuncture sessions is effective at relieving the symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis(1).

In the study, a total of 52 patients between the ages of 20 and 58, all diagnosed with seasonal allergic rhinitis, were randomly assigned to a traditional Chinese medicine group or a control group. In the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) group, patients received a standardized 20-minute acupuncture treatment once a week for six weeks. Additional acupuncture points were selected based on each patient’s individual symptoms. By the end of the study period the severity of hayfever was “significantly less pronounced in the TCM group” than in the control patients, and instances of remission occurred twice as often in TCM patients compared to patients in the control group. The study found that TCM patients experienced improvements in allergy symptoms in the eyes and nose, higher levels of physical activity, and an improved psychological condition compared to patients in the control group. The intake of anti-allergy drugs also dropped dramatically among TCM patients.

A variety of Chinese herbs can be prescribed for Hayfever according to the individual and the pattern presenting. In my experience I have had considerable success with a powerful Chinese medicine formula known as Bi Yan Pian. This herbal formula is particularly effective when the client also pays attention to dietary factors, as already discussed, which may also be hampering the immune response.

1. Brinkhaus R, Hummelsberger J, Kohnen R, et al. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in the treatment of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized-controlled clinical trial. Allergy 2004;59:953-960.


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