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Chinese Medicine for Seasonal Allergies

I was just today, out for a hike at Edgewood Park, California. I think it has, despite the amazing benefits it has had upon my health in general, also made me worse in a way.

As a result of my hike, I experienced increased sneezing, irritated eyes, and general upper respiratory system constriction and decreased function. If, you too suffer from hayfever or seasonal allergies, you know how miserable this condition can be.

The main symptoms of this imbalance include: nasal discharge (often copious), sneezing, post-nasal drip, headache, itchy & watery eyes, and in some cases, fatigue.

Chinese medicine and particularly Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture, offer a variety of non-pharmaceutical approaches to this problem.

The herbal formula that I always think of first for hayfever and seasonal allergies is Pe Min Kan Wan (a.k.a. Bi Min Gan Wan) “Nasal Susceptibility Pill.” There are various iterations and variations on the formula but all seem to have a similar mode of action. 

The chief herbs Xin Yi Hua Magnolia and Cang Er Zi Xanthium direct the other herbs in the formula to the nose and “open the orifice,” while herbs like Huo Xiang Agastache drain the dampness and phlegm.

I have heard from several patients that the Dr. Shen’s formula Allergy is particularly effective. That being said, I will generally avoid the following manufacturers because they list Xiong Dan Bear Gallbladder (endangered wildlife) in their ingredients:

  • Fo Shan Herbal Product Co.; Foshan, China
  • United Pharmaceutical Manufactory; Fushan, China
  • Yu Lam Medicine Factory; Guangdong, China
  • Guangdong Zhaoqing Pharmaceutical Factory; Guangdong, China

Additionally, Farfun Peiminkamwan by Fushan United Manufactory; Guangdong, China is banned in California because it contains borneol and chlorpheniramine.1

Insofar as acupuncture for hayfever goes, there are endless possibilities. It is our usual practice in Chinese medicine to treat both the root (the underlying constitutional cause of disease) and the branch (the manifestations or symptoms of the disease). I will present to you my most common approaches to allergy cases, below.

From Kiiko Matsumoto-style Japanese acupuncture, we glean some useful protocols for hay fever and seasonal allergies. I like to include “Nagano’s Immune Point” a.k.a. “Triple Intestine Ten” in all respiratory or immune system imbalances. 

To find the point, “One palpates between the Large Intestine and Triple Warmer meridians at the level of LI-10 to LI-11.”2 Shanzhong CV-17 is especially good as this tradition considers it to be like a one-point four gates, so it can disperse Lung Qi stagnation quite readily. Also, Jingqu LU-8 threaded to Taiyuan LU-9 is a way to tonify and disperse Lung Qi in one fell swoop.

TCM-style of acupuncture has many, many approaches to respiratory disease and hayfever. I like to use an often overlooked acupuncture point: Tongtian UB-7. This point works so well for nasal congestion that I am very surprised when a case has not completely resolved by the end of an acupuncture session.

Plus, I find it easy to teach a patient how to locate this point and to use acupressure on it to continue their hayfever relief away from the clinic. Simply reach to the bilateral tender points in your scalp. They are located as such: “4 cun [one full hand-width, counting the thumb] directly above the midpoint of the anterior hairline and 1.5 cun [your pinkie and ring fingers] lateral to the midline.”3

Master Tung’s Acupuncture tradition also has some very effective points to deal with hayfever. Master Tung himself carefully studied the Pi Wei Lun or “Treatise of the Spleen and Stomach” of Dan Zhu-xi. He relates a lot of allergy and nasal discharge (as well as a generally weak immune system) to Spleen vacuity.

Therefore, he uses Sima “Rapid Horses” points (along the Spleen channel) and Tongtian + Tongguan (along the Stomach channel) for hayfever.

I personally think emphasizing the root over the branch in chronic conditions is warranted. This is a useful approach to shift a patient’s underlying constitution in hay fever. I hope this leads to more stable, longer-lasting results in more patients.

Through my professional experience, I know it’s possible to make a permanent shift in hay fever and seasonal allergies. In my clinic, I often hear patients give the anecdotal evidence that after a short course of acupuncture treatment, their hayfever was “completely resolved.” 

Without follow-up, its hard to know for sure. To me, this is just more evidence that Chinese medicine is a natural and safe alternative to pharmaceuticals for hayfever and seasonal allergies.


1 Fratkin, JP. Chinese Herbal Patent Medicines. Shya Publications, 2001. 48-67

2 Matsumoto K., Euler D. Kiiko Matsumoto’s Clinical Strategies: In The Spirit Of Master Nagano, Vol. 1. Kiiko Matsumoto Int’l, 2002. 60.

3 Xinnong, C. Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion (Revised Edition). Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, China.

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