How to treat allergic rhinitis from the TCM perspective

In the so-called civilized world, there has been a steep rise in the number of people with some allergic symptoms. One of the most common is allergic rhinitis, which is manifested by swollen nasal mucosa, abundant watery discharge from the nose, itching in the nose, and sneezing; sometimes it also affects the eyes, which are red and itchy, and occasionally asthma problems can occur.

If pollen is the triggering factor, we mean seasonal allergic rhinitis (the so-called pollen rhinitis), if it is mites, mold, animal hair, cold, cigarette smoke, smog, perfumes, air conditioning, etc., it is referred to as perennial allergic rhinitis. In both cases, the above mentioned symptoms appear within 15 minutes after contact with the allergen. Due to the nasal mucosa swelling, there is limited drainage (“nasal congestion”) of secondary nasal cavities, which often leads to their inflammation and secondary infection (the so-called sinusitis), which can result in loss of smell and taste. Western treatment for allergic rhinitis lies in the administration of antihistamines (drugs not only to eliminate histamine secretion from the cells, but their side effects are also dampening effects on the nervous system, dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, nervousness and digestive problems) and in the administration of corticosteroids (their side effects need not be specified).

Purulent rhinitis, in contrast to allergic rhinitis, is manifested by inflammatory swollen nasal mucosa with dense yellow sticky purulent odorous discharge from the nose, nasal congestion, headache and sneezing – all signs of sinusitis. It is caused by attacking the lungs with cold wind, which is not sufficiently and properly (according to TCM) eliminated and over time changes into heat, which blocks the lung energy Qi and prevents it from descending, which causes nasal discharge. The gallbladder path normally brings heat to the head (for brain activity), that is why the inflammatory yellow purulent discharge also occurs consequently. Therapy most often consists in eliminating wind from the lungs and cooling the heat in the gallbladder – e.g. Blowing of dragon cave (007) + Birth of the Phoenix (009) or Shade of brocade veil (012) etc. It is also necessary to adapt the diet and reduce the food bringing moisture and heat to the body, especially fat, fried, grilled, spicy food, cow milk and dairy products and sweets. On the contrary, at that time, it is advisable to include in your diet fresh and cooling food eliminating wind, such as beans, millet grain, cucumbers, chicory, spinach, bananas, strawberries, etc.

Causes of allergic rhinitis according to TCM

Allergic rhinitis is caused by an excessive (disproportionate) response of the immune system to a particular allergen, says Western medicine. In Chinese terms, in the same way as for asthma, this is a deficiency in the defence system in the kidney and lung paths, along with the establishment of chronic wind in the nose. Kidney and lung paths insufficiency is, according to TCM, caused by either weakened congenital constitution (lack of essence of parents‘ kidneys), or pregnancy problems (risky pregnancy, smoking, alcohol, emotional shocks, infections), premature or induced labour, child vaccinations… Due to these factors, leading to weakening of the essence, the kidneys cannot function as a “power charger”, a so-called battery that sends its life force to the lungs while simultaneously pulling (“sucking”) energy back from the lungs down to evenly balance the energy conditions in the body. Thus, the lungs do not get the “correct QI energy” from the kidneys (the kidneys do not communicate with the lungs), the Qi energy in the lungs is “overpressed”, resulting in:

  1. Accumulation and stagnation of Qi energy in the lungswith its upward flow into the nose, causing inadequate (allergic) reactions according to the Papin’s pot principle (“water does not follow the water path” but overflows in the form of nasal discharge).
  2. Weakening of surface defensive Qi energy which acts on the skin and mucous membranes, creating a surface armour that resists external wind attacks. This energy is produced by the lungs, which in our case are weakened, so that this layer is highly permeable and allows easy attack and settlement of harmful wind in the body, especially in the nose (allergic rhinitis) or lungs area (asthma).
  3. Weakening of kidney defensive Qi– although it is kidney path disability, there are no similar symptoms in terms of TCM, typical for kidney weakness such as dizziness, lower back pain, weakness of the legs, whistling in the ears, night sweats, etc. It is only one aspect of the kidney function that is associated only with the kidney defensive energy Qi (like the lungs and their defensive function).

All in all – allergic rhinitis is caused by the repeated penetration of external harmful wind into the nose area, and is not properly and sufficiently eliminated, or by the primary deficiency of the kidney and lung defence system, which allows the entry and settlement of the wind in the body, or most often a combination of both.

Allergic rhinitis usually begins in childhood, but can also occur in adulthood, and this is related to natural decrease in or weakening of the kidney energy Qi associated with the onset of sexual activity; especially in men after age 40 its appearance means a severe loss of kidney essence. Also, in people over the age of 50 (as well as in people consuming excess sweets, milk and dairy products), the situation can be complicated by the weakened spleen, which then produces abundant mucus, which in turn blocks the secondary sinuses, so that the patient then exhibits not only signs of allergic rhinitis, but also sinusitis.

Treatment of allergic rhinitis according to TCM

In treatment, it is necessary to distinguish whether it is seasonal (pollen) or perennial rhinitis, as well as whether it is a acute seasonal rhinitis (spring, summer) or resting (autumn, winter) condition. In general, the treatment always consists of the elimination of external wind and strengthening of the lungs and kidney essence. The kidney essence can be either yin or yang.

Seasonal (pollen) rhinitis

Acute condition (spring, summer) – in this period the treatment is focused mainly on the elimination of external harmful wind from the nose, eyes and lungs. Beverage of silver wind (code 844) and Seclusion of the hermit Chang (code 114), which contains 8 Chinese herbs that release harmful wind from the surface, are always used. When the nose is affectedBlowing of dragon cave (007) is added, which purposefully releases the wind from the nose area,if eyes are affected more than nose, the herb mixture Fragility of wound leaf (003), which in turn eliminates hot wind from the eye area, is suitable. In the case of asthma problems that may accompany this pollen rhinitis, it is good to add Moistening of the parched steppe (code 033), which, in its turn, eliminates lukewarm dry wind from the lungs or Echoes of the Himalayan thunder (code 032) in case of the cold wind attacking the lung heat. Dosage is generally based on the degree of disability, i.e., according to the obligatory principle – “a big patch on the big hole”, which in our case of acute manifestations will certainly be more than a small amount of herbs… For example, in the case of a classic acute pollen rhinitis with the nose disability, Seclusion of the hermit Chang and Blowing of dragon cave are taken every 2 hours at a dose of 4-8 tablets of each simultaneously until the symptoms disappear or the condition is stabilized, then taken at a dose of 3×2-4 tablets daily each during the season. At this stage of the disease it is also important to help the body with food. At this time, mainly sweets, cow milk and dairy products are not recommended, while foods such as soy, millet, wild mint (it is good to drink fresh mint tea), lovage, caraway, aniseed, coriander, chives, horsetail, and for those who like something exotic – chrysanthemum flowers, magnolia flowers, mulberry leaves, burdock seeds, monkshood, Alpine lovage, sumac, tamarisk, hogweed leaves, etc., are recommended – all these foods eliminate harmful surface wind from the body.

Mid-season (autumn, winter) – at this time the therapy is based on the determination of the yin or yang constitutional type. The use of the herbal mixture Ebony windbreak (153) to prevent allergies is almost universally suitable. In the case of yin deficiency, Swiftness of meadow scorpio (186), which strengthens the kidneys, stomach and lungs yin and is called “Eight immortal herbs for a long life” in China, is added. In case of yang deficiency, Jewel of Tibet tablets (code 198), which strongly strengthens yang and kidney essence, is used. Dosage is 3×2 tablets daily from each simultaneously for 3-5 months before the season. You can use the Good Diet test to determine the recommended and non-recommended diet.

Perennial allergic rhinitis

This treatment is the same as the previous one for the mid-season, it is not limited to autumn and winter but is treated all year round. While keeping the diet and using Chinese herbs, the allergy is manageable, even if a person can be allergic to anything you can think of (most people are allergic to themselves…).