While spring means warm weather and colourful blossoms for most of us, allergy sufferers are unable to enjoy the arrival of nature’s most glorious season due itchy eyes, relentless sneezing and irritating coughs.
New research shows acupuncture may provide a safe alternative to barricading yourself inside or numbing your senses with antihistamines once the good weather arrives.
A recent study in The Annals of Internal Medicine (Feb 19, 2013) "Acupuncture in Patients With Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis: A Randomized Trial" showed that 12 acupuncture treatments could reduce seasonal allergies and the need to take allergy medicine.
Acupuncture researchers tested 422 patients in 6 hospital clinics and 32 private outpatient clinics, and 46 physicians were involved. Patients were treated and tested for the two most common allergens: birch and grass pollen.
Researchers randomly assigned the volunteers to three groups: The first received 12 acupuncture treatments and took antihistamines as needed for their symptoms. The second received 12 fake (sometimes called 'sham') acupuncture (needles inserted in random points in the body versus designated points) treatments as a comparison with real acupuncture. They also took antihistamines as needed for their symptoms. The third took antihistamines only, without acupuncture.
After eight weeks, a survey of patients showed that the group that had real acupuncture reported the most improvement in symptoms and the least use of medication. However, study authors indicated that the improvements were modest compared with the antihistamine-only group. The fake acupuncture patients also reported some relief although not as much as the group with real acupuncture. Two months after treatment (16 weeks after the start of the treatments), there were no differences between the two groups.
The acupuncture research study officially concluded that:
“Acupuncture led to statistically significant improvements in disease-specific quality of life and antihistamine use measures after eight weeks of treatment compared with sham acupuncture and with RM alone, but the improvements may not be clinically significant.”
One of the study’s lead authors indicated in a Time.com article that while more acupunture research is needed, acupuncture is still a safe alternative for patients seeking non-medical treatment for allergies.
Annals of Internal Medicine: Acupuncture in Patients With Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis: A Randomized Trial
Time.com: Is Acupunture an Antidote to Allergies?