Regular sessions of acupuncture and daily doses of Chinese herbal medicine may help ease the burden of seasonal allergies, new research indicates.
A group of German investigators found that hay fever sufferers who received weekly acupuncture treatments and took three doses of a Chinese herbal formula per day showed fewer symptoms and were less likely to say their allergy was infringing on their daily activities than people who received a placebo treatment.
“There are additional options to conventional medicine,” lead author Dr. Benno Brinkhaus of the Charite University Medical Center in Berlin told Reuters Health.
Brinkhaus suggested that people with seasonal allergies should consider acupuncture and herbs, but added that they should use it with caution, given that every treatment has side effects.
According to the report, published in the journal Allergy, the number of people with hay fever is growing in industrialized countries, affecting between 10 and 20 percent of the population.
Many of these patients are now opting for alternative medicine, including Chinese remedies, but few studies have rigorously examined their effects, Brinkhaus and colleagues note.
To investigate, the researchers asked 52 adults with moderate hay fever to try a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs or a placebo treatment. People given the placebo regimen had needles applied to non-acupuncture sites, and were given a non-specific Chinese herbal formula.
After 6 weeks, Brinkhaus and colleagues found that 85 percent of treated participants showed overall improvements in their hay fever, compared with only 40 percent of the comparison group.
More specifically, subjects who received the real treatment were more likely to report that their symptoms had decreased. They also tended to say their allergies were having less of an impact on their daily activities, such as sleep, everyday problems and general health.
People who got the genuine treatment were also twice as likely to experience a remission of their allergy, and had a bigger decrease in the number of drugs they took to relieve hay fever symptoms during the study period.
Patients given the real and sham treatment were equally likely to report side effects.
Brinkhaus noted that this study focused on people who already had symptoms, and acupuncture and herbs may be more effective when used before hay fever kicks in.
SOURCE: Allergy, September 2004.
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD