Eugene allergy season – acupuncture wins over antihistamines


Hello, Willamette Valley folks!  Allergy season is is already creeping up on us, and our valley seems to be a tough area for this problem. One of my patients today mentioned how a family member had to leave Eugene simply because of severe seasonal allergies, despite trying all the available drug options.  I have heard several of these stories during my time here.

Medications can help a lot of people, but their effect is is really only providing a holiday from symptoms.  I have never heard of anyone taking Claritin© during allergy season and then finding a lasting benefit if they stop in the middle of the season.  But I have frequently seen long term benefit when Chinese medicine was used.

I want to share an interesting research paper with you about acupuncture compared to Claritin©, also known as loratidine.  I like this paper because I think it has a very low probability of bias, and it looks at this question of lasting benefit.  The paper has some limitations such as not allowing for any individual variation in treatment for patients with different background metabolic situations, but it is from the Clinic of Otorhinolaryngology at the teaching hospital in Dresden, Germany.  The link to the article is posted below.

A teaching hospital has most likely seen many patients with bad reactions to drugs.  I looked loratidine up in the Physician’s Desk Reference and found over 80 adverse reaction warnings such as fatigue, dizziness, nausea, decreased libido, and incontinence of urine. These last 5 were some of the more intense symptoms I saw in my clinic last season caused by this drug. Also, many of you may have seen the recent news about how long term antihistamine use increases your risk of dementia. So this acupuncture research is really quite timely.

For those of you that are technically minded and are interested in the chemistry of allergic reactions, there are some lab test results in the paper that are worth looking at.  To keep it simple, let’s look at how the patients reported feeling after their treatment for allergies.  This study was actually looking at dust mite allergies but the physiology of seasonal allergies is almost identical, and with mites you can look at the effect of time without worrying about the change of season.

Sorry for the image quality here (this is a copy and paste straight from the paper) but I hope you can see a bar graph with red and blue columns.  Red is for acupuncture results, blue is for loratidine results.

Allergy bar graph

On your left side, you see how all the patients were feeling on the day after the last day of care, the right side shows how they were 10 weeks later.  87% of acupuncture patients reported improvement at the end of care, and 10 weeks later this was down to 80% of the patients.  So, OK, this acupuncture protocol did not work for every one but 80% after 10 weeks is still pretty good.

For the medication-only patients, on the day after taking their last pill 67% of them felt improved, but 10 weeks later none of the patients taking Claritin© were feeling any better; their symptoms had returned to pre-treatment levels.  After all the risk of side effects, none of the patients taking the drug felt any better after stopping the drug.

The doctors did not track adverse effects in this paper, but the number of patients in this study was not large enough to expect any dangerous adverse consequences of acupuncture, but would be large enough for drug side effects to be seen according to other research.

The moral of this story was that even poorly designed acupuncture treatments show a rather impressive result.  Bear in mind these patients were not offered any herbs or lifestyle/ diet modifications, and the treatments were not individually tailored to account for varying stress levels, other health issues, etc.  When I can treat with the full scope of my practice, surrounding the issue on many fronts, patients can see a benefit even a year later. And within 1- 3 seasons, they can find that they don’t need any further treatment of any kind.

Good luck this season!  And if you want to enjoy the outdoors without medication, give me a call.



The Effectiveness of Acupuncture Compared to Loratadine in Patients Allergic to House Dust Mites