Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Treating Allergies With Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM )

By Mary Oleksowicz , MSTOM, L. Ac. Adjunct Faculty  Kaplan  University 

The unusually warm winter here on the East Coast means that the flowers and trees (and even weeds) are blooming much earlier than usual. As a chronic seasonal allergy sufferer, I know that the natural approach to allergy treatment is most effective as a preventative measure. In order to best reduce the impact of all the blooms and blossoms, starting to strengthen your body prior to the height of the allergy season is most effective.

TCM views what we would commonly call “allergies” as the invasion of an external pathogen (usually wind) coupled with an imbalance or weakness of one’s constitution. Most frequently these weaknesses or deficiencies are associated with the lung and/or spleen.  The energy of our lungs (Lung qi) is responsible for the proper function of the respiratory tract, including the nasal passages. Spleen qi is known to transform and transport things . When our spleens are weak, digestive function is reduced and this can lead to an overproduction of mucus( poorly  "transformed” food energy ). Mucus in both TCM and Western physiology tends to collect in the lungs. Also with digestive function reduced our “protective qi “  also known as wei qi is unable to properly protect us from external pathogens (wind) , leaving us susceptible to “attack” .

 The most common treatment , as mentioned,  is preventative. This  means  that one would consume herbs or herbal formulas for several weeks prior to the expected allergy season. Herbs that are slected are usually known for their ability to  tonify the lung and spleen , such as Codonopsis (dang shen), Atractylodes (bai zhu), Poria (fu ling), and prepared Licorice (zhi gan cao),An appropriate patent medicine  or “ tea pill “ for this type of deficiency is Six Gentlemen Formula . This formula also contains Pinellia (ban xia) and aged citrus peel (chen pi), which helps the body to clear mucus and dry dampness more effectively.  If your body needs additional tonification, Yu Ping Feng San ( Jade WindScreen) is often suggested for allergic rhinitis. The key ingredient in this formula is Huang qi (Astragulus) . This herb is known for its ability to strengthen the spleen and tonify your defensive ( wei qi ) .  In Western herbology , astragulus is known as an “ adaptogen “, a supplement that supports metabolic health and helps organisms to best adapt to environmental factors and the damage they could cause.

As always, before starting any new course of supplement use, be sure to consult your physician and a knowledgeable Traditional Chinese Herbalist. Over the course of this week, we will also investigate nutritional and acu-pressure support for the allergy season.

Mary Oleksowicz, L. Ac


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