Is Acupuncture The Way Forward For Allergies & Asthma?

Is Acupuncture The Way Forward For Allergies & Asthma?

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Studies show a link between the ancient art of acupuncture and the improvement in allergic and asthmatic symptoms, alongside a decrease in medication dosages.

If you find yourself sneezing, coughing and wheezing to excess in the months leading up to allergy season, or find yourself in the midst of other more troubling asthma symptoms, you’re probably used to reaching for those handy over the counter medicine for some much-needed assistance.

But trusty anthisitimates may not be the only source of support when it comes to your symptoms. Instead of breathing in chemicals or taking other forms of medication, natural substitutes could also help to immediately decrease the suffering of such symptoms. 

A recent study outlines the potential for the holistic practice of acupuncture as a way to provide helpful relief when it comes to bothersome allergies and troublesome asthma.

There are 5.4 million people living with asthma in the UK. This means that one in every 11 people suffer with this debilitating disease and one in five households are exposed to the likelihood of serious asthma symptoms. Scarily, every 10 seconds, someone is suffering with a potentially life-threatening asthma attack in the UK, and two thirds of these are noted as being preventable.

Why acupuncture?

The ancient practice of acupuncture has been used by people for years as a way to help treat a wide range of health issues. It involves inserting tiny needles just under the skin at specific points in the body, known as “acupuncture points.” Skilled acupuncture specialists use this method as a way to help restore the flow of energy to eliminate pain and other ailments.

Developed by Chinese medical practitioners, this approach was previously only used in Eastern cultures but has gained acceptance by medical professionals in the West over the years. More recently, it has been gaining popularity as a potential remedy in the fight against allergic symptoms. 

As bronchial asthma is a chronic disease of the respiratory tract, inflammation plays a key role in the condition, and this is something that acupuncture could indeed help with.

Thomas Burgoon, MD and President of The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture states that “it’s common to see improvement even after the first treatment. If you have ongoing (chronic) allergies, you might need two sessions per week for 6 weeks.”


There have been various studies surrounding the possibility of acupuncture as a means to help with allergies and asthma symptoms.

A recent study, conducted in 2013, looked at the effects of acupuncture in patients with Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis – more commonly known as hay fever – who were affected by both birch and tree pollen.

46 specialized physicians across 6 hospitals and 32 private outpatient clinics examined 422 people who tested positive for these specific pollen allergies. Symptoms included allergic nasal issues, such as:

  • a runny nose
  • Sneezing and 
  • all around itchiness

Alongside symptom reporting, patients noted what medication and doses they currently used to treat these allergic characteristics.

The researchers divided the patients into three groups:

One group received 12 acupuncture treatments, taking antihistamines – Cetirizine – as and when required. 

The second group received 12 sham acupuncture treatments (needles placed in the body, but not at meaningful points), along with the prescribed antihistamines as needed. 

The third and final group took just the antihistamines alone. The patients were monitored, and after two months, were probed into their symptoms and the medication usages for these. 

The results of the study were interesting. They showed that the practice of acupuncture in the first group of patients led to statistically significant improvements in not only the disease-specific quality of life, but also the use of antihistamines as a way to treat their symptoms. 

Overall, those patients who had received the acupuncture showed a greater improvement in their overall allergy symptoms and used fewer antihistamines when compared to the other two groups.

The research did also point out however, that as some of the participants who received the sham acupuncture also highlighted a reduction of their allergy symptoms, the results may not be entirely clinically significant. The placebo effect on some patients could well be responsible for some of the improvement in symptoms.

The study goes on to state that if such natural treatments like acupuncture are documented to provide tangible amounts of relief to allergy suffers, that there is a need for further investigation. “The effectiveness of acupuncture for (seasonal allergies) compared with other antiallergic interventions and the possible underlying mechanisms of any effect, including context effects, need to be addressed in further research.”

*This is a beacon of natural hope for both allergy and asthma sufferers*

Study author, Professor Benno Brinkhaus noted the importance of such research in a 2015 interview “Of course, we were also able to show that acupuncture works in patients with allergic rhinitis, especially in seasonal allergic rhinitis. And it was very interesting that acupuncture showed long-time effects of more than 6 months and still reduced allergy symptoms in the following year.”

Brinkhaus also wrote “From my experience as a physician and acupuncturist, and as a researcher, I would recommend trying acupuncture if patients are not satisfied with the conventional anti-allergic medication or treatment or they suffer from more or less serious side effects of the conventional medication. Also because acupuncture is a relative safe treatment.”

*Further Study*

In a 2006 review that researched the correlation between bronchial asthma and the practice of acupuncture, it provided an overview of the Western and Chinese concepts of the management of asthmatic symptoms. It looked, particularly, at the basic use of acupuncture and the way it which this can be applied when it comes to asthma management. 

When looking at traditional Chinese medicinal concepts, the review noted that “Based on the concept of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), health is maintained by a balance between yin and yang and the free flow of energy, commonly known as qi or chi. Any disturbance to the balance of qi in the system will lead to illness.”

In reference to acupuncture as a remedy, the review also noted “Stimulation of acupuncture points is believed to restore normal body function by replenishing and allowing free flow of qi, and maintaining the balance of yin and yang. The basic principle of acupuncture is to select points on the meridians that are responsible for the specific organ with dysfunction.”

Upon conclusion of this detailed review, it documented the need for “further research regarding the use of acupuncture in patients with asthma” and suggested the “focus (should be) on adopting consistent treatment protocols, using fewer acupuncture points, maximizing sample size and investigating the long-term effects of acupuncture on asthma.”

In Western Europe as a whole, the number of people suffering with asthma has doubled in ten years, with between Between 100 and 150 million people around the globe struggling with shortness of breath, tightness of the chest, wheezing and excessive coughing.

A 2013 study looked into the use of acupuncture as a way to asthma in children aged 6 months to 6 years. The research team randomly selected 122 children and conducted their research over two acupuncture clinics in Denmark. One group received 10 acupuncture treatments over 3 months whilst the other group (the control group) received no placebo treatment.

The results showed a significant reduction in asthma symptoms and in the use of inhaled steroids in both groups at 3 months, and it was discovered that the reduction in asthma symptoms and in the use of inhaled medication was significantly larger in the first group of children who received the acupuncture treatments when compared to the control group.

An interesting study undertaken in 2012 looked into the potential for laser acupuncture as a treatment for asthma in children. As the sample size was small and no exact linkage was found between this particular treatment and the symptoms of asthma, more rigorous testing is required.

Based on these conclusions, combined with previous study results, it appears that there may well be a positive link with the healing practice of acupuncture and the decreasing symptoms of allergies and asthma. But one thing seems certain, the effects of acupuncture in the fight against allergies and asthma is yet to be fully uncovered and the tip of this potentially helpful needle may well have only just scratched the surface.