Hay Fever & Allergic Rhinitis

Acupuncture in Exeter for hay fever and allergic rhinitis.Traditional Chinese medicine has long recognised hay fever and perennial allergic rhinitis. Hay fever is simply a sub-category of allergic rhinitis, in which the allergen is pollen and therefore symptoms are seasonal. In perennial allergic rhinitis, symptoms are present year round, and can be driven by such irritants as house dust or mould spores.


Acupuncture for hay fever is ideally given before the onset of the season, during the preceding autumn and winter. This is the time when we can address the root of the disease. Once the season has commenced, treatment inevitably has to lean more towards the manifestation ie your symptoms. Many people though do not seek out an acupuncturist until the season is underway, but we can still provide relief.

You can continue using antihistamines if you wish. If you need them to a diminishing extent, then that is one indicator of progress.

Climate change appears to be altering pollen patterns so you might feel you are reacting more severely or just earlier in the season in recent years. Warmer weather is causing birch trees to produce more pollen, and 20 to 30% of hay fever sufferers react to this pollen. Oak pollen season is starting earlier. Grass pollen is becoming problematic earlier in the year, and this affects 95% of sufferers.

Perennial Allergic Rhinitis

Turning to perennial allergic rhinitis, then because there is less seasonal variation, we treat the root and manifestation with equal emphasis. I use the expression “less seasonal variation” carefully because some patients will feel worse in autumn with the increase in mould spores, in nature or in the home.  Others might feel better in summer when they can be outdoors, down at the coast say, and away from house dust or other domestic allergens.

If you would like to explore acupuncture for either of these conditions, you are welcome to call me. My usual approach is to suggest a fixed number of sessions, after which we stop and review progress. Meanwhile, a resource you may find interesting is the University of Worcester’s pollen calendar for southwest England: it might help you pinpoint which species you are reacting to.

Below you can read the results of some of the research which has been undertaken into acupuncture for allergic rhinitis. The trials vary in quality, but systematic reviews and randomised controlled trials are generally considered to provide the highest quality evidence. If you would like to read more about evidence quality, I would refer you to the British Acupuncture Council’s description of the evidence pyramid.

Acupuncture for Post-Covid Loss of Sense of Smell

Acupuncture Exeter: acupuncture for post-covid loss of sense of smell Japanese university researchers report two cases of successful acupuncture treatment of post-covid loss of sense of smell. In diverse countries, the incidence of olfactory dysfunction is similar: 16% of patients in Japan two months after covid, and 13% of patients in Italy 110 days after covid. The problem has the potential to be life-threatening if people are unable to detect gas leaks or smoke from building fires.

The first case was that of a 53 year old woman, treated 5 months after covid. After 9 sessions, the acupuncture point Yingxiang (LI20) was added and progress accelerated. The second case was a 38 year old man, treated 7 months after covid. His treatments included the point Yingxiang from the outset, and he also improved.

The team states “The mechanism by which the reduction in olfactory dysfunction was achieved in this case is unknown, but previous reports showed that acupuncture may have had an effect that included anti-inflammatory effects and nerve activation. Moreover, a previous study of olfactory abnormalities after upper respiratory tract infection considered that acupuncture with LI20 may have a positive effect on the cognitive processing of odours….Our experiences show that acupuncture treatment can be an adjunct to modern medical treatment as it is effective within a short period for treating residual olfactory dysfunction after healing from COVID-19 infection. The application of acupuncture treatment may be a new option for patients who are resistant to modern medical treatments or who are unable to continue treatment because of strong side effects.”

(Case Report: Acupuncture is an effective treatment for olfactory dysfunction in the post COVID-19 condition. Frontiers in Neurology, 23 August 2022.)

Acupuncture helps Loss of Sense of Smell after Infection

Acupuncture helps loss of sense of smell after infection. Researchers in Germany have found that acupuncture helps loss of sense of smell following an upper respiratory infection, and is an effective supplementary treatment option. Sixty patients with such symptoms were recruited at the Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Technische Universität, Dresden. They were randomly assigned to receive either acupuncture or sham acupuncture, for twelve sessions at approximately two sessions per week. True acupuncture was observed to increase olfactory function in 20% of patients, which was double that observed in the sham acupuncture group. Improvements were significantly better in those patients with a shorter duration of the disorder. No adverse effects were reported during acupuncture treatment.

The researchers write “It is interesting to note that odour discrimination, but not odour threshold, improved in response to acupuncture. An explanation could be that odour discrimination appears to involve higher-level cognitive functions to a higher degree compared to odour thresholds. Acupuncture has previously been shown to have effects on cognitive function in patients following a stroke. Therefore, it might be hypothesized that acupuncture has positive effects on the cognitive processing of odours.”

(Acupuncture is associated with a positive effect on odour discrimination in patients with postinfectious smell loss – a controlled prospective study. European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, March 2022.)

Acupuncture relieves Allergic Rhinitis Symptoms

Acupuncture relieves allergic rhinitis. A study conducted in Hong Kong has demonstrated acupuncture can bring relief to the main symptoms of allergic rhinitis. In a three-armed trial, 96 patients aged 18 to 65, were randomly assigned to receive either acupuncture, acupuncture plus herbal moxibustion, or a place on a waiting list control group. Acupuncture was given three times a week for four weeks, making 12 sessions in total. All groups received advice on a healthy lifestyle, diet and exercise.

Compared to the waiting list group, both treatment groups showed statistically significant improvements in symptom and quality of life scores. There were no significant differences between them, suggesting no additional benefit from moxibustion. No adverse events from acupuncture were reported.

(Acupuncture and herbal moxibustion for the treatment of ‘BiQiu’ (allergic rhinitis symptoms) in a Hong Kong Chinese medicine clinic: a randomized controlled trial. Chinese Medicine, 8 November 2019.)

Acupuncture for Hayfever reduces Antihistamine Use

Acupuncture for hayfever reduces antihistamine use. Authors of a German study looking at acupuncture for hayfever have concluded that patients can significantly reduce their use of antihistamines whilst also improving their symptoms. At the start of the pollen season, 414 patients aged 16 to 45 were randomised into three groups: acupuncture plus cetirizine, sham acupuncture plus cetirizine, and cetirizine alone. The acupuncture group received 12 sessions over the eight week intervention period. All participants documented their medication use before and during the trial.

The results showed that eight weeks of true acupuncture was associated with significantly fewer days of antihistamine use, compared with the sham acupuncture and cetirizine alone groups. Also in contrast to the other two groups, the acupuncture patients did not need to increase the number of days on which they used antihistamines, as the pollen season moved from onset to peak. Approximately 38% of the acupuncture group used no antihistamines at all, compared to 16% in the group in which antihistamines only were permitted.

The authors state that acupuncture is relatively safe, and common side effects are bleeding and haematoma caused by the needles. In contrast, antihistamines like cetirizine commonly cause fatigue, dizziness, headaches, sleepiness and sore throat. They reduce patients’ quality of life, and affect daily life and activities. Clinical guidelines strongly recommend antihistamines however, and acupuncture is listed as a supplementary option. These results encourage consideration of the need for a stronger position of acupuncture in those guidelines, as a valuable, additional treatment option.

(Impact of acupuncture on antihistamine use in patients suffering seasonal allergic rhinitis: secondary analysis of results from a randomised controlled trial. Acupuncture in Medicine, 10 February 2018.)