Well Being

Got Allergies? Get Acupuncture, Says New Study

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Seasonal allergies suck. What sucks even more is that there’s no real cure or treatment for them; just ways to ease the sniffly, watery-eyed misery. Acupuncture, long used as a alternative treatment for everything from chronic pain to infertility, is another way to improve seasonal allergy symptoms, according to a new study out of Berlin, Germany.

If you’re wary of putting little tiny needles in your skin just so you can stop sneezing, maybe the fact that 71% of people reported an improvement in their allergies after eight weeks of acupuncture will help change your mind. Weirdly, 56% of allergy sufferers who used placebo acupuncture also reported improvement.

Researchers randomly assigned 422 people with seasonal allergies to receive real or placebo acupuncture or to take antihistamines as needed. After eight weeks and 12 treatment sessions, average allergy symptom scores dropped for people in the acupuncture group from 2.7 to 1.7 points  (on a 0-to-6 scale: lower scores indicate feeling better).

With people patients treated with the placebo acupuncture, symptom scores improved from 2.3 to 1.8 points. The antihistamine group improved from 2.5 to 2.2.

After another eight weeks after the treatment ended, the level of symptom improvement between all three groups was roughly the same. Because of that, researchers say that acupuncture can be expected to lessen symptoms by about a half-point change on the symptom scale. Not a huge change, but something that woud be noticeable in daily life. They’re not sure why acupuncture helps with allergy symptoms, though, unless its the overall effect on the immune system.  Dr. Benno Brinkhaus, the study’s lead author, said acupuncture can be a good complement to other allergy treatment:

It’s not an alternative. We use it firstly as some sort of complementary medicine. If the acupuncture has good results, we can reduce the anti-allergic medication.


Dr. Li-Xing Man, who treats sinus and nasal diseases at the University of Rochester Medical Center but who was not involved in the study, seems to agree:

It may even be that acupuncture makes you feel better in general, and that’s reflected in these questionnaires. If you find a good practitioner of acupuncture and you can afford it, then go for it.


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