Acupuncture is commonly used for a range of lung and related respiratory issues and problems. Seasonal allergic rhinitis is a runny and stuffy nose caused by allergies, usually to plant pollen. Standard treatment is anti-allergy medicine known as antihistamines; however, many people with allergies get no relief of their symptoms with this treatment. People who are not adequately treated with antihistamines and those who prefer more natural remedies often use nonstandard treatments for their symptoms.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese procedure that uses special needles inserted at defined points on the body to treat or prevent medical conditions. Mainstream medicine is increasingly recognizing acupuncture as an effective treatment for some disorders, but the results of past studies about acupuncture for seasonal allergic rhinitis have been inconsistent.
In a recent study, researchers from German and USA conducted a randomized trial to evaluate whether acupuncture would be effective in treating the symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis. 422 people who tested positive for birch and grass pollen allergies and had allergic nasal symptoms were recruited in the study. The researchers first asked the volunteers about their symptoms and about how much medicine they were using to treat them. They then randomly assigned the volunteers to 3 groups. The first group received 12 acupuncture treatments and took antihistamines as needed for their symptoms. The second group received 12 fake acupuncture treatments as a comparison with real acupuncture and took antihistamines as needed for their symptoms. The third group took antihistamines only, without acupuncture. At the end of treatment and 2 months later, the researchers assessed changes by re-measuring the severity of the volunteers symptoms and the amount of medicine they were using. Study indicated that comparing with volunteers who did not have acupuncture, those who received it reported improvement in their symptoms and a decrease in their use of medication at the end of treatment. However, those differences disappeared within another 2 months. The limitations of the study lie in the fact that the improvements may not have been large enough to be noticeable or to make much of a difference to people. The way in which acupuncture might reduce allergy symptoms is unclear. Acupuncture seemed to improve symptoms for people with seasonal allergic rhinitis, but the effects were modest and did not last much beyond treatment. The improvement might have been caused in part by the volunteers preexisting beliefs about the treatment.
Annals of Internal Medicine 2013 Feb 19;158(4):225-34.