Spring is percolating up around us. It can be seen in the flowers blooming, heard in the song birds’ chirp and smelled in the soft earth readying to be planted anew. It may seem early as many parts of the country still battle frozen grounds but we are lucky here with our weather on the west coast. The Chinese consider early February as the official introduction of spring and the cherry blossoms are a sure sign of it. The season will continue to build to its height at Spring Equinox when the days will become even with the nights once again. In Chinese medicine, these pivotal times of year are great opportunities to treat and prevent different specific illnesses.
Certainly there are many who are pleased with the longer the sunlight hours and slight warmth in the air, creating a desire to be outside more but not for everyone. People with seasonal allergies may begin dreading the release of pollens and the threat of what is to come. This is why now is the time to get on top of nipping those allergies in the bud. If you do not suffer yourself then perhaps a loved one, acquaintance or co-worker does.
Approximately 20-25% of Canadians suffer with the tell-tale red, itchy or puffy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, or difficulty breathing. The symptoms differ from a regular head cold in that it lacks signs of fever, muscle ache and tends to last longer than 10 days. Hay fever is basically an allergic response to pollen or other environmental allergens in the mucous membranes of the head. In essence, it is an overreaction of the immune system to what should be a benign presence in the air. If left untreated, it can lead to sinusitis (an infection of the sinuses) or polyps (overgrowths of mucosa in the nasal cavity) and tends to leave people feeling a little run down or downright miserable. Many choose a conventional route of non-prescription or prescription antihistamines, decongestants, and/or nose sprays to supress symptoms which may cause drowsiness or have other side effects.
Alternative options include diet therapy, supplements/herbal therapy or allergen immunotherapy prescribed by a doctor or naturopathy. Acupuncture is another effective tool which can be used to provide relief from symptoms and optimize health. Even more ideal is when it is used preventatively.
In an ancient text of Chinese medicine, the author states,
"Maintaining order rather than correcting disorder is the ultimate principle of wisdom. To cure disease after it has appeared is like digging a well when one feels thirsty or forging weapons after the war has already begun." – Nei Jing
That is why now is the best time to head off those seasonal allergies with a series of acupuncture treatments. We would work together to improve the immune system, open the sinuses and airways, as well as address underlying problems such as digestion issues, stress levels or sleep disturbances to balance overall health. It is never too late to start, however, what I witness, over and over in my practise is that when one begins treatment at the earliest stages, it always provides quicker and better results.
What can you do at home?
· Diet – eliminate or reduce dairy and sugar. In Chinese medicine these foods cause dampness which can contribute to increased phlegm production
· Neti pot – also known as nasal irrigation or nasal lavage; this practise uses a specially designed device and saline rinse to flush out the sinuses. Check your health food store or pharmacy to purchase a neti pot and follow the directions carefully
· Install a HEPA filter – a high-efficiency air filter can help clean the air in your home of allergens
· Acupressure - Look at the diagram below to find some common acupressure points useful for treating nasal problems. At each of the points, you should find a little notch that is slightly tender but feels good to apply a medium amount of pressure at. Hold each point with your fingertip for 3-4 seconds and then rub in small circles for another 3-4 seconds while breathing calmly with the eyes closed; repeat 3-4 times
UB 2 Cuan Zhu (translation: Bamboo Gathering referring to the hairs of the eyebrow) – located at the inner, lower corner of the eyebrow
LI 20 Ying Xiang (translation: Welcome Fragrance) – located at the side of the nose
St 3 Ju Liao (translation: Big Bone Hole) – located at the midpoint of the lower border of the cheekbone; below the center of the eye and level with the lower border of the nose