In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the body is composed of an intricate web of energy pathways known as "meridians". The twelve regular and eight extra meridians help to maintain a balance of Yin (substances which nourish the body such as blood and body fluid) and Yang (related to activity and function) within the body. Each meridian is named after the specific internal organ that it encompasses and through which it passes.
When Qi (vital energy) and Xue (blood) flow freely through the meridians, the body is in good health and can perform at its optimum. However, if a particular energy pathway is obstructed, its corresponding organ's function will also be affected and the body's yin and yang will become unbalanced. This imbalance will ultimately affect the functioning of the body as a whole.
Acupuncture involves the use of hair-fine needles to stimulate specific points on the body along the meridians. Acupuncture works by removing energy blockages in the meridians and regulating the overall flow of energy so that the body can return to a state of balance and health.
In the case of allergic rhinitis, the blockage of energy is situated in the lung meridian, for which the nose is considered an extension. Under normal conditions, the lungs can control respiration and ensure that one breathes freely through the nose and with an acute sense of smell. In TCM, the lungs are also responsible for dispersing energy throughout the body and for preventing pathogenic factors from invading the body.
According to TCM, allergic rhinitis is due to an invasion of External Wind Cold or Heat (exopathogens) with an underlying Lung Qi deficiency that in some cases is further complicated by the deficiency of the Spleen or Kidney.
Lung Qi Deficiency
Deficiency of the lungs can be attributed to genetics, chronic lung disease, and excessive or insufficient exercise. The Lung Qi is further affected by emotions of grief or sadness. In TCM, persons with deficient Lung Qi can also suffer from a deficiency of Defensive Qi (Wei Qi) and thus be susceptible to External Wind (exopathogens). Typical symptoms include physical and mental fatigue, apathy, sweating with minimal exertion, and an inclination to catch colds.
Spleen Qi Deficiency
In TCM, the functioning of the Spleen is impaired by over-thinking, poor eating habits, and the consumption of foods that contribute to "dampness" and "phlegm" within the body. Foods that can aggravate the digestive system are greasy, fried, spicy and cold foods, as well as sweets, dairy products and alcohol. Strong fumes such as cigarette smoke can also irritate the nasal passages and contribute to more nasal congestion.
A deficiency of the Kidneys may be due to hereditary conditions, chronic illness, aging, overwork, and sudden fright. In cases where the condition is genetic, allergic conditions often begin during childhood. Since the Kidneys in TCM are the source of all Qi (Primordial Qi) within the body, a deficiency of the Kidneys can also disrupt the functioning of the Lung's Defensive Qi (which comes from Primordial Qi). This condition frequently occurs in persons who also have a condition of asthma or eczema, and can arise from one of the earlier syndromes discussed.