Wouldn’t it be nice if those annoying symptoms of burning itchy eyes, runny nose, wheezing and sneezing could actually become a thing of the past! Recent research shows that it may actually be possible.
In a paper titled, “Efficacy and mechanisms of action of traditional Chinese medicines for treating asthma and allergy” published in the Journal of allergy and clinical immunology by Xiu-Min Li, MD, and LaVerne Brown, PhD, some very interesting observations were made. Two groups of people with allergic asthma were tested, one with a steroid (prednisone) and the other with a mix of Chinese herbal medicine. Both groups found relief of symptoms, a good thing, but the coolest part was actually observed deeper in the patients blood.
Allergy is basically an over-reactive immune response to things like pollen and cat dander. When our immune system senses an invader a cascade of different chemicals are released, doing such things as constricting the lungs (as in allergic asthma) and dilating the nasal mucosa (as in the drippy nose of hay fever). People with allergies produce these chemicals in excess.
It seems fairly logical to think that the best way to stop an allergic attack, besides the complete avoidance of the allergen, would be to use medicines that stop the production of these chemicals created by our immune system – before they have a chance to produce problems. This is exactly what steroids do. They basically block the immune system from creating the over production of its own chemicals. The problem with this type of approach is that it doesn’t really fix anything and actually suppresses the entire immune system, thus making one more vulnerable to simple things like the common cold.
The researchers in the above mentioned study knew that steroids only suppress the body and that a proper treatment for allergy would be one that actually modulates the immune system. This means that the parts of the immune system that are over-working will be put back into proper relationship with the parts that are under-working, thus achieving a state of equilibrium or balance. After testing the blood of both groups of people within the study, the patients using Chinese herbal medicine for allergy relief were found to have a more balanced immune system then they ones who took steroids. This made the researchers conclude that Chinese medicine offered actual hope for a cure.
In clinic I see this all the time. Patients coming in for relief of allergies, whether it is asthma or hay fever, find that not only do their symptoms improve, but they do not experience the side effects of the allergy relief drugs that they used to take. After stopping the herbal medicines, many find that their symptoms are still clear. The case I remember the most was my wife Gillian.
Years ago Gillian had pretty bad hay fever, in fact a part of our morning ritual was to clean up the hundreds of tissue papers that she used up through the night, trying to stem her non-stop leaky nose. She would also sneeze often and complain of burning itchy eyes. The slightest dust or cold air could also set her off into a wheezing fit. After Gillian’s eczema had cleared completely with Chinese herbal medicine, she continued to take herbs to alleviate these other symptoms. After a year and a half of herbal intake Gillian was clear of any sign of hay fever and as well could breath much easier. She would only wheeze if she was in contact with a cat for too long, which was a massive improvement.
Now 10 or so years later Gillian lives a completely normal life. There are no tissues in the morning to clean up. No itchy eyes. No wheezing (except still occasionally to cats). Many would say that Gillian was actually cured of her allergies. A fact that I am sure many would love to experience.
Dr. Trevor Erikson