Research shows acupuncture is as effective as Claritin for dust mite allergies

Acupuncture has been found equally effective as loratadine (Claritin®, Alavert®, Shionogi®) for the treatment of dust mite allergies. Researchers from the Clinic of Otorhinolaryngology at the University Hospital Dresden (Germany) conclude that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of allergy related rhinitis and rhinoconjunctivitis. The researchers document that acupuncture relieves symptoms of rhinitis including nasal congestion, runny nose, post-nasal drip and sneezing.

The researchers compared an acupuncture treatment group with a medication group receiving loratadine, a pharmaceutical antihistamine. A total of 87% of acupuncture study group patients and 67% of loratadine study group patients showed improvements by the end of therapy. A 10 week follow-up after completion of therapy documents that 80% of acupuncture study group patients and 0% of loratadine study group patients demonstrated lasting improvement. The researchers note, “Both in the acupuncture and the loratadine group a significant improvement was gained under therapy. In the ten-week period following the therapy, a significant deterioration which led to the recurrence of the allergic symptoms was shown in the loratadine group, while the significant improvement of the symptoms persisted in the acupuncture group.”

Objective measurements included rhinoscopy examinations for nasal concha size and mucosa condition. This included evaluations of mucosal reddening and swelling of the nasal concha. IgE levels and interleukin (IL-4, IL-10, IFN-y) levels were also evaluated. Subjectives included evaluation of nasal obstruction, nasal secretion and sneezing attacks. Based on the results the researchers note “that the effectiveness of acupuncture is comparable to that of loratadine.”

Acupuncture exhibited the unique ability to stimulate the endogenous production of IL-10, an interleukin that blocks histamine release from activated mast cells. Reduced IL-10 in the nasal mucosa is associated with an increase in nasal allergy symptoms and acupuncture successfully increases IL-10 levels. The researchers note of acupuncture, “The results indicate the probability of an immunomodulatory effect.” This helps to explain, in part, the ability of acupuncture to provide lasting relief from allergies.

The researchers conclude, “Acupuncture is a clinically effective form of therapy in the treatment of patients suffering from persistent allergic rhinitis.” The researchers standardized the acupuncture treatments to include a protocolized selection of acupuncture points based upon Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles. The acupuncture points used for all patients were: LI 20, Bi Tong, Yin Tang, BL 2, GB 20, LI 4, LI 11, SI 3, ST 36, auricular 78, auricular 55.

Acupuncture needles were retained for 20 minutes per each session. Patients received a total of 12 acupuncture treatments at a rate of twice weekly. Seirin® brand stainless steel disposable needles were used of 0.3 X 0.30 mm size for body acupuncture and 0.2 X 0.15 mm size for auricular acupuncture. Seirin® was the first single use disposable needle originally developed in 1978. This brand is commonly used in medical research and is regarded as a premium brand acupuncture needle amoung licensed acupuncturists worldwide. Patients taking the drug loratadine received 10mg doses every morning. University Hospital Dresden

The new research conducted at the University Hospital Dresden confirms that acupuncture is effective for the relief of rhinitis. In related research, investigators documented a 96.5% success rate of acupuncture for the treatment of rhinitis. A total of 61 persons had a total recovery, 21 showed marked improvement and 3 showed no improvement.

Rhinoscopy and absence of symptoms was used to confirm the results. A 2 year follow-up confirmed the recovery rates. At a rate of 1 treatment per day, 15 acupuncture sessions consisted of 1 course of treatment. The 96.5% effective rate was achieved within 2 courses of treatment.

The acupuncture needles used in the study were 0.35 mm (28 gauge) in diameter and 40-50 mm in length. The acupuncture points chosen were: GB 20 (Fengchi), LI 4 (Hegu), and ST 36 (Zusanli). Supplementary acupuncture points were UB 12 (Fengmen), UB 13 (Feishu), Yintang (Ex-HN 3), and DU 14 (Dazhui). Supplementary acupuncture points were chosen dependent upon TCM differential diagnostics. In many cases, 20 minutes of manual needle manipulation were applied at each acupuncture session. Tonification and reduction acupuncture needle techniques and moxa were chosen dependent upon excess, deficient, heat and cold diagnostic patterns according to TCM principles.

The Dresden study differs from the second study in that a standardized set of acupuncture points was used for all patients in Dresden while customization of acupuncture point selections was made in the second study. In a third research project, investigators at RMIT University in Melbourne (Australia) studied 80 patients with chronic rhinitis. They concluded that acupuncture is an effective treatment therapy for rhinitis.

Acupuncture points LI 20, Yintang and GB 20 were the primary acupuncture points. Supplementary points included LI 4, ST 36, and CV 6. The acupuncture group had significantly better outcomes than either the control group or the sham acupuncture group. Each acupuncture session was 25 minutes and patients were given 16 acupuncture treatments at a rate of twice per week. Results were tabulated after a three month follow-up. Both nasal and ocular symptoms associated with chronic rhinitis improved significantly for the acupuncture group. Members of the acupuncture group were also able to reduce consumption of relief medication. The study concluded that acupuncture is “safe and effective” for the treatment of persistent allergic rhinitis (PAR).

Hauswald, Bettina, Christina Dill, Jürgen Boxberger, Eberhard Kuhlisch, Thomas Zahnert, and Yury M. Yarin. “The effectiveness of acupuncture compared to loratadine in patients allergic to house dust mites.”

Reference: An Hua, Qinhuangdao Port Hospital, Hebei, China. “Treatment of 85 Cases with Chronic Rhinitis by Acupuncture.” J. Acupunct. Tuina. Sci. 2010, 8 (5): 318.

Reference: Evaluation of efficacy and safety of acupuncture in the treatment of persistent allergic rhinitis. An, X 2006, Evaluation of efficacy and safety of acupuncture in the treatment of persistent allergic rhinitis, Masters Thesis, School of Health Sciences, RMIT University.

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