What is Hay Fever?

Hay fever, medically known as allergic rhinitis, is an allergic response to outdoor or indoor allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, or pet dander. This condition is characterized by symptoms like sneezing, itching, nasal congestion, and runny nose, often accompanied by itchy, watery eyes. While not life-threatening, hay fever can significantly impair quality of life, disrupting sleep, and daily activities. The condition varies in severity and can be seasonal, depending on the presence of specific allergens.

How Does TCM View Hay Fever?

From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), hay fever is seen as a manifestation of imbalances within the body, particularly due to the invasion of pathogenic factors such as Wind, along with underlying weaknesses in the body's Defensive Qi. TCM doesn't just address the symptoms but seeks to identify the root cause of the disharmony, emphasizing the importance of diagnosing the specific pattern of imbalance. This holistic approach allows for treatments that aim to restore the body's natural balance and strengthen its resistance to external pathogens.

Causes of Hay Fever According to TCM

In TCM, the onset of hay fever is primarily attributed to the invasion of Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat, coupled with an inherent weakness in the body's protective Qi. Wind-Cold patterns are characterized by symptoms like clear nasal discharge and sneezing, while Wind-Heat patterns may present with yellowish nasal discharge and a sensation of warmth.

An underlying Qi Deficiency, particularly of the Lung and Spleen, can leave the body vulnerable to these external invasions, highlighting the necessity of a treatment approach that both expels pathogenic factors and nurtures the body's vital energy.

TCM Herbal Formulas for Hay Fever

To combat hay fever, TCM recommends a variety of formulas and herbs tailored to address both the symptoms and the underlying imbalances. For patterns of Wind-Cold invasion, formulas such as Ge Gen Tang and Gui Zhi Tang are used to expel the cold and harmonize the body's Qi. In cases of Qi Deficiency, Bu Fei Tang and Yu Ping Feng San can help to strengthen the Lung Qi and bolster the body's defenses.

Additionally, Cang Er Zi San and Xin Yi San are effective in dredging and dispersing External Wind, directly targeting nasal symptoms. These treatments exemplify TCM's multifaceted approach, aiming not only to alleviate immediate discomfort but also to prevent future occurrences by restoring and maintaining the body's harmony.

Explore below some TCM herbal formulas used to address hay fever, organized by formula type.

  • By Formula Type
  • Formulas that clear wind-Cold
  • Formulas that tonify qi
  • Formulas that dredge and disperse external wind
  • Formulas that warm interior cold
  • Formulas that clear wind-Heat
  • Formulas that warm the middle and dispel cold
  • Formulas that clear exterior disorders with interior deficiency
  • Formulas that warm and open sensory orifices
  • Formulas that harmonize lesser yang-warp disorders
  • Formulas that clear heat from the organs

All "formulas that tonify qi" recommended for hay fever

Formula Key herbs
Bu Fei Tang Ginseng (Ren Shen), Milkvetch Roots (Huang Qi)
Yu Ping Feng San Milkvetch Roots (Huang Qi)

All "formulas that dredge and disperse external wind" recommended for hay fever

Formula Key herbs
Cang Er Zi San Cocklebur Fruits (Cang Er Zi ), Biond’S Magnolia Flowers (Xin Yi Hua)
Xin Yi San Biond’S Magnolia Flowers (Xin Yi Hua), Bugbane Rhizomes (Sheng Ma)

Acupoints for Hay Fever

TCM acupuncture offers additional relief for hay fever by targeting specific acupoints known to benefit nasal symptoms and overall well-being. Points such as Shangxing DU-23 and Shenting DU-24 are selected for their ability to clear the nasal passages and calm the mind. Hegu LI-4 and Yingxiang LI-20 are crucial for expelling Exterior Wind and opening the nose, offering symptomatic relief.

Furthermore, Fengmen BL-12 strengthens the body's resistance against pathogenic Wind, supporting the treatment's efficacy. Stimulating these acupoints can enhance the effectiveness of herbal treatments, providing a comprehensive strategy to manage and mitigate the symptoms of hay fever effectively.

Explore below some acupoints used to address hay fever, organized by meridian.

  • By Meridian
  • Governing Vessel
  • Large Intestine Channel
  • Bladder Channel
  • Extra Points: Head and Neck (EX-HN)
  • Stomach Channel
Shenzhu DU-12

Shenzhu DU-12

On the back midline, in the depression below the spinous process of the 3th thoracic vertebra (T3).

Shangxing DU-23

Shangxing DU-23

On the head midline, 1 cun within anterior to the front hairline, 4 cun anterior to Baihui DU-20.

Shenting DU-24

Shenting DU-24

On the head midline, 0.5 cun above the anterior hairline.

Hegu LI-4

Hegu LI-4

Between the 1st and 2nd metacarpal bones, approximately in the middle of the 2nd metacarpal bone on the radial side.

Yingxiang LI-20

Yingxiang LI-20

In the nasolabrial groove, at the level of the midpoint of the lateral border of ala nasi.

Fengmen BL-12

Fengmen BL-12

1.5 cun lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the 2nd thoracic vertebra (T2).

Shangyingxiang EX-HN-8

Shangyingxiang EX-HN-8

At the upper end of the nasiolabial groove, at the junction of the maxilla and the nasal cavity.

Sibai ST-2

Sibai ST-2

Below Chengqi ST-1, in the depression at the infraorbital foramen.

TCM Herbs for Hay Fever

Explore below some TCM herbs used to address hay fever, organized by herb category.

  • By Herb Category
  • Warm/Acrid herbs that release the exterior
  • Herbs that open the orifices
  • Cool/Acrid herbs that release the exterior
  • Tonic herbs for qi deficiency
  • Herbs that invigorate the blood
  • Herbs that dispel wind and dampness
  • Herbs that warm the interior and/or expel cold
  • Herbs that clear heat and relieve toxicity

"Herbs that open the Orifices" recommended for hay fever

Herb Formulas they belong to (if applicable)
Styrax (Su He Xiang) Su He Xiang Wan
Musk (She Xiang) Su He Xiang Wan
Borneol (Bing Pian) Su He Xiang Wan
Benzoin (An Xi Xiang) Su He Xiang Wan

"Cool/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior" recommended for hay fever

Herb Formulas they belong to (if applicable)
Kudzu Roots (Ge Gen) Ge Gen Tang
Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) Xiao Chai Hu Tang
Bugbane Rhizomes (Sheng Ma) Xin Yi San

"Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency" recommended for hay fever

Herb Formulas they belong to (if applicable)
Milkvetch Roots (Huang Qi) Bu Fei Tang | Yu Ping Feng San
Ginseng (Ren Shen) Bu Fei Tang