Managing Allergies: An Herbal Approach
June 8, 2010 by Dr. Mark Wiley
Spring and summer present many with a certain nagging problem: allergies. No matter what you do, if you’re prone to allergies you will get them. And each year seems to be worse than the previous one.
Allergic reactions are caused when the immune system reacts to allergens in the environment. Actually, the immune system over-reacts, or works too hard, to battle the symptoms common to allergies. Such symptoms include red, itchy, swollen and/or watery eyes, stuffy or runny nose, post nasal drip, headache, fatigue, itchy throat, dry mouth, coughing and wheezing.
Allergies are generally caused by wind-born pollen from trees, grass, plants or weeds entering the nasal passages. When these allergens collide with the body’s defense systems the nasal mucosa swells, blocks the passageway and can cause sinus infections.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), we say that allergic rhinitis is caused by a deficiency of lung and kidney wei qi (or “defensive energy”; you could call it the immune system). This allows what is termed “wind-cold” (clear mucus) or “wind-heat” (yellow mucus) to retain in the nasal passages and/or lung system. The term “wind” is used to mean an airborne cause.
Luckily, TCM has several natural herbal approaches to remedy these symptoms by balancing the body’s defensive energy. These herbal formulae are Bi Yan Pian, Pe Min Kan Wan and Xin Yi San. Before taking them, you should consult a TCM practitioner to determine your “pattern” of allergic reaction so the correct formula is used. Reading more about them in a simple online search is another way to decide if they are right for you. In any event, these formulas are natural and harmless, meaning they will cause no side effect if an incorrect formula is taken.
Pe Min Kan Wan (Nasal Clear Pills) treats allergies, common colds and nasal or sinus congestion. It does this by dispersing wind, clearing heat, expelling toxins, transforming phlegm and unblocking the nose.
Pe Min Kan Wan is a formula comprised of different herbs including: jin yin hua (honeysuckle), cang er zi (xanthium), ye ju hua (wild chrysanthemum), bai zhi (angelica), e bu shi cao (centipeda) and bo he (mint).
This herbal formula is indicated for wind or wind-heat obstructing the nasal passages. If this formula is for you, you would be experiencing nasal obstruction, copious amounts of clear or white watery nasal discharge, or thick yellow or green nasal discharge, sinus pain, headache, dizziness, sneezing, itchy nose and eyes, heat and redness around the sinus cavities, earache, cough and wheezing. Also, your tongue would be redder in color than usual. This formula is especially effective for nasal or lung problems with an allergic component.
In terms of specific ‘allopathic’ designations, Pe Min Kan Wan possesses anti-inflammatory and mucolutic properties. As such, it effectively treats allergic rhinitis, acute and chronic rhinitis, perennial rhinitis, acute and chronic sinusitis, sinus headaches, frontal headaches, otitis media, allergic asthma, common cold and influenza.
Note: Do not use this formula unless you are experiencing chronic congestion with colored mucus. As this is a drying formula, continued use after congestion and mucus are resolved can dry out the mucus membranes.
Bi Yan Ning (Calm the Nose and Throat) treats allergies, common cold and nasal or sinus congestion. It does this by dispersing wind from the nasal passages, clearing heat, expelling toxins, transforming phlegm and unblocking the nose.
Bi Yan Ning (also spelled Bi Ye Ning), is a formula comprised of different herbs including: cang er zi (xanthium), xin yi hua (magnolia flower), zhu dan zhi (pig bile), e bu shi cao (centipeda), chan tui (cicada shell), huo xiang (agastache), bing pian (borneol), huang qin (scute), dang gui (Chinese angelica), and huang qi (estragalus).
This herbal formula is indicated for wind-heat obstructing the nasal passages with congealing of the nasal fluids. If this formula is for you, you would be experiencing nasal congestion, swollen and inflamed mucus membranes, thick yellow nasal mucus, purulent malodorous mucus, watery mucus, sneezing, reduction or loss of sense of smell, nasal voice, sinus congestion and pain, frontal or sinus headache, dizziness, red itchy eyes, excessive tearing. Your tongue color would be the normal pink to red with a yellow coating.
In terms of specific ‘allopathic’ designations, Bi Yan Pian posses anti-inflammatory, mucolytic and antibacterial properties. As such, it effectively treats allergic rhinitis, acute and chronic rhinitis, perennial rhinitis, acute and chronic sinusitis, sinus headaches, frontal headaches, upper respiratory tract infection, common cold and influenza.
Note: While this formula is similar to Pe Min Kan Wan it is cooler to the body and slightly stronger. Do not use this formula unless you are experiencing chronic congestion with colored mucus. As this is a drying formula, continued use after congestion and mucus are resolved can dry out the mucus membranes.
Xin Yi San (Magnolia Flower Teapills) treats allergies, common cold and nasal or sinus congestion. It does this by dispelling wind-cold, eliminating dampness, unblocking the nose and alleviating pain.
Xin Yi San is a formula comprised of different herbs, including: xin yi hua (magnolia flower), bai zhu (atractylodes), fang feng (siler), sheng ma (cimicifuga), mu tong (akebia), chuan xiong (cnidium), xi xin (asarum), gao ben (ligusticum), gan cao (licorice), and qiang huo (notopterygium).
This herbal formula is indicated for wind-cold invasion attacking the head. If this formula is for you, you would be experiencing nasal and sinus congestion, nasal or sinus pain, copious clear nasal discharge, post-nasal drip, sneezing, sinus or frontal headache, stiff and achy neck and upper back, fatigue, mental cloudiness and loss of sense of smell. Your tongue color would be the normal pink color with a thin white coating.
In terms of specific ‘allopathic’ designations, Xin Yi San posses diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. As such, it effectively treats acute and chronic sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, acute and chronic rhinitis, sinus headaches, frontal headaches, upper respiratory tract infection, common cold and influenza.
Note: There are no reported contraindications with use of this formula.
I hope this brief article on Chinese herbals for allergies helps you to 1) find the correct formula for your issues, and 2) understand that taking a pattern-specific approach is better than the “shotgun” approach of the generic pharma allergy medications or herbal products advertised for “allergies” in general.
It is not necessary for you to experience ALL of the above symptoms within a grouping, but the group that most completely describes the overall pattern of what you are experiencing with your allergies, indicates the formula that is best applied.
It is commonly observed within TCM clinics and hospitals that the long-term result for treating allergies is strengthened with the addition of acupuncture sessions. Additionally, it is highly advised to refrain from consuming any animal milk product during allergy season, especially when infection is present.
These formulas are among the 400 common “Chinese patent herbal formulas” sold all over the world and used for centuries in Asia. They are currently manufactured in pharmaceutical or nutraceutical laboratories that are inspected buy the World Health Organization. As such, the products sold in the United States are GMP Certified and safe A simple online search of these names will bring up a number of sites selling these products. Or you could visit a Chinatown near you.
—Dr. Mark Wiley