Hay fever

Hay fever is an allergic condition where you have an adverse reaction to pollen.  According to NHS Choices, this condition affects up to one in five people at some point in their life. Hay fever symptoms include sneezing, running nose, itchy and tearing eyes. Hay fever may also lead to sinusitis, and symptoms like blocked nose, headache, toothache and fever.

Hay fever is caused by plant pollens which stimulate allergic reactions in the upper respiratory tract. The pollens can be from tree, grass and weeds. About 90% of sufferers are allergic to grass pollens. Conventional medicinal treatments are for symptom relief rather than cure. These treatments include antihistamines and corticosteroids (steroids). These medications help to prevent an allergic reaction and to reduce inflammation and swelling. Immunotherapy is a treatment which may help to cure the allergy over the medium term.

Traditional Chinese medicine postulates that hay fever is believed to be closely related to Qi deficiency in the lung, spleen and kidney. Due to the Qi deficiency, the body is susceptible to the environmental pathological factors such as wind and cold, which cause running and blocking nose, itchy nose and eyes, swollen and irritated sinuses. Following the syndromes differentiation, Chinese medicine practitioners use either acupuncture or herbs to treat the conditions.

Clinical trials have shown that Chinese herbal medicines can offer symptomatic relief and improvement of quality of life for patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis (Xue et al 2003; Oh et al 2012). Clinical studies in acupuncture treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis also suggested a positive result (Xue et al 2015). There are also some studies that gave an uncertain result about acupuncture treatment of allergic rhinitis (Brinkhaus et al 2013). Further clinical studies are needed for conclusive evidence.


  • NHS Choice. Hay fever
  • Xue CC, Thien FC, Zhang JJ, Da Costa C, Li CG (2003) Treatment for seasonal allergic rhinitis by Chinese herbal medicine: a randomized placebo controlled trial. Altern Ther Health Med.  9(5):80-7.
  • Oh HA, Kim HM, Jeong HJ. (2012) Alleviation of allergic rhinitis symptoms with Pyeongwee-San extracts (KMP6).  Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol.  34(1):135-42. doi: 10.3109/08923973.2011.587128.
  • Xue CC, Zhang AL, Zhang CS, DaCosta C, Story DF, Thien FC.  (2015) Acupuncture for seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized controlled trial. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol.  115(4):317-324.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2015.05.017.
  • Brinkhaus B, Ortiz M, Witt CM, Roll S, Linde K, Pfab F, Niggemann B, Hummelsberger J, Treszl A, Ring J, Zuberbier T, Wegscheider K, Willich SN. (2013) Acupuncture in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med.  158(4):225-34. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-158-4-201302190-00002.

Source: Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ATCM) UK