Preliminary research indicates that acupuncture may help allergy and eczema symptoms.
In 2012, an article was published, which summarised a multi-centre, randomised clinical trial conducted in Korea and China, which involved 238 patients (3). Acupuncture reduced the nasal symptoms of hay fever significantly better than the ‘false’ acupuncture. In case of symptoms, which were not related to the nose, both acupuncture and ‘false’ acupuncture resulted in a significant reduction of those symptoms, compared to patients who did not receive the acupuncture treatment. This study concluded that acupuncture is a safe and effective therapy.
The effect of acupuncture on the molecular mechanisms of inflammation in the nose may be due to its impact on the hormonal activity of the HPA axis, increasing the secretion of ACTH and corticosteroids which may lead to reduced swelling of the nasal mucosa (4).
Another study was conducted by Brinkhaus team and covered 5237 patients (1). It has shown that acupuncture in addition to routine treatment of patients, also brings both statistically and clinically significant benefits. The results of this team were published in 2013 in the “Annals of Internal Medicine” (2). The study involved 46 specialised doctors from 38 centres. 422 patients were recruited and divided into three groups for two months: one group received acupuncture treatment, the second received fake acupuncture, with needles placed in random, meaningless spots on their bodies, and the third group only took antihistamines. At the end of the study, the group that received acupuncture reported greater relief from symptoms than the other two groups.
However, the group receiving the fake acupuncture treatment also reported relief of their symptoms, though not as much as the group receiving acupuncture. Furthermore, four months later, as a follow-up, the difference between the effectiveness of the real and fake acupuncture treatment groups was less pronounced. This suggests a placebo effect may have taken place with the people receiving acupuncture, in anticipation of its beneficial effects. In addition, the German ACUSAR research shows that acupuncture is an effective method of improving the quality of life of patients suffering from allergic rhinitis (5).
In a review of published trials, researchers concluded that there is some evidence to support the claim that acupuncture is beneficial and cost-effective as an additional treatment for seasonal allergic rhinitis. However, at this time, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that acupuncture is effective as a stand-alone treatment (6).
Other studies have looked at the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment for atopic dermatitis (7). They found that acupuncture significantly reduced itchiness in some patients. They noted that preventative acupuncture did not work as well as concurrent acupuncture.
In summary, acupuncture may be a safe, cost-effective option for those who are interested in non-pharmalogical therapy and for those looking for extra support to current treatment.
1 Brinkhaus B, Witt, CM, Jena, S, Liecker, B, Wegscheider, K and Willich, SN, “Acupuncture in patients with allergic rhinitis: a pragmatic randomized trial,” Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, vol. 101, no. 5, pp. 535–543, 2008.
2 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. “Acupuncture in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized trial.” Ann Intern Med. 2013 Feb 19;158(4):225-34.
3 Choi SM, Park JE, Li SS, Jung H, Zi M, Kim TH, Jung S, Kim A, Shin M, Sul JU, Hong Z, Jiping Z, Lee S, Liyun H, Kang K, Baoyan L. “A multicenter, randomized, controlled trial testing the effects of acupuncture on allergic rhinitis.” Allergy 2013; 68: 365–374.
4 McDonald, JL, Cripps, AW, Smith, PK, Smith, CA, Xue, CC and Golianu, B “The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Acupuncture and Their Relevance to Allergic Rhinitis: A Narrative Review and Proposed Model,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2013, Article ID 591796, 12 pages, 2013. doi:10.1155/2013/591796
5 Reinhold T, Roll S, Willich SN, Ortiz M, Witt CM, Brinkhaus B. “Cost-effectiveness for acupuncture in seasonal allergic rhinitis: economic results of the ACUSAR trial.” Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2013 Jul;111(1):56-63
6 Witt, CM and Brinkhaus, B “Efficacy, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of acupuncture for allergic rhinitis – An overview about previous and ongoing studies.” Auton Neurosci. 2010 Oct 28;157(1-2):42-5.
7 Pfab, F et al., “Acupuncture compared with oral antihistamine for type I hypersensitivity itch and skin response in adults with atopic dermatitis: a patient- and examiner-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial.” Allergy. 2012 Apr;67(4):566-73.