Many of us know how frustrating nasal congestion can be. Seeking alternatives to over-the-counter medicines, we consulted Eric Martin, MS, LAc, resident and clinical supervisor in acupuncture and Oriental medicine at Bastyr Center. He enlightened us about the uses of acupuncture and Oriental medicine for stuffy noses, whether the cause is allergies, sinus infections or colds.
Can acupuncture help clear up nasal congestion?
Absolutely. While it does not work for all patients on every visit, many people walk in with congestion and walk out breathing more freely.
How long does the relief last?
It depends on the severity of the condition and whether there is an underlying imbalance. Sometimes congestion clears up and doesn’t return. Other times relief lasts only a few hours to a few days, because longer-term chronic imbalances can take longer to clear up. A lot of sinus issues are actually linked to digestion, so we focus on treating that and also encouraging patients to avoid foods that aggravate congestion, such as dairy products and processed, greasy, fatty and sugary foods.
At what point during their ailment should people come in?
People can come in any time, even when having acute symptoms, but the best time for treatment is several months before peak allergy season. We can address underlying causes of allergies and hopefully bring about a much reduced set of symptoms when allergy season comes. We can also treat before, during or after cold and flu season if people have a propensity for catching colds.
Are Chinese herbs also effective for this?
Yes, herbs are almost always used on both fronts – treating actual symptoms (for which they are extraordinarily effective)and addressing the underlying condition. Anyone who’s eaten wasabi can see how an herb can have immediate and dramatic effect on the sinuses. Chinese herbs, compared to Western pharmaceuticals, are often more affordable and, in the long term, may provide more satisfactory results because they also address the underlying condition.