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Healthy Note

Acupuncture might
relieve allergies

Heather Rice calls them “kitty cat whiskers” — one acupuncture needle inserted on each side of the nostrils, an acupuncture point known as Large Intestine 20.

The treatment helps alleviate symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis: runny nose, congestion, nasal drip, and general misery, says Rice, a licensed acupuncturist at University of California-Irvine’s Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine.

“One thing I notice almost immediately is that in just 30 minutes, they say, ‘Oh my God, I can actually breathe,’” Rice said. “I don’t want to say it’s 100 percent, but with at least 8 out of 10 people, their noses will open up. They can breathe better, and they’re not as congested.”

The benefits Rice has observed are confirmed in a new study, although the benefit isn’t as pronounced as she has found in her day-to-day work. The paper, published last week in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, followed 422 Germans who suffered from seasonal pollen allergies.

The group that had real acupuncture with the drug reported a slight improvement in their symptoms - a boost of 0.7 points on the Rhinitis Quality of Life Questionnaire, compared with the group that got no acupuncture.

This brings up the big question once again about acupuncture: Does it really work, or do people just convince themselves it works? And does it matter? A large analysis of previous studies last year determined the effectiveness rate for real acupuncture was about 50 percent, and for sham acupuncture it was 43 percent.


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