Treatment of Rhinitis with Acupuncture & TCM

What is Rhinitis?

Rhinitis is a runny nose caused by an increase in histamine, and is most often the result of airborne allergens. This results in an increase in fluid production in the eyes nose and throat. There are 3 subtypes of rhinitis: 1)allergic rhinitis due to exposure to pollen, dust, etc., (2)nonallergic rhinitis associated with hormonal issues or medications, and (3) infectious rhinitis caused by acute or chronic bacterial infection.

Common Symptoms:

  • Runny Nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy Watery Eyes
  • Itchy Nose

Western Medical Treatment

Depending on the cause treatment can include over the counter nasal decongestants, nasal sprays, and antibiotics (in cases of bacterial infection).

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Treatment

Rhinitis always involves a weakness in the wei qi, Wei (or protective) qi runs on the surface of the body, including skin and mucous membranes and controls the opening and closing of the pores. Wei qi responsible for defending the body against external pathogenic invasion. Wei qi is supported by the Kidney Yang and distributed by the Lungs so that a dysfunction  is associated with one of the following 3 patterns:

External Wind: Acute and copious runny nose due to an allergic response or infection. Treatment principle is to expel exterior wind, transform phlegm,  and redirect Lung qi downwards. When an acute condition is caught early with treatment it tends to resolve as quickly as it came.

Lung and Spleen Qi Deficiency: Chronic rhinitis, frequent colds, fatigue, wooly headedness, picky eater. Treatment principle is to tonify Lung and Spleen qi, and expel wind.  Treatment includes acupuncture, herbs, and cupping along with dietary changes. Weekly acupuncture is indicated for several weeks.

Kidney Deficiency: Chronic rhinitis for several years, reduced sense of smell, symptoms worse with fatigue and exertion. Treatment principle is to tonify the kidneys. Treatment includes acupuncture, moxibustion, and herbs along with dietary changes. This pattern takes the longest to treat.


Nasal irrigation as with a Neti pot is very helpful for symptomatic relief and can be performed 1-2 times a day away from meals. Dietary guidelines vary from individual to individual, but as a  general rule, phlegm-producing foods should be reduced or avoided such as cold temperature food and drinks, highly sugary foods, greasy foods, and excessive dairy. Adequate rest and avoidance of exposure to cold (including walking around with wet hair) are key.


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