The approach to the diagnosis and treatment of Allergic Rhinitis presents similar problems to that of Asthma. From the Chinese Medicine Theory, it is 'Bi Yuan' which means 'Nose Pool', it has been diagnosed and healed for long time.
Allergic Rhinitis as per Western Medicine
Allergic Rhinitis is due to an antigen-antibody reaction in the nasal mucosa. If the antigens responsible are only particles, then it is called seasonal Allergic Rhinitis (hay fever).
If the allergies are dust, house-dust mites, faecal matter, fungal spores, dogs and cats, the most allergenic substances are protein from their skin and urine. Also, cigarettes, petrol fumes and perfumes may play a role in this ailment.
Nasal congestion, a water nasal discharge and sneezing are common symptoms. In a few cases it affects the eyes and the conjunctively may become red and itchy. About 20% of those diagnosed will also develop Asthma in conjunction with sinusitis.
The Western Treatment of Allergenic Rhinitis relies mostly on the use of antihistamine agents. Side-effects include sedation, dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, nervousness and gastrointestinal disturbances. Failure to respond to antihistamines is due to the fact that active substances other than histamines are released in allergenic states. Steroids by nasal inhalation are also used for allergic rhinitis; these do not seem to have the same general systemic effects of oral steroids.
Allergic Rhinitis as per the Chinese Theory of 'Bi Yuan'
The main clinical manifestations usually mentioned in connection with a 'Bi Yuan' are a purulent nasal discharge with a foul smell, a stuffy nose/a runny nose, headache and sneezing.
'Bi Yuan' is due to repeated invasions of Wind-Cold in the lung channel which are not treated properly. After some time, cold turns into heat, the lungs cannot disperse and descend Qi and local stagnation of Qi and blood develops in the nose. All these factors lead to nasal discharge. The gallbladder channel carries heat upwards to the brain and acting as the governing vessel, it also flows into the brain and the nose. Therefore, this causes a purulent yellow nasal discharge. In Chinese Medicine, this condition was in fact also called 'brain flooding' or 'brain discharge'. Thus two channels and organs are involved: Lungs and Gallbladder. After several years, the Spleen will usually become involved and a Spleen deficiency leading to dampness further aggravates the condition.
The manifestation of this condition consists of symptoms of wind-cold or wind-heat. The root of the condition is a deficiency of the Lungs in dispersing and descending Qi and in some cases, Gallbladder heat. The treatment is variously aimed at expelling wind-cold or wind-heat. Clearing the Gallbladder heat or clearing Spleen-heat according to the pattern involved.
A new theory of allergic Rhinitis
Allergic Rhinitis is due to an over-activity of the immune system to certain allergens. Like Asthma, this is due, from the Traditional Chinese Medicine point of view, to a deficiency of the Lung and Kidney Defensive-Qi systems, combined with retention of chronic wind in the nose.
The deficiency of the Lung and Kidney defensive-Qi system is either hereditary of due to problems during the pregnancy or child birth. The aetiological factors are exactly the same as for Asthma. Repeated invasion of wind when not treated properly, combined with pre-existing systems, lead to the retention of what could be described as chronic wind in the nose. Similar to what happens in Asthma when wind is retained in the chest.
As for treatment, it is important to distinguish seasonal from perennial Rhinitis. In seasonal Rhinitis, one should apply different principles of treatment according to the season. In perennial Rhinitis, the principle of treatment is irrespective of the season.