Summer has finally arrived in Jackson Hole after a late start. The weather warmed up suddenly at the end of June after a very cool and wet extended spring. The grass is long, the cottonwoods are shedding their cotton, and the lupines have been spectacular along the river, though their June blooms are beginning to seed up.
With the beginning of summer, allergies can intensify as we get outside to enjoy various activities here in the “Hole”. In Chinese Medicine, allergies are a symptom of either a strong “evil Qi” or a weak “Wei Qi”. Qi is described as the animating force or the energy in all living things – humans, animals and plants. The Wei Qi in humans is the Qi at the most outer layer of the body, and serves as protection against other forms of invading or “evil” Qi. Viruses and bacteria are good examples of an invading Qi force. Biomedically, we can partially explain Wei Qi as our first line of defense. It includes our skin, mucous membranes, saliva, and stomach acids, and serves as our boundary and protection against invasion from the outer world.
With seasonal or airborne allergies, it is usually the result of a weakened Wei Qi that has occurred because we were born with a weak Qi force (our DNA), or we have damaged our Qi due to accidents, illnesses, stresses, or an unhealthy lifestyle. Some people have severe, even life threatening allergies. Severe airborne hay fever allergies may cause enough damage to the lungs that asthma may be the result.
Evil or Invading external Qi can be strong enough to evade the body’s first line of defenses. Nasty viruses are adept at invading our Wei Qi, especially through our mucous membranes. Bacteria is less invasive if our Wei Qi is strong without any breaks, such as in the skin. Airborne evil or external Qi forces can enter the body through our most exposed areas of contact with the outer world. Our mucous membranes in the nose and the eyes, even the mouth are points of contact and invasion. This includes airborne pollen, dust mites, animal dander, smoke, and other inhalants from smoke or chemical sources.
Repeated contact with Invading external Qi forces, or a sudden huge invasion can cause a weakening in our Wei Qi even in the most robust of people. This can happen to anyone, and why some people who have never had allergies or sensitivities are often reluctant to believe in the possibility that they are now sensitive to certain substances causing an allergic response. This allergic response may be mild, almost unnoticeable except for a slight runny nose or more sneezing than normal. This is an allergic response, and repeated exposure over the years, or a sudden large dose can make it worse. The invading external Qi may be weak, or a person’s Wei Qi may be strong, preventing a severe reaction, or even possibly that a person’s Wei Qi is so weak, not much response from the body is occurring, and the invading external Qi is lodging itself deep in the tissues such as the joints, resulting in future arthritis.
For those that have very strong responses to airborne allergens, their Wei Qi is often very robust against the invading Qi, or the invading Qi can be very strong. Either way, this reaction to the allergens can be annoying at best and disabling at worst.
Chinese Medicine can be very effective against the tirades of allergy causing invasive Qi, as well as can other traditional methods of self-healing. Allergy symptoms can be greatly reduced a person’s overall energy noticeably improved during allergy season. Acupuncture and herbal medicines together can greatly reduce one’s reactions to the invading Qi, and boost the Wei Qi to keep out the invading Qi. Both Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are started before allergy season starts, preferably 1-3 months prior to exposure to the offending allergen. Acupuncture builds the Wei Qi, and herbs complement the acupuncture, reinforcing the treatment with on-going ingestion of herbs for the same purpose. Once allergy season begins, acupuncture can help relieve sinus and headache pressure, and more specific herbs can be prescribed to deal with any new symptom that may crop up.
Other non-drug prevention techniques are imperative to complement your treatments with herbs and acupuncture. The regular use of a Netti Pot or some other method of saline washes to expel the allergens from the mucous membranes of the nasal passages is imperative. During high hay fever days, nasal wash at least twice a day, once upon arising, and once before bed. After the nasal wash, a coating of xylitol (Xlear) the nasal membranes will help prevent allergens to stick to the mucous membranes that can cause the allergy response and the resultant cascade of events that cause an allergic response.
Placing HEPA filters in the room where you sleep can also be very effective in reducing allergy symptoms and improving sleep. Sleeping with the window open is not an option for people with airborne allergies because allergens from the outside continually enter the room, and deep sleep disruption may occur. Leaving your outer clothing and shoes at the door is also a good hygienic practice if you have allergies, and definitely keep these items out of your sleeping room.
Reduce your allergy/hay fever symptoms with the natural healing of acupuncture and Chinese herbs, and the simple modifications for prevention. And enjoy the fullness of summer in Jackson Hole!