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Keywords:

  • acupuncture;
  • allergic rhinitis;
  • Chinese herbal medicine;
  • clinical trial;
  • complementary medicine;
  • quality of life

Background:  Patients with allergic rhinitis (AR) increasingly use complementary medicine. The aim of this study was to determine whether traditional Chinese therapy is efficacious in patients suffering from seasonal AR.

Methods:  Fifty-two patients between the ages of 20 and 58 who had typical symptoms of seasonal AR were assigned randomly and in a blinded fashion to (i) an active treatment group which received a semi-standardized treatment of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, and (ii) a control group which received acupuncture applied to non-acupuncture points in addition to a non-specific Chinese herbal formula. All patients received acupuncture treatment once per week and the respective Chinese herbal formula as a decoction three times daily for a total of 6 weeks. Assessments were performed before, during, and 1 week after treatment. The change in severity of hay fever symptoms was the primary outcome measured on a visual analogue scale (VAS).

Results:  Compared with patients in the control group, patients in the active treatment group showed a significant after-treatment improvement on the VAS (P = 0.006) and Rhinitis Quality of Life Questionnaire (P = 0.015). Improvement on the Global Assessment of Change Scale was noted in 85% of active treatment group participants vs 40% in the control group (P = 0.048). No differences between the two groups could be detected with the Allergic Rhinitis Symptom Questionnaire. Both treatments were well-tolerated.

Conclusions:  The results of this study suggest that traditional Chinese therapy may be an efficacious and safe treatment option for patients with seasonal AR.