Does acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine have a role in the treatment of allergic rhinitis?

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Complementary medicines, including acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, are being used increasingly for the management of allergies such as allergic rhinitis. Until relatively recently, however, evidence for the efficacy and safety of these therapies in allergic conditions has been lacking.

Recent findings

A limited number of well conducted studies, all with small sample sizes, have demonstrated the promising therapeutic potential of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine for allergic rhinitis. The possible additional benefit of combining the two therapies, however, is yet to be confirmed. There are concerns about the appropriateness of the sham/placebo controls that have been used in acupuncture studies and also about the safety evaluation of individual herbs and herbal formulations. In addition to well established symptom scores and specific quality of life questionnaires, the concurrent use of conventional anti-allergy medications has been utilized as an outcome measure in a number of trials that have evaluated the effectiveness of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine for allergic rhinitis.

Summary

Tentatively, it appears that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be effective treatments for allergic rhinitis. Confirmatory evidence, however, is needed from large and, ideally, multi-centre trials.

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