Ask Grand Master Lu: Seasonal Allergies


I am a woman in my mid-fifties. In the past few years, I’ve started to get hay fever in the spring. It seems to get worse each year. I don’t want to take over-the-counter medications. Can TCM help?


There are many different ways to treat allergies with both Western and Eastern medicine. Some practitioners treat only the symptoms; some treat both the root cause as well as the symptoms. Naturally treating the root cause is best. Western medicine considers an allergy to be an immune system disorder. Its challenge is to identify the substances that cause your body to have allergic reactions. Treatments include desensitization, eliminating or avoiding the allergens, and drug therapy with antihistamines, steroids and other medicines.

TCM understands allergies from an energy perspective. The problem involves an energy deficiency, which can be related to the Kidney, Liver, Lung or Stomach. The degree to which one (or more) of these organs is deficient in Qi will manifest in symptoms related to that particular organ. For example, a person with a healthy Liver always has healthy eyes. If your allergy condition affects mostly your eyes, resulting in itchy, red, or watery symptoms, it’s a sign that your Liver is not functioning properly energetically. However, a runny or stuffy nose, frequent cough, or tightness in the chest are related to a Lung function disorder.

Because hay fever is a seasonal condition that occurs mostly in the Spring, it’s often not connected to winter. If you exhaust most of your Qi during the winter, your body doesn’t have enough Qi left to go through the yearly cyclical energy change when Winter turns to Spring. When Spring arrives, the weakest organ will manifest the most prominent physical symptoms.

From the prevention point of view, the best way to treat hay fever is to conserve Kidney Qi in Winter. This means making key lifestyle adjustments like going to bed earlier and not running around too much. Classical Chinese herbs as well as Qigong practice or mediation are very powerful healing tools because they increase and balance your internal energy supply. Diet is also an important healing strategy. Add ginger or cinnamon whenever possible and avoid cold or raw foods throughout the year. Making these changes to your daily life can eventually help strengthen your Kidney Qi and address the root cause of your hay fever.