By Sara Calabro
Spring is upon us. For some, it’s time for warm air! Fresh flowers! Longer days! For others, it’s time for runny noses! Itchy eyes! Sinus headaches!
But people with seasonal allergies should know that spring need not be an unavoidable period of suffering. Nor does it require dependence on Claritin or fear of leaving the house without Kleenex.
Acupuncture offers tools for both preventing spring allergy symptoms and getting rid of them. Specifically, there are seven acupuncture points that can work wonders for preventing and relieving spring allergies.
Seven points, seven fingers is all it takes
Acupuncturists use these seven points all the time to alleviate seasonal allergies. It’s ideal to go for acupuncture before allergy symptoms kick. Now is a great time since not everything is fully bloomed yet.
If you miss the preventive window, the same points can be used to eliminate symptoms, especially nasal drip, itchy eyes and sinus headaches. It is not uncommon for people to notice an immediate clearing of the nasal passages after receiving these seven acupuncture points.
But the best part is, you can alleviate allergies with these seven acupuncture points all by yourself. All it takes is seven fingers and a little concentration and coordination.
In most cases, stimulating the points yourself is not a substitute for real acupuncture. However, as a preventive measure, it can delay the onset and lessen the severity of allergy symptoms. It also can prolong the effects of acupuncture treatments so that you’re able to allow more time between appointments. And it comes in really handy as an on-the-spot remedy for sudden allergy attacks.
The new face of spring
Imagine a world where the first thing that comes to mind when we think of seasonal allergies is not someone running through a field in a drug commercial but rather someone poking themselves in the face. How sweet it would be.
So, where to poke?
You’re aiming for six points on the face: Large Intestine 20, Stomach 2 and Bladder 2. All three points are pressed twice, symmetrically on both sides of the face, equaling six points. (The seventh is explained below.)
The picture on the right shows how it should look when you’re pressing all six face points. You’re going for just outside the nostril, just below the eye (you’ll feel a little indentation in the bone there—that’s the point), and the inner end of the eyebrow.
In addition to point location, you also want to pay attention to the direction you’re pressing. This is where concentration and coordination come in.
Large Intestine 20, the points outside the nostrils, should be pressed diagonally upward, as if you’re aiming for your eye on the opposite side. Stomach 2, the points below the eye, should be pressed downward toward the mouth. Bladder 2, the ones on the eyebrow, should be pressed upward toward the top of the head.
Maintaining the right point locations and directions may feel awkward at first but it gets easier with practice. For myself and most people I’ve recommended this technique to, the pinkie, ring and middle finger combo seems to work best. But everyone’s fingers and hand coordination are different, so play around with it and do whatever feels most comfortable for you.
Lucky number seven: Spleen 5
The six points on the face are considered a local acupuncture approach. In other words, needles (or fingers) are placed at the site of the problem—in this case, near the nasal passages and frontalis muscle on the forehead since this is often where allergy symptoms occur.
But as is true of all conditions, allergies from an acupuncture perspective derive from an underlying imbalance. In addition to the six points on the face, acupuncturists often incorporate a seventh point to address the root cause of seasonal allergy symptoms.
This point is Spleen 5, located below and distal to (toward the toes) the medial malleolus (the prominent bone on the inner ankle). It is done only on the left side.
So why Spleen 5? Many reasons, depending on who you ask, but the primary logic behind using Spleen 5 to treat allergies has to do with its role in resolving what acupuncturists refer to as Dampness.
We could spend a whole article—book actually!—talking just about Dampness. But for the purposes of this article, suffice it to say that Dampness in the body creates fixed, heavy obstructions. Also, when Dampness accumulates, it can turn into Phlegm, which is not exactly but close enough to the phlegm we’re all familiar with and afraid of during allergy season.
Holding Spleen 5 at the same time as the six face points is kind of ambitious. You don’t have to do them all together. Spleen 5 is easy to press while watching TV, reading or doing anything seated that doesn’t require use of both hands.
For me, sitting cross-legged is best. It comfortably exposes the inner left ankle and allows me to access the point with my right index finger. From a desk chair, you can prop your left foot onto your right thigh, which also allows for easy access. Again, it’s important to find the position that is comfortable for you.
It’s unfair that so many seasonal-allergy sufferers view spring as time to stay indoors. No more, thanks to acupuncture. It’s merely time to put on a new face.
Photos by Sara Calabro; Spleen 5 infographic from A Manual of Acupuncture
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