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Sinusitis and Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Diane Sheppard, Ph.D., L.Ac.

Sinusitis is an uncomfortable condition that can be caused by a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection, or can arise from an allergic reaction to pollen, grass cuttings and food allergies. Sinusitis is inflammation of the mucous membranes that line the sinus cavities which are located behind the nose and above the eyes. This inflammation causes them to secrete more mucous and become swollen, which can then prevent drainage. The nose becomes congested, resulting in a loss of your sense of smell (anosmia) and pain, sometimes severe, can develop in the face and head area. The drainage route can then move to the back of the nose resulting in post nasal drip, a cough, sore throat and yellow or green production of mucous.

Sinusitis may become chronic when complicated by a secondary bacterial infection. A primary cause of this is when the original condition was treated ineffectively. Most treatments fail to drain the sinus cavities completely of mucous and discharge after each recurring infection. It creates an ongoing pattern of infection after infection. Continually treating the infections with antibiotics can weaken the immune system and cause further problems.

In Western medicine, common treatment for sinusitis is the prescription of antihistamines and nasal sprays to reduce swelling, or antibiotics that may treat any related bacterial infection. While this treatment may relieve the symptoms, it does not treat the cause of the condition.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), practitioners use Chinese herbs and acupuncture to effectively treat sinus infections. When patients cannot breathe properly through their nose needles inserted at certain acupuncture points will offer immediate relief. The most common point for sinusitis is the Bitong point, which literally means “opening up the nose” in Chinese.

There are also numerous herbal formulas – many dating back hundreds, if not thousands, of years – which can bring relief.  Active ingredients include honeysuckle, magnolia flower and kudzu root. Used in concert with acupuncture, these treatments not only provide immediate relief, but a long-term solution to the problem and prevention of recurrence.

TCM treatment for sinusitis aims to break this pattern of congestion, mucous buildup and infection. After the sinus infection has been completely cleared, treatment is given to strengthen the body’s immune system in order to prevent future flare-ups.

From the Chinese perspective, food always plays a role in disease. Overeating fats, hot spicy foods, and sweets, or drinking alcohol, can engender what is called ‘damp’ and ‘heat’ in the body. Damp then congeals or thickens to form phlegm while heat moves upwards and lodges in the orifices, including the nasal cavities. Maintain good sinus hygiene by drinking plenty of fluids to keep nasal secretions thin. Dairy products contain casein, a dominant protein in milk and other dairy products which is a mucus-forming agent. It has a glue-like texture and histamine-creating properties, both of which cause increased mucous production and nasal congestion, so avoid them if you are prone to sinusitis.

Dr.Sheppard is the founder of AcQpoint Wellness Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 345.2200.  www.AcQPoint.com.

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