Winter is coming, and for you, that might also mean a sinus infection. Sinus infections, also known as sinusitis, can show up from a cold, a change in weather, or an allergic reaction. Regardless of the cause, the congestion, pressure, and pain are all similarly annoying.
But you’re in luck, a variety of herbs and specific acupuncture points can be utilized to clear the infection in addition to potentially make sinus infections less common. Let’s take a deeper look into the benefits of traditional Chinese medicine.
Acupuncture for Sinus Infection Relief
A review in 2014 of randomized controlled trials explored how traditional Chinese herbs could act to prevent or resolve viral respiratory infections. Many of the herbs had antiviral effects and others worked with the immune system to protect the respiratory tract and remove pathogens.
Shi-Bi-Lin (SBL) is a Chinese herbal formula utilized to support a patient with paranasal sinusitis and allergic rhinitis. This formula is modified from the classic formula, Cang-Er-Zi-San.
A randomized controlled trial in 2009 recruited 162 patients with allergic rhinitis to either be blinded to receive capsules of SBL or placebo capsules for four weeks. The group that received the SBL had significant reductions in nose blockage. And notably, the reductions in symptoms were sustained for two weeks after the last dose of SBL.
Hochuekkito (Buzhongyiqitang) is a formula utilized in both traditional Chinese medicine and Japanese Kampo formulas. The formula includes 10 herbal medicines.
In 2018, scientists used an extract of this formula, HET, in an animal in vivo study to attempt to disrupt the nasal cavity colonization of the bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The hope was that if nasal cavity colonization could be prevented, the spread and any possible sinus infections would be avoided.
The scientists utilized animal models to control the timing of Staphylococcus aureus exposure. The study found HET to significantly inhibit the growth of MRSA. The colony-forming units of the bacteria in the nasal fluid of HET-treated mice models were significantly lower than that of the HET-untreated mice.
Due to the statistical significance of the results, the study recommends explorations of HET as a therapeutic option for nasal cavity colonization of MRSA in humans.
Masks to prevent infection spread
HET is not the only traditional Japanese formula to inhibit biofilm growth. In 2019 an extract of Lonicera caerulea var. emphylolocaly fruit (LCEE) was analyzed on isolates of Porphyromonas gingivalis. P. gingivalis is a pathogenic bacterium that can be responsible for pneumonia.
The bacteria commonly form biofilms both in the nasal and oral cavities. The scientists found an extract in the LCEE, cyanidin 3-O-glucoside, to inhibit P. gingivalis’ biofilm production in a dose-dependent manner. Therefore, this extract holds the potential to be an effective antibacterial against the establishment and growth of P. gingivalis in a patient.
Lastly, in an in-vitro study, scientists in 2017 zoomed in on the effects of a Kampo herbal formula, Shin’iseihaito (Xinyiqingfeitang), on pneumonia. The pathogen responsible for pneumonia is commonly responsible for sinusitis. In this disease’s progression, pneumonia forms a biofilm to prevent antimicrobial agents from inhibiting its spread.
This traditional Japanese Kampo formula works to inhibit the growth of the biofilm. In in vitro samples of S. pneumoniae, those that were treated with the Shin’iseihaito extract (SSHT) produced significantly thinner biofilms and reduced hydrophobicity of bacterial cell surface than those without the SSHT. A reduction in hydrophobicity would potentially increase the likelihood of biofilm disruption and interruption by other antimicrobials.
Acupressure for Sinusitis
One of acupuncture’s proposed mechanisms of action is to modulate the immune system, helping the body process infections, such as sinusitis.
A three-armed single-blind randomized controlled study in 2005 evaluated patients with sinusitis. The patients were distributed to receive conventional medications, traditional Chinese acupuncture, or minimal acupuncture at non-acupoints. The medications included antibiotics, corticosteroids, 0.9% sodium chloride solution, and local decongestants.
To quantify the effectiveness of the therapies, the study measured sinus soft tissue swelling. Over 4 weeks the sinus soft tissue swelling significantly reduced in the conventional treatment group and acupuncture-treated group.
The difference between the two groups was non-significant, supporting the potential for acupuncture to be similarly effective to conventional medications.
In 2006, 331 licensed acupuncturists completed surveys about the effectiveness of acupuncture for sinus and nasal symptoms. 99% of them reported treating patients with those symptoms.
The mean effectiveness rating on a five-point scale for the overall treatment of chronic sinus and nasal symptoms was 4.2. The higher the scale rating, the higher the rated effectiveness
While acupuncturists would hold bias on the effectiveness of their profession, their professional experience with the therapy further supports its use.
Acupuncture for sinus relief
A meta-analysis in 2015 found acupuncture to be an effective therapy in reducing allergic rhinitis symptoms. Allergic rhinitis is inflammation of the inside of the nose from an allergen that can develop into sinusitis.
The analysis included 13 papers with a total of 2,365 participants. All studies compared a control group to an acupuncture-treated group and measured nasal symptom scores. The meta-analysis concluded that acupuncture was an effective and safe therapy for allergic rhinitis patients.
Several studies evaluating acupuncture’s effectiveness for sinusitis and allergic rhinitis relief are currently in the works. These published protocols highlight the support for this therapy’s potential and hopefully, the emerging data will help connect future patients to this therapy!
The Two Players Together: Acupuncture & Chinese Herbal Formulas for Allergic Rhinitis Relief
In 2004, a randomized-controlled clinical trial compared the effectiveness of both acupuncture and a Chinese herbal formula in comparison to controls for seasonal allergic rhinitis relief.
The study randomly assigned 52 patients to either receive acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine or acupuncture applied to non-acupuncture points with a non-specific Chinese herbal formula.
All patients received acupuncture or sham acupuncture once a week for 6 weeks. The Chinese herbal formulas were taken for the same length three times a day. To evaluate allergic rhinitis relief, the scientists measured the change in the severity of hay fever symptoms on a visual analog scale.
The study noted improvements in symptoms for 85% of participants in the active treatment group and 40% in the control group. Both groups tolerated the process well.
Tissues for nasal relief
No need to suffer from annoying nasal pressure and congestion when data supports effective options for relief! Through modulation of the immune system, acupuncture and traditional herbs can work to relieve an individual’s sinusitis or allergic rhinitis.