For sufferers of seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR), acupuncture treatment can lead to a modest improvement in disease-specific quality of life and can reduce antihistamine use, compared with either sham acupuncture or the medication cetrizine. In a multi-centre randomised trial, German researchers randomised 422 people with SAR to receive acupuncture plus cetirizine, sham (minimal needling) acupuncture plus cetrizine, or cetrizine alone. Twelve treatments were provided over eight weeks and acupuncture treatment was semi-standardised, using a selection of local and distal points chosen according to TCM principles. Compared with patients who did not have acupuncture, those who received it reported improvement in their SAR symptoms and a decrease in their use of medication at the end of eight weeks of treatment. However, the benefits of acupuncture were found to have disappeared within two months of the end of treatment. (Acupuncture in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2013 Feb 19;158(4):225-34).
Meanwhile, a Korean multi-centre randomised trial has found that acupuncture has a significantly greater effect on the symptoms of allergic rhinitis than either sham acupuncture or no treatment. A total of 238 participants were randomised to one of three groups. The true and sham acupuncture groups received acupuncture treatment three times per week for four weeks. Active acupuncture consisted of needling the points Hegu L.I.-4, Yingxiang L.I.-20, Sibai ST-2, Zusanli ST-36, Yintang M-HN-3 and Shangxing DU-23. Sham acupuncture consisted of minimal needling at non-acupuncture points, while the waitlist group did not receive any treatment. After the treatment, the difference in the total nasal symptom score (TNSS) was significantly reduced in the true acupuncture group compared with both sham and waitlist groups. The true acupuncture group also exhibited a significant change in the total non-nasal symptom score (TNNSS) compared with the waitlist (but not with the sham acupuncture group). Both true and sham acupuncture treatments resulted in significant improvements in TNSS and TNNSS compared with baseline. (A multicenter, randomized, controlled trial testing the effects of acupuncture on allergic rhinitis. Allergy. 2012 Dec 18. doi: 10.1111/all.12053.