By Jiang Liu, Diplomate of Oriental Medicine
AR Licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist
Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Clinic
2024 Arkansas Valley Dr., Suite 402
Little Rock, AR 72212


Rhinitis involves inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes, eustachian tubes, middle ear, sinuses, and pharynx. The nose invariably is involved, and the other organs are affected in certain individuals. Characteristic symptoms include repetitive sneezing; runny nose; post-nasal drip; nasal congestion; itchy eyes, ears, nose or throat; and generalized fatigue. Symptoms can also include wheezing, eye tearing, sore throat, and impaired smell. A chronic cough may be secondary to postnasal drip, and sinus headaches and ear plugging are also common.

It is caused by acute or chronic inflammation of the mucous membrane of the nose due to viruses, bacteria, irritants, or allergens. The inflammation results in the generating of excessive amounts of mucus, commonly producing the aforementioned runny nose, as well as nasal congestion and post-nasal drip.

Rhinitis is categorized into three types:

  • Infective rhinitis: It is commonly caused by a viral or bacterial infection.
  • Non allergic (vasomotor) rhinitis: It includes autonomic, hormonal, drug-induced, atrophic, and gustatory rhinitis, as well as rhinitis medicamentosa. Those non-allergic triggers cause dilation of the blood vessels in the lining of the nose, which results in swelling and drainage. Vasomotor rhinitis can coexist with allergic rhinitis, which is called “mixed rhinitis”.
  • Allergic rhinitis: It is often caused by seasonal pollens (tree, grass or ragweed pollens), outdoor allergens (cockroaches, rodents, or molds); indoor allergens (house dust, mites, pets).

Conventional treatment
In cases of allergic rhinitis, the most effective way to decrease allergic symptoms is to completely avoid the allergen. Vasomotor rhinitis can be brought under a measure of control through avoidance of irritants, though many irritants, such as weather changes, are uncontrollable. The goal of rhinitis treatment is to reduce the symptoms caused by the inflammation of affected tissues. Oral antihistamines or decongestants, and sprays such as antihistamine, anti-drip anticholinergic, corticosteroid, and decongestant nasal sprays, are helpful for reducing the symptoms. Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots) may be useful for allergic rhinitis.

Chinese medicine
In recent years, intensive studies have been carried out to explain the underlying mechanisms of the efficacy of acupuncture. Various studies have shown that acupuncture inhibits inflammatory reactions and regulates immune reactions in different diseases, including rhinitis.

Chinese medicine considers a human body as a whole and healthy body is maintained by a balance of yin and yang, as well as qi and blood. When yin and yang are balanced and qi and blood flow freely through the meridians, the body is in good health and can perform at its optimum. However, if a particular energy pathway is obstructed, its corresponding organ’s function will also be affected and the body’s yin and yang will become unbalanced. This imbalance will ultimately affect the functioning of the body as a whole.

In Chinese medicine, rhinitis is due to an invasion of external pathogens (such as wind cold or wind-heat), and internal factors, including the deficiency of qi or yin in lung, kidney and spleen, general qi deficiency or blood stasis.

Rhinitis is categorized into different kind of types and the following are commonly observed in clinic practice.

Acute rhinitis

    • Wind-cold invading nose
    • Wind-heat invading nose

Chronic rhinitis

    • Heat stagnation of lung-stomach
    • qi deficiency of lung-spleen
    • qi stagnation and blood stasis
    • Lung qi stagnation and phlegm-stasis

Dry rhinitis

    • Dry injuring nose
    • yin deficiency leading to lack of nose nourishing
    • qi deficiency leading to loss of tonifying nose
    • Heat stagnation of lung and stomach

Atrophic rhinitis

    • General yin deficiency leading to lung dry
    • yin deficiency of lung and kidney
    • yin deficiency and damp-heat invading nose
    • Heat stagnation of lung and stomach
    • qi and yin deficiency

Allergic rhinitis

    • Lung qi deficiency: It leads to wind-cold, which eventually invades nose
    • qi deficiency of lung and spleen: It leads to water-damp that eventually invades nose
    • Kidney qi deficiency: It results in the nose to lose the balance
    • Heat stagnation in lung
    • qi deficiency and blood stasis
    • Superficial coldness and internal heat