Rowena Logie’s list of allergies is a long one, or at least it used to be. For the first time since she was a child, the Newcastle University student can go wherever she likes, without fear of puffy eyes, a runny nose and wheezing.
Instead of trying to stay away from animal fur, house mites, feathers, hay, rape fields and timothy grass, to name just a few of her allergies, Rowena is looking ahead to a different future, one which might involve a house near the country and a pet cat.
“I used to go and visit friends when I was growing up, but I could only stay for a short while because they had dogs,” says Rowena, 25.
“I was taking a lot of medication, but then about a year ago I started getting asthma attacks in addition to my other symptoms. That’s when I decided I really needed to try and do something about my allergies.”
Rowena’s symptoms were even more disruptive because her family in Perthshire, live on a farm. “Normally I’d be uncomfortable by the third day of my visit and put up with it or leave, but last time I stayed for three weeks.”
Needless to say Rowena is thrilled, not least because she has more freedom – everything from stroking her parents cats, Orca and Millie, to going for a walk in the countryside with friends. She has five sessions of acupuncture to thank for the change.
Acupuncture, a form of oriental medicine which has been around for nearly 3,000 years, is known to have the ability to affect all parts of the immune system, including those involved in allergic reactions.
In Britain the study of traditional acupuncture began in the 1950’s but it wasn’t until the 1970s that is really began to flourish and now there are 2,400 qualified acupuncturists registered with The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC).
Traditional Chinese philosophy states that our health is dependent on the body’s motivating energy – known as Qi – moving in a smooth and balance way through a series of meridians or channels beneath the skin.
For many reasons Qi may become unbalanced and lead to illness. By inserting very fine needles into the channels of energy or Qi, an acupuncturist can stimulate the body’s own healing response and help restore its natural balance. Feras Jerjis, the therapist who treated Rowena, initially assesses how energy is flowing through the body.
By noting the pulses on both wrists and the structure, colour and coating on the tongue, Feras is able to make a judgment about a person’s state of health.
“Traditional acupuncture takes on an holistic approach, treating the whole person to regain the balance between the physical, mental and emotional aspects of the individual,” he explains.
“The exact pattern and degree of disharmony is unique to each individual. Traditional acupuncture will treat it as such, with a personalised treatment plan, once a full diagnosis has been made.”
Feras, who studied acupuncture for three years and has treated most ailments, from cancer to a cold, says allergies can wreak havoc in people’s lives but acupuncture can help.
“Obviously ther are many different types of allergies and a scale of allergic reactions, from the life-threatening anaphylactic shock, to a skin reaction of inflammation of the nose and eyes, for example.
“The way acupuncture works is to strengthen the whole immune system, so that it can cope better with the allergy.”
With Rowena, Feras used needles at several points on the arms and legs. They are not painful, the needle itself resembling a ‘flick’ and nothing more. Afterwards she was able to rest in the treatment room fo up to an hour.
The increase in the number of people who are turning to complementary therapies such as acupuncture doesn’t surprise Feras, especially with allergies which have increased fourfold in 20 years.
Common allergic disorders include asthma – affecting one in five children – and eczema, from which an estimated six million people suffer. But acupuncture can also be used to treat allergies to wasp stings, some medication and a range of foods.
“Acupuncture can be used alongside conventional medicine in the treatment of both acute and chronic disease,” says Feras. However it is important to take care to find a therapist who is qualified and registered with a professional body.