Though acupuncture is often used to treat seasonal allergies, there has been limited scientific evidence that it actually works. A new study finds that it does - kind of, maybe, but not really.
The study, led by Dr. Benno Brinkhaus of the Charité-University Medical Center in Berlin, examined the outcomes of 422 patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis (pollen allergies) over an eight-week period. They were randomly assigned to different conditions to evaluate whether acupuncture helps alleviate symptoms compared to the drug cetrizine and fake acupuncture.
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Though the study has been widely reported as showing that acupuncture likely works, there are important red flags suggesting that the results may not be all they are cracked up to be.
The Placebo Effect
First, there is strong evidence that much of the improvement in allergy symptoms may simply have been caused by the placebo effect. When a patient is given a treatment and told that it will help them, often it will - even if there's no active ingredient. A person's expectation that they will feel better often actually makes them feel better subjectively.