Table of Contents Author Guidelines Submit a Manuscript
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 591796, 12 pages
Review Article

The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Acupuncture and Their Relevance to Allergic Rhinitis: A Narrative Review and Proposed Model

1School of Medicine and Griffith Health Institute, Griffith Health, Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, Southport, QLD 4215, Australia
2Centre for Complementary Medicine Research, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2751, Australia
3Health Innovations Research Institute and WHO Collaborating Centre for Traditional Medicine, School of Health Sciences, RMIT University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
4Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, USA

Received 27 September 2012; Accepted 31 December 2012

Academic Editor: David Baxter

Copyright © 2013 John L. McDonald et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Classical literature indicates that acupuncture has been used for millennia to treat numerous inflammatory conditions, including allergic rhinitis. Recent research has examined some of the mechanisms underpinning acupuncture's anti-inflammatory effects which include mediation by sympathetic and parasympathetic pathways. The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis has been reported to mediate the antioedema effects of acupuncture, but not antihyperalgesic actions during inflammation. Other reported anti-inflammatory effects of acupuncture include an antihistamine action and downregulation of proinflammatory cytokines (such as TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-10), proinflammatory neuropeptides (such as SP, CGRP, and VIP), and neurotrophins (such as NGF and BDNF) which can enhance and prolong inflammatory response. Acupuncture has been reported to suppress the expression of COX-1, COX-2, and iNOS during experimentally induced inflammation. Downregulation of the expression and sensitivity of the transient receptor potential vallinoid 1 (TRPV1) after acupuncture has been reported. In summary, acupuncture may exert anti-inflammatory effects through a complex neuro-endocrino-immunological network of actions. Many of these generic anti-inflammatory effects of acupuncture are of direct relevance to allergic rhinitis; however, more research is needed to elucidate specifically how immune mechanisms might be modulated by acupuncture in allergic rhinitis, and to this end a proposed model is offered to guide further research.