Healing Sinusitis with Acupuncture

Bindi Zhu, M.D. (China) Ph.D. and Ileana Bourland, MSOM, Lic.Ac.

The Benefits of Using Chinese Medicine with Sinusitis

For thousands of years traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has successfully helped people heal from chronic sinus infections, including acute and severe cases. By using the natural healing methods employed by TCM, those suffering from sinusitis take fewer antibiotics. Most doctors agree that many benefits exist to taking fewer rounds of antibiotics. The danger in the over use of antibiotics is found primarily in the ever-increasing number of anti-biotic resistant bacteria formed due to the improper and over use of antibiotics. Also, antibiotic have the well-known negative side-effect of killing the necessary and important intestinal microorganisms we need for proper digestion, absorption, and elimination of food and the generation of nutrients in the gut (B12). TCM has particular usefulness for those who have not had a return to health after standard medical treatment.


Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses, the air-filled cavities in the skull. The cause, or etiology, can be infectious (bacterial, viral, or fungal), non-infectious (allergic), or autoimmune triggers. This inflammation can lead to the blockade of the normal sinus drainage pathways (sinus ostia). When sinuses become inflamed, these areas become obstructed and mucus cannot drain. This provides an ideal place for bacteria, viruses, and fungus to live and grow rapidly. In turn, this may lead to mucus retention, reduced intake of oxygen (hypoxia), decreased normal release of mucus (mucociliary clearance) or congestion, and a predisposition to bacterial overgrowth.[1]

Chronic sinusitis is generally defined as an inflammation of the sinus cavity that lasts for more than 8 weeks[2] . In addition to bacterial colonization, several factors may contribute to chronic sinus. Anatomy, allergies, polyps, immune deficiencies, virus infection and dental diseases may contribute to chronic sinus problems.

Although sometimes caused by a respiratory infection, such as a cold or flu, most cases of acute sinusitis are viral in nature and usually resolve over the course of 10 days[3]. Chronic sinusitis can develop if acute sinusitis is not resolved.

By taking these all these factors into account, considering the individual constitution and diagnosis according to TCM, a suitable treatment plan can be implemented that will address both the acute and chronic components of a sinus infection.

Symptoms of a sinus infection include, but are not limited to:

  • Pressure-like pain in one specific area of your face or head (for example, behind your eyes).
  • The face may be tender to the touch.
  • Pain feels worse with sudden movements of the head and bending forward.
  • Pain feels worse in the morning (because mucus has been collecting and draining all night).
  • Pain feels worse with sudden temperature changes, like going out into the cold from a warm room.
  • Headache often starts when you have a bad cold or soon after.
  • Stuffy, puffy, and sore face, possibly in several locations around the face or teeth.
  • Nasal discharge that may be yellow, green, or clear.
  • Fatigue, decreased sense of smell and/or taste, cough, sore throat, bad breath, headache, and fever.

Bacterial Infection

About 80 percent of the time, yellow or green mucus means a bacterial infection. Some medical doctors may prescribe antibiotics, although acute cases usually clear up in 7 to 14 days. In light of the data on antibiotic over- and misuse, many doctors now recommend avoiding antibiotics and using treatments that have no known bacterial resistance or harmful side effects, such as Chinese herbal medicine.

Viral infection

Sinusitis due to a viral infection will usually have headache as the predominant symptom, as well as fever, chills, aversion to cold, sore throat.


Technically, an allergy is defined as a hypersensitivity to a substance that generates an immune response that causes the body to secrete a certain type of antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). Austin is famous for it’s allergy-causing pollens and molds. But in some can causes symptom depend to your body reaction, the climatic and seasonal condition, geographical location, patient’s age, constitution and others must be consideration to determine an appropriate method in the acupuncture treatment, Such as, Grass (May - July) , Pollen – trees (April -- May), Weeds ( August - first frost), Cedar ( Nov-Feb ), Mold ( worse during humid/rainy weather ), Dust & dust mites worse with Central heat and animal dander.

Is It Allergy or Sinusitis? Both?

Although sinusitis may have an infectious, non-infectious or auto-immune cause, it’s important to consider the individual’s immune system and their constitution according to TCM. In Chinese medicine, the immune system roughly correlates with what we call “defensive qi” or wei qi. Abundant defensive qi equates with a strong, vigorous immune system that initiates a “hard and fast” response to infection. Someone deficient in defensive qi might find they catch every cold and flu that comes around and the experiences a prolonged recovery. Many experience some combination of robust immune response followed by lingering symptoms of post-nasal drip.

The key is to address the root cause affecting the individual and boost the immune system (defensive qi). Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, proper nutrition, hydration, and exercise help prevent and heal sinusitis.

Comparing Sinusitis, Cold, and Allergy Symptoms

Symptom Sinusitis Cold Allergy
Facial Pressure/pain Yes Sometimes Sometimes
Duration of illness More than 10 days Less than 10 days Varies
Nasal discharge Thick, yellow-green Thick and whitish, Thin and watery Clear, thin, watery
Itchy eyes No No Yes
Headache Yes Sometimes Sometimes
Bad Breath Sometimes No No
Cough Sometimes Yes Sometimes
Nasal congestion Yes Yes Sometimes
Sneezing No Yes Yes
Fatigue/ Weakness Sometimes Yes Sometimes
Sore throat Sometimes Yes Sometimes


Self-care for Nasal Allergies

  • Nasal irrigation. Different products are available to irrigate the nasal passages with a saline solution.
  • Nasya oil. You can use an ayurvedic preparation, nasya oil, or and pure oil like olive or sesame oil to decongest, sooth, protect, and lubricate nasal passages.
  • Steam inhalation.
  • Topical application of essential oils.
  • Acupressure.
  • Chinese herbs.

Recognizing and correctly diagnosing disease by differentiation of syndrome is a prerequisite for applying appropriate methods and attaining anticipated results. For more information, ask us about self-care and specific herbal formulas developed by Dr Bindi Zhu, Ph.D. We are honored to have helped many people over the years who have struggled to heal from sinusitis and who ultimately find relief with Chinese medicine.

Headache due to Sinusitis

  • Tai Yang Headache : (Occipital) Qiang Huo, Man Jing Zi, Chuan Xiong. Fengchi (G20), Kunlun (B 60), Houxi (SI 3) .
  • Nasya oil. You can use an ayurvedic preparation, nasya oil, or and pure oil like olive or sesame oil to decongest, sooth, protect, and lubricate nasal passages.
  • Yang Ming Headache : (Frontal), Ge Gen, Bai Zi, Touwei (S 8), Yintang (Extra), Shangxing , (Du 23), Hugu (LI 4) Neiting (S 44)
  • Shao Yang Headache : (Temporal), Huang Qin, Chai Hu, Chuan Xiong, Taiyang (Extra), Shuaigu (G 8), Waiguan (SJ 5), Zhulingqi (G 41)
  • Jue Yin Headache: (Parietal) Wu Zhu Yu, Gao Ben, Baihui ( Du 20), Houxi ( SI3), Zhiyin ( B 67), Taichong ( Liv 3), Bitong point, meaning "opening up the nose.“ Yingxiang (LI-20), Hegu (LI-4), Quchi (LI-11), Taiyang (Extra), Yangbai (GB-15), Yintang ( Extra), Shangxing (Du 23),

Common used herbal medicine

Xin yi hua辛夷( magnolia flower ), Cang er zi 苍耳子( Xanthium ), Xi Xin细辛( Asarum ), Bai Zhi白芷 ( Dahurian angelica root), Bo He薄荷( peppermint )
温肺止流丹( Wen Fie Zhi Liu San ):
人参( RenShen ) , 荆芥( Jing Jie) ,桔梗( Jie Geng) , 白芷( Bai Zhi ),, 细辛( Xi Xin ) 后下,黄芪 ( Haung Qi ) 辛夷散( Xin Yi Sang) :
辛夷( Xin Yi )(后下),蒿本( Gao Ben), 升麻( Sheng Ma) 川芎( Chuan Xiong) 木通( Mu Tong ), 防风( Fang Feng) , 羌活( Qiang Huo) ,白芷( Bai Zhi ), 细辛( Xi Xin ) (后下), 甘草.( Gan Cao) 苍耳子散 (Cang Er Zi San) :
苍耳子( Cang Er Zi) ,辛夷, ( Xin Yi )(后下),薄荷( Bo He) , 炙甘草( Zi Gan Cao)

1, 2 www.clevlandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/allergy/rhino-sinusitis/
3 Anon JB (April 2010). “Upper respiratory infections.” Am J. Med. 123 (4 Suppl): S16-25.

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