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      Columbia patients using acupuncture to alleviate allergies

      Allergy season is upon us, and some are turning to alternative medicine for relief.

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Allergy season is upon us, and some are turning to alternative medicine for relief.

      The idea of clearing up your allergies with the prick of a needle might still seem pretty out there to some, but acupuncture has gained popularity over the years as an alternative relief to the pollen induced sniffles, sneezes and itchy eyes that often come with springtime.

      "We learn to diagnose people in terms of how they are out of balance," said Alison Beard, MAcOM, Dipl. OM, a certified acupuncturist at Palmetto Acupuncture Clinic.

      To alleviate the patient's allergies, Beard inserts thin needles into energy pathways, or meridians, linked to the sinuses.

      "These channels, or meridians we call them, are like rivers, and when the rivers get dammed up, then the energy in the body, the function, or the chi, isn't working well," said Beard. "And so what we do with the needles is we unblock those areas."

      A recent study found those who used acupuncture for allergy relief showed the greatest symptom relief compared to those who did not. But people who received a fake acupuncture treatment -- needles placed at random areas of the body -- also saw some relief.

      "It's bringing blood cells to the area," said Beard. "It's bringing vital oxygen and nutrients to an area, and when that happens, then the body's able to heal itself."

      Scientific evidence proving acupuncture's effectiveness is still limited, but health care institutions like the Mayo Clinic have begun integrating it into their medical treatments.

      "I think it's people actually experiencing it and experiencing the results that's gonna make it even more well-known," said Beard.