Clinical medicine is based on a foundation of close and careful observation of treatment effectiveness in the clinical setting.

I had the opportunity to treat five patients within the last year for chronic hives. Based on careful observation of their symptoms, I developed a combination of Chinese herbal formulas that are extremely effective in relieving severe itching and treating hives.

In the beginning, the patients were only receiving mild results from my acupuncture and the Chinese herbal formulas. As practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) we hold a belief that chronic skin disorders are often difficult to treat and may can take a long time, up to six months to one year, to see results.

So I wasn’t too discouraged with the early results, well maybe just a bit of frustration.

I adopted many acupuncture prescriptions and modified the herbal formulas to see if I could increase the overall efficacy. Still though, only obtaining mild success at around 25-35% relief for every patient. This was not good enough for my patients or for me.

I kept looking back at the patient files, trying to understand if there was something missing or possibly counteracting the acupuncture and herbal medicine effects.

I commonly look for and to see if there are any elevated or prolonged emotional problems or stress. Most of the hives patients suffered from elevated or prolonged levels of stress and irritability due to family and career circumstances. Acupuncture and herbs often have wonderful, almost miraculous, effects on treating these symptoms. If the hives were a mere result of such problems though, we would have more than likely seen greater results.

I also look to see if there are any chronic digestive problems or irregularities, especially constipation. Along with this, I will ask about the patient’s overall diet. It is my clinical experience to see diet and digestive issues play a large role in generating, not only skin problems, but also a vast array of common symptoms including headaches, sinus and allergy problems, sleep issues, gynecological disorders, fatigue, etc. Most digestive problems, too, respond quite well to acupuncture and herbal treatments. I was concerned a bit with a few of the patients’ dietary habits, possible food intolerances, consumption of too much junk food and overeating. But at this point in time, I wasn’t truly ready to put all of my efforts in changing one’s overall diet, and only mentioned the possible hindrances and overall benefits of changing some habits.

I was slowly running out of possible causes for the hives until I looked at all the medications and supplements the patients were taking and noticed a pattern. It finally dawned on me that all five patients suffering from chronic hives and severe itching were prescribed Zyrtec by their general practitioner. Could the drug of choice for severe itching and hives be the culprit?

I did some research into the side-effects of Zyrtec and what is very interesting is one of the possible side-effects is “skin rashes and itching!” All of my patients were taking this drug on a daily basis.

It is nothing new that pharmaceuticals commonly have side-effects. But what I have seen clinically and understand is that drugs can play a major role in hindering or blocking the efficacy and success of acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatments.

With this new theory, I convinced one patient after another to cut back on their Zyrtec dosage. Believe me though, it was not easy to ask, or for any of the patients to reduce and stop taking the only thing that would temporarily stop the severe itching. Most patients cut their Zyrtec dosage and went from twice a day, to once per day, to once every other day and so on, until they were able to stop taking it all together.

My role was to relieve the severity of the itching as the hives temporarily increased while the patient’s dosage of Zyrtec was decreased. This is a quite common situation to see in the clinic when a patient goes through withdrawal, the symptoms significantly increase until the patient’s body is rid of the chemicals and regains normal control and function.

Every patient improved dramatically once the pharmaceutical was controlled and taken out of the equation. Four out of five patients are free from the chronic hives and itchiness and now on maintenance treatments. The one patient, who did not take my advice and continued taking Zyrtec, had only minor relief and eventually discontinued my treatments. This patient is currently being treated by other pharmaceutical measures by their MD.

Dr. Brian Grosam