In recent years, Taiwan has seen a resurgence in the use of a traditional treatment called “Sanfujiu” (???) for patients with a wide variety of respiratory problems. The treatment is simple – herbal patches are placed on specified acupoints on the back and left for one day three times throughout the summer – but the results, both anecdotally and scientifically, have attracted increasing attention from patients and practitioners in Taiwan and abroad.
According to Chinese Medical theory, allergies, asthma, and chronic bronchitis are often caused by deficiencies in the yang qi of the lung. Sanfujiu uses herbal patches that supplement yang qi on points corresponding to the lung. Additionally, practitioners traditionally choose to treat on three days in the summer when “environmental yang qi” and the body’s yang qi are both thought to be at their highest. The rationale is that a treatment for supplementing yang qi will be most effective when environmental yang qi and bodily yang qi are at their respective peaks. [i]
Until recently, the efficacy of Sanfujiu had only been corroborated on an anecdotal level, but a growing body[ii] of scientific evidence now confirms that Sanfujiu can be effective in treating allergic rhinitis, asthma, and chronic bronchitis. In particular, a research study conducted by Harvard School of Public Health and a team of Taiwanese collaborators found that:
The acupoint herbal patch (sanfujiu) is a valuable treatment for allergic rhinitis, especially in the symptoms of sneezing, running and itchy nose. The results of the SF-36 indicate a distinct improvement in GH (general health) and VT (vitality) in patients treated with acupoint herbal patches. This study supports the belief that the acupoint herbal patch is an effective treatment for allergic rhinitis and can significantly improve general health, social life, and vitality in quality of life.[iii]
Additionally, informal studies carried out within the China Medical University of Taiwan report 80% efficacy in patients with asthma and seasonal allergies who have received 3 consecutive years of treatment. Such efficacy rates help explain why Sanfujiu has achieved such wide-ranging popularity in Taiwan and receives increasing attention abroad.
A video showing a Sanfujiu treatment (in Chinese): http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=tzaHuFmEjTc#t=64s
[i] Chen-Jei Tai, Chia-Pei Chang, et al. (2007) Efficacy of Sanfujiu to Treat Allergies: Patient Outcomes at 1 Year after Treatment. Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine. 2007 June; 4(2): 241–246. PMC1876606
[ii] See reference section of above article for a long list of related studies.
[iii] Wei-Hung Hsu, et al. (2010) Chinese Medicine Acupoint Herbal Patching for Allergic Rhinitis: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. The American Journal of Chinese Medicine. No.4 661-673. DOI: 10.1142/S0192415X10008135.