Allergic rhinitis is a common health problem usually treated with drug therapy. Some patients experience side effects of drug therapy while others fear the use of drugs. Acupuncture is an interesting alternative to traditional treatment. The few studies evaluating acupuncture indicate a possible clinical effect on allergic rhinitis. This study compared active versus sham acupuncture in 40 consecutive patients with a history of allergic rhinitis and a positive skin test. Patients were randomized and assessed prior to treatment and then reassessed after 12 months. Improvements in symptoms using visual analogue scales, reduction in skin test reactions and levels of specific immunoglobin E (IgE) were used to compare the effect of treatment. For one allergen, mugwort, a greater reduction in levels of specific IgE (p = 0.019, 0.039) and skin test reaction (p = 0.004) was seen in the group receiving active acupuncture compared to the group receiving sham acupuncture. However, this finding might be an artifact. No differences in clinical symptoms were seen between active versus sham acupuncture, thus the conclusion being that the effect of acupuncture on allergic rhinitis should be further evaluated in larger randomized studies.