Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. The airways are tubes that carry air into and out of the lungs. People who have asthma have inflamed airways. This makes the airways swollen and very sensitive. They tend to react strongly to certain inhaled substances. When the airways react, the muscles around them tighten and narrow the airways, causing less air to flow into the lungs. The swelling worsens, making the airways narrower and cells in the airways make more mucus than normal.
Natural medicine treats asthma as an adrenal disease manifesting in the lungs. Therefore, to treat asthma, the adrenal glands have to be treated in order to get them to support the production of adrenal hormones. The conventional treatment uses suppressive anti-inflammatory steroid drugs. In natural cures, the lungs are treated with pulmonary herbs to soothe and strengthen tissue. Also, a general immune tonic is used to build up long-term immune function. Asthma treatment in the long run also includes anti-inflammatory herbs and food in the diet, since asthma involves inflammation of the bronchi.
Nutrients for Asthma
Essential fatty acids help by promoting the synthesis of helpful prostaglandins instead of inflammatory ones that can cause mucus secretion and bronchial spasms. Flaxseed oil has essential fatty acids. Studies have shown that fish oil can improve pulmonary function in people with asthma and can protect against exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. Fish oil can also reduce airway narrowing and inflammation.
Onions and garlic are excellent anti-allergy herbs. Onions are said to have an anti-inflammatory and anti-asthmatic effect, inhibit the release of histamines, and reduce bronchial obstruction. Onions contain prostaglandins that relax the bronchial passageways.
Capsaicin in chilies could help people with asthma breathe better. The capsaicin first stimulates, and then blocks tiny nerves that can induce coughing, shortness of breath, and other asthma symptoms. When taken over a period of time, it is said to desensitize the nerve endings thereby reducing inflammation.
Vitamin C helps widen the air passages in asthma. A study at Yale University focused on vitamin C’s ability to relieve exercise-induced bronchospasms, in asthmatics. It was found that the severity of the bronchospasms was significantly lessened, in people who took 500 mg of vitamin C before exercise. Red peppers, broccoli, and papayas are rich in vitamin C.
B6 supplementation is said to decrease the frequency and severity of asthma attacks. It was discovered in the 1970s that vitamin B6 or pyridoxine can help many people afflicted with this disease. Chickpeas are rich in vitamin B6, which may help decrease wheezing and asthma symptoms. Some other foods rich in B6 are peas, sweet potato, and sunflower seeds.
Magnesium helps relieve muscle spasms, including those in the smooth muscle of the bronchi. A journal of the American Medical Association study published in 1989, showed significant improvement in subjects treated with magnesium. There is said to be considerable evidence that asthmatics are magnesium deficient. Spinach, pumpkin seeds, and almonds are great sources of magnesium.
Creating a healthy environment
One should take care to remove asthma offenders from the house. Dust, mold, cat and dog dander, and certain plants can all irritate sensitive airways making one sick. Fabric softeners in the laundry, have been said to have triggered new attacks of asthma. Because of hypersensitive air passages, asthma sufferers react badly to sulfate and other pollutants in the atmosphere. Artificial food colouring agents like tartrazine also trigger asthma attacks. Monosodium glutamate can also provoke an attack. Hence natural food is recommended.
Herbs for asthma
In the book ‘Role of nutraceuticals in respiratory and allied diseases‘ it is said that “Adhatoda vasica has an anti-inflammatory action on the respiratory tract and is effective in respiratory tract infection. The alkaloids vasicinone and vasicine have potent bronchodilator and antiallergic activity. Owing to these activities, Adhatoda vasica is effective in acute asthma conditions and has been proven for its antitussive activity as effective as codeine in irritant aerosols and citric acid-induced cough models.” This herb is widely used in Ayurveda and Unani practice for diverse respiratory ailments. This herb as a whole is useful in treating cold and cough, asthma, and chronic bronchitis. In acute stages of bronchitis, it gives unfailing relief, especially where the sputum is thick and sticky, it liquefies sputum so that it can come up more easily.
Prepare a decoction of around 5 g of the leaves by boiling them in a cup of water for 5 minutes. Add honey to taste and drink this daily to prevent respiratory infections.
Fig is one of the best remedies to treat asthma. It helps to get rid of the phlegm. Soak 2-3 dried figs overnight in water, Eat it first thing in the morning, along with the water. Figs help in alleviating respiratory problems. It helps in draining phlegm thereby soothing the symptoms of asthma.
Mullein leaf (Verbascum thaspus)
Mullein is said to be very good for asthma. The proponents of mullein consider it a powerful bronchial congestion remedy, and some asthma sufferers, have felt the immediate benefits. Mullein oil taken in teas and fruit juices has been effective in relieving asthma attacks in some asthma sufferers. (apparently, it works for most people, but does not work for some). To Make Mullein Infusion, put an ounce of dried mullein in a container and pour boiling water over it. Let it steep for 4 hours or overnight. Strain it with a fine cloth so that the hairs of the herb don’t annoy you. This infusion can be mixed with milk in an equal ratio and heated. Mix with honey and have.
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Licorice roots have been known to be effective in soothing swollen airways and act as an anti-inflammatory. It also effectively inhibits histamine release. Licorice roots ease congestion and coughing, helping to loosen and thin mucus and airways. It helps in the relaxation of bronchial spasms and helps to soothe the soreness in the throat. It is also an effective anti-allergenic. The licorice root can also be made into tea.
Home remedies for asthma
- Honey is said to thin out accumulated mucus and helps in its elimination from the respiratory passages. It also tones up the pulmonary parenchyma and thereby prevents the production of mucus in the future.
- To cure of early stage of asthma, garlic cloves boiled in milk should be taken
- Turmeric is regarded in Ayurveda as an effective remedy for bronchial asthma. A tsp of turmeric powder mixed in a glass of milk taken 2-3 times a day on an empty stomach is very effective.
- Steam inhalation with caraway seeds in hot water also helps to dilate the bronchial passage.
- Herbal tea made with fennel is soothing for a persistent cough with difficult expectoration. It breaks up thick tenacious mucus.
- Boil 1/2 tsp of grated ginger and 2-3 crushed cloves of garlic in a cupful of boiled milk. Strain and have it twice a day. This helps in aborting an attack in the early stages.
- Indian gooseberry is rich in vitamin C and when taken along with honey is beneficial as honey liquefies the dried secretions. 1/2 tsp of gooseberry powder with a tsp of honey should be taken with warm water every morning.
Warm mustard oil massage:
Rub warm mustard oil which has been infused with camphor all over your chest and upper back. Mustard oil generates heat and this provides quick relief from the symptoms. Warm a little mustard oil and add camphor to it. Once the camphor melts, let it cool. Store this oil and use it when required. Warm it when using.
Eucalyptus oil inhalation
Eucalyptus oil has decongestant properties. Eucalyptol helps to break up the mucus. you can either put a few drops of eucalyptus oil on a piece of cloth and inhale it throughout the day or use it in a steamer. This can help people with breathing difficulties like asthma or bronchitis, instantly. Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a steamer or in a cup of boiling water and breathe in the vapour slowly.
Alternative asthma treatments include breathing techniques like pranayam, which is said to reduce the amount of medication needed to keep asthma in control. Acupuncture is also said to help. Relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation help by reducing stress and tension, which leads to asthma.