Natural Treatments for Asthma
By Dr. Mao Shing Ni
Asthma is a chronic lung disorder in which the walls of the airways become inflamed, often as a result of exposure to environmental triggers. The immune response causes swelling of the bronchial tubes and production of excessive mucus from the bronchial walls, causing the tubes to narrow and blocking the passage of air. Symptoms range from mild wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and cough to potentially life-threatening conditions in which the prolonged constriction of the airways reduces oxygen supply to the body.
An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from asthma and every day 5,000 patients visit the emergency room as a result. It is the most common chronic condition among children, affecting more than one in twenty children. Allergies, chronic respiratory infections, and immune hypersensitivity are the most common causes of asthma.
Chinese medicine has been used for asthma for thousands of years. The World Health Organization includes respiratory system diseases such as asthma and bronchitis on its list of the forty diseases that can benefit from acupuncture. There have been many studies demonstrating how successful acupuncture and Chinese herbs are in the treatment of asthma. In 1993, for example, the Department of Anesthesia and Intensive Care at the University Hospital of Vienna, Austria, conducted a study that showed that after ten weeks of acupuncture treatments, over 70 percent of longstanding asthma patients achieved significant improvement.
I have worked in conjunction with many pulmonary specialists on asthma patients. My treatment plan works to balance the immune system, reduce allergic reactions, eliminate excess mucus, and increase lung capacity. I incorporate Chinese herbs, acupuncture, and specialized qi gong exercises to achieve these results. Below are some of my recommendations. It is important to have regular medical checkups and to be aware of asthma triggers to prevent potentially life-threatening attacks. Do not stop your asthma medications unless supervised by your physician.
Related conditions: Allergies, Bronchitis
• A diet rich in complex carbohydrates, low in fat, and moderate in protein is recommended.
- During remission it is important to nourish the lungs by incorporating into your diet more green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, carrots, green and yellow bell peppers, yams, pumpkin, winter melon, squash, figs, daikon radish, mustard greens,
- Favor sesame seeds, walnuts, almonds, apricot kernels (eaten raw like nuts), basil, tangerines, litchi fruit, loquats, and honey.
- Studies show that eating apples regularly can protect against asthma.
- Water: drink plenty of warm or room temperature water.
- Being overweight or obese can be a contributing factor in developing asthma.
- Reduce or eliminate foods containing arachidonic acids, found in shellfish, meats, and egg yolks, which can trigger asthma.
- Avoid foods that produce mucus, including dairy products (especially ice cream), wheat, corn, cold and raw foods, watermelon, bananas, salty foods, and soda and other sweet foods containing simple processed sugars.
HOME REMEDIES FOR ASTHMA
- Epsom salts for asthma: take hot baths with Epsom salts daily, and take alternating hot and cold showers. Start slowly and gradually increase the change in temperature over time.
- Mustard chest compress for asthma: make a hot mustard chest compress by warming up 1 tablespoon prepared mustard. Apply to your entire chest, then cover with a hot towel for 15 minutes. Repeat 2 to 3 times a day when there is a flare-up.
- Honey-vinegar water for asthma: drink 3 cups of honey-vinegar water daily: Combine 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon raw comb honey with 1 cup of hot water.
- Garlic tea for asthma: make a tea by boiling 1 clove of fresh garlic in 3 1/2 cups water for 10 minutes. Strain, and drink 3 cups daily.
DAILY VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS FOR ASTHMA
- Both EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid; 1000 milligrams) from fish oil and GLA (gamma-linolenic acid; 400 milligrams) from borage or evening primrose oil help to reduce arachidonic acid in the body.
- Supplementing with Vitamin C (1,000 milligrams) can help counter inflammation.
- Quercetin (200 milligrams) acts similarly to many asthma medications, inhibiting the inflammatory response.
- Vitamin B complex, including B6 and B12, has been shown to act like an antihistamine and to ease childhood asthma.
HERBAL THERAPY FOR ASTHMA
Herbs can be found in health food or vitamin stores, online, and at the offices of Chinese medicine practitioners. Herbs should be used according to individual needs; consult with a licensed practitioner for a customized formulation.
- Mullein, magnolia, and albizzia can be used as decongestants and to treat allergic reactions.
- In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Breathe-Ease herbal formula is used to protect against asthmatic cough, wheezing, and congestion. It contains: Ginkgo seed, Coltsfoot flower, White Mulberry root bark, Pinellia rhizome, Perilla fruit, Apricot seed, Chinese Skullcap root.
- White mustard seeds, perilla seeds, and radish seeds can be used to reduce mucus.
- Other Chinese herbs are known bronchodilators, including ephedra, schizonepetae, white mustard seed, platycodon, and Chinese chive bulbs.
Do not exercise during an asthma attack, as exercising will worsen the situation. Calm and rest are important. Sitting or walking calmly in fresh air can help.
During remission, moderate physical exercise like walking can be integrated. For children and adults alike, swimming can help increase lung capacity. I recommend daily qi gong exercises to strengthen the body, open the lungs, and improve lung capacity. Performing the Eight Treasures Qi Gong movements daily for 30 minutes can improve overall health.
The second movement of the practice, called Great Bird Spreads Its Wings, is targeted to the lungs. Perform this exercise twice daily for best results.
• In a quiet, comfortable environment, preferably outdoors, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, spine erect, tailbone tucked in, and head tilted slightly forward. Let your arms hang by your sides, with your shoulders relaxed.
- Begin to breathe in a rhythmic, slow, and relaxed fashion. Inhale deeply but softly, and imagine the breath extending all the way down to the lower abdomen, about two finger widths below the navel. Exhale gently and softly. Stay in this position for 7 breath cycles, relaxing and calming your mind.
- To begin the exercise, on an inhale, bend down from your waist, letting your hands hang between your legs. Exhale and begin gently swaying your arms back and forth like a pendulum. Your arms should be totally relaxed and making a rhythmic and gentle motion. Sway your arms back and forth 3 times.
- Inhale, raise your torso back to the standing position, and raise your arms to your chest, bringing energy to the chest area. Bend your knees more deeply, putting yourself into a squatting position.
- Exhale, and spread your arms with your palms facing out to both sides, pushing out to the left and right. As you exhale, push your hands out 3 times.
- Repeat the exercise 7 times, then return to the starting standing posture.
- To end the exercise: place your hands on your lower abdomen, palms down, one hand overlapping the other. Rub your lower abdomen 7 times in small, clockwise circles just below the navel.
SELF ACUPRESSURE FOR ASTHMA
- First use the acupressure point near the elbow crease for asthma named Cubit Marsh (LU-5): Bend your right arm at the elbow and locate the point in the elbow crease, on the outer side of the large tendon in the middle of the crease. Apply moderate pressure with your left thumb until you feel soreness. Hold for 2 minutes. Repeat on the left arm.
- Second use the acupressure point on the upper back for asthma named Asthma Relief (Dingchuan) on the upper back- there are two points located one finger-width to either side of the large bony structure at the base of the neck (seventh cervical vertebra). Apply steady pressure with your index fingers until you feel soreness. Hold for 3 minutes.
ASTHMA: WHAT TO AVOID
- Avoid excessive physical activity, and get plenty of rest.
- Avoid alcohol, smoking, and caffeine; these stimulants can worsen the condition.
- Avoid exposure to cold weather, as it can trigger an asthma attack. Bundle up and stay warm.
- Avoid stress, anxiety, and emotional turmoil, as they can trigger asthma, especially in children.
- Ask your physician about certain drugs; allergic reactions can cause asthma. These include aspirin, NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and beta-blockers.
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©2015 Dr. Mao Shing Ni
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