A reversible obstructive lung disorder characterized by increased responsiveness of the airways.

This is a condition in which the small bronchial airways temporarily constrict, so that it is difficult to exhale. This leads to breathlessness and wheezing. Such difficulty is caused by muscle spasm in the bronchi of the lungs. This narrows the space available for air to make its way out of the lungs, and breathing out is always more difficult than breathing in, thus producing the characteristic wheezing sound associated with asthma attacks.

Because the passages are narrowed and air flow reduced, mucus also builds up in the lungs, and this makes it even more difficult to breathe. The mucus is also a breeding-ground for bacteria, so attacks of bronchitis may arise as a complication of the asthma.

Many asthma attacks are triggered by allergens, such as dust, mould spores, mites, animal hair or feathers but the onset may equally be caused by cold air, or it may be preceded by an infection such as a cold. Certainly, stress and more specifically acute anxiety are known to be the immediate trigger for many attacks, and this can sometimes give rise to a vicious circle of asthma – anxiety about the asthma – further attacks. Thus a wide range of etiological factors can be involved in this all too common problem. A number of different groupings can be applied:

  • extrinsic asthma – caused by allergic responses to house dust, animal fur, or various foods. Such causes 10-20% of adult asthma.
  • intrinsic asthma – caused by genetics, structural problems, infections, pollutants and stress – both physiological and psychological. Such causes 30-50% of adult asthma.

The symptoms of people with asthma differ greatly in frequency and degree. Some have an occasional episode that is mild and brief; otherwise they are symptom free. Others have mild coughing and wheezing much of the time, punctuated by severe exacerbation’s of symptoms following exposure to known allergies, viral infections, exercise or nonspecific irritants. A series of stages have been characterized for describing the severity of an acute asthma attack:

  1. Mild – mild dyspnoea; diffuse wheezes; adequate air exchange.
  2. Moderate – respiratory distress at rest; hypernea, use of accessory muscles; marked wheezes.
  3. Severe – marked respiratory distress; cyanosis; use of accessory muscles; marked wheezes or absent breath sounds.
  4. Respiratory failure – Severe respiratory distress; lethargy; confusion; prominent pulsus paradoxus. Use of accessory muscles.

Phytotherapy has much to offer in the treatment, control and even cure of asthmatic problems, but will not replace emergency allopathic support stages 3 and 4. Another useful context within which asthma can be seen is that of age of onset of symptoms.

Childhood-onset asthma

This is closely linked with the presence of eczema, hay fever, urticaria and migraine in the patient or in close relatives. People with this kind of family history are called a topic. If both parents have a history of atopythen the chances of the child being affected is 50%; if one parent is affected, the chance is 30%; and if neither parent is affected, the chance is approximately 12%. Childhood asthma may very often be preceded for several months or even years by episodic coughing which later develops into wheezy bronchitis and then eventually into asthma. Such children often have a history of slow recovery from upper respiratory tract viral infections as well as a personal or family history of atopy. Treatment for a topic asthma is described below

Adult-onset asthma

Adult-onset asthma is more common in women than men. There are two broad types. In the first there are no obvious reasons for the asthmatic attacks. In the second, there are fairly obvious trigger factors that precipitate attacks. The sufferer should avoid such triggers but, even so, new allergens will continue to be detected, to be added to the list of external or environmental causes of the condition. Common triggers include:

  • Inhaled allergens – Commonly inhaled allergens include the house-dust mite; animal dander’s; pollens, particularly grass; mould spores.
  • Irritant gases – including cigarette smoke.
  • Ingested allergens – foods; drugs, e.g. aspirin, colored medicines(pills, capsules and syrups); food additives; yeast and moulds on food.
  • Infecting organisms – either due to the infection itself or an allergy to the organism.
  • Temperature changes – especially cold air.
  • Changes in the weather.
  • Exercise.
  • Emotional stress – e.g. bereavement.
  • Hormonal changes.
  • Certain chemicals in the workplace.

Actions indicated for the processes behind this disease :
Pulmonary tonics are important in long term strengthening of the lungs, but will do little in short term relief of an attack.

Expectorant remedies will be essential to ensure that there is the minimum of build up of sputum in the lungs. However, stimulant expectorants would potentially aggravate the breathing difficulties. Thus only use relaxing expectorants.

Demulcents will be soothing and support the relaxing expectorants.

Anti-spasmodic plants will ease the spasm response in the muscles of the lungs.

Anti-microbial support is called for if there is potential for secondary infection, which is too be guarded against at all costs.

Anti-catarrhals aid the body in dealing with overproduction of sputum in lungs or sinuses.

Cardio-Tonic herbs will support the heart in the face of lung congestion or strain.

Nervine support is always appropriate either because stress is a trigger or because the asthma becomes a source of stress & concern which then in turn triggers attacks.

System Support :

Tonic support of the systems most effected by asthma is often the key to successful treatments. Of primary importance is, of course, the respiratory system. In addition to this consideration must also be given to the cardio-vascular, nervous, and digestive systems. The digestive system comes into play because of any dietary sensitivities, which often have an impact on the histological structure of the alimentary canal.

Specific Remedies :

Ephedra sinica (Ma Huang) and some other species of orientalEphedra prove exceptional useful as bronchodilators. Original source of the alkaloid l-ephedrine. The synthetic ephedrine is racemic, optically inactive because it has equal parts of dextro- & levorotatory forms. The natural form has advantages as it is better tolerated, causing fewer heart symptoms Ephedrine stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, relieving the bronchial spasm that underlies the asthmatic state, as well other conditions that have a broncho spasm component such as emphysema. Allergic reactions respond well to Ephedra because of its action on the sympathetic nerves.

Other plants from all around the world have marked anti-spasmodic and bronchodilating effects. Of most importance within western Phytotherapy are:

Ephedra sinica, Grindelia camporum, Euphorbia pilulifera, Drosera rotundifolia, Prunus serotina, Ammi visnaga

One possible prescription : for Asthma (DYSPNOEA MIXTURE)

Grindelia camporum — — — 24 parts tincture

Euphorbia pilulifera — — — 24 parts tincture

Lobelia inflata — — — 12 parts tincture

Prunus serotina — — — 12 parts tincture

Glycyrrhiza glabra — — — 12 parts tincture

Leonurus cardiaca — — — 12 parts tincture

Ephedra sinica — — — 10 parts tincture

Pimpinella anisum — — — 1 parts e.o. — — — 5ml. of mixture taken 3 times a day.

If Euphorbia pilulifera proves difficult to obtain then double the amount of Grindelia to make up for it. This combination supplies the following actions :
Pulmonaries (Lobelia inflata)

(Grindelia camporum, Euphorbia pilulifera, Lobelia inflata, Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Demulcent (
Glycyrrhiza glabra)

(Grindelia camporum, Euphorbiapilulifera, Lobelia inflata, Prunus serotina, Glycyrrhiza glabra, Pimpinella anisum, Ephedra sinica)

(Pimpinella anisum)

Anti-inflammatories (
Glycyrrhiza glabra, Pimpinellaanisum)

(Pimpinella anisum, Ephedrasinica)

Cardio-Tonic (
Leonurus cardiaca)

Nervine (
Lobelia inflata, Leonurus cardiaca)

One possible prescription : for Asthma/eczema (a topic asthma) in children
Dyspnoea mixture — — — 2 parts

Galium aparine — — — 1 part

Trifolium pratense — — — 1 part

Urtica dioica — — — 1 part

equal parts of tincture to 5ml. taken three times a day.

This combination supplies the following actions :

Alterative (Galium aparine, Trifolium pratense, Urticadioica )

Pulmonaries (
Lobelia inflata)

(Grindelia camporum, Euphorbia pilulifera, Lobelia inflata, Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Demulcent (
Glycyrrhiza glabra)

(Grindelia camporum, Euphorbiapilulifera, Lobelia inflata, Prunus serotina, Glycyrrhiza glabra, Pimpinella anisum, Ephedra sinica)

(Pimpinella anisum)

Anti-inflammatories (
Glycyrrhiza glabra, Pimpinellaanisum)

(Pimpinella anisum, Ephedrasinica)

Cardio-Tonic (
Leonurus cardiaca)

Nervine (
Lobelia inflata, Leonurus cardiaca, Trifoliumpratense)

Broader Context of Treatment :

Our lungs are connected to our emotions in an obvious way – think about laughing or crying. If a person with asthma has difficulty in expressing his or her feelings, it is worth exploring why this should be. Bach Flower Remedies can help here. Deep breathing can strengthen our connection to our feelings and will help improve asthma, if practiced regularly. Other regular exercise, such as walking, swimming, yoga, T’ai Chi, and relaxation classes, can also help to deepen and relax your breathing.

Food sensitivities must be identified. It may pay dividends to exclude, for a time, eggs, wheat, even gluten (found in wheat, oats, barley and rye), and dairy products. The early onset of asthma is sometimes triggered off by a child not being breast-fed. Another source of concern is alcohol (wine and beer) and preserved fruit, which often contain sulphur dioxide. Many asthmatics react to as little as five parts of sulfur dioxide per million.

The whole thoracic area – back and chest – should be massaged, with particular emphasis on strokes which open out the chest and shoulders. The choice of essential oils will depend on many factors, such as whether or not there is infection present, whether the asthma is known to be an allergic response, or whether emotional factors are involved. During an actual crisis, inhaling an antispasmodic oil is the only practical herbal help, and direct sniffing from the oil bottle, or some drops put on a tissue, will be safer than a steam inhalation, as the heat of the latter will increase any inflammation of the mucous membranes and make the congestion even worse.

  • Hyssop : Hyssopus officinalis
  • Aniseed : Pimpinella anisum
  • Lavender : Lavandula officinalis
  • Pine : Pinus sylvestris
  • Rosemary : Rosemarinus officinalis

The Textbook of Natural Medicine, by Drs. Pizzorno and Murray recommend the following nutritional supplements.
Vitamin B6 25mg twice a day

Vitamin B12 1, 00 mcg a day

Vitamin C 1-2g a day

Vitamin E 400 international units per day

Selenium 250 mcg a day

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Written by David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH

Explore Wellness in 2021