Asthma is a respiratory disorder where attacks of spasm in the bronchi (main airways into the lungs) cause breathing difficulties. Asthma is usually associated with allergic reactions or other forms of acute sensitivity. To some extent asthma can be controlled but not cured by modern drugs because asthma is not just the attacks (also known as crises), it is actually a chronic disturbance of the immune system. Any treatment aimed only at relaxing airways and relieving symptoms will not change the chronic nature of the disease.
Recent research has recognised many factors which may contribute to the causes associated with asthma. Of course it is important to view the problem holistically and traditional herbal medicine also recognizes the role of the following in the development of the disease:
- weak digestion
- poor immunity
- unhealthy mucous membranes
In order to treat asthma more effectively with natural therapies, it is necessary to have an understanding of what causes and sustains it, which is unique for each individual.
Asthma can be classified as extrinsic (allergic asthma) or intrinsic asthma. Patients with extrinsic asthma consist of the majority of cases. This type of asthma is aggravated by common airborne allergens and certain foods, as well as cold air and exercise.
Intrinsic asthmatics have chronic infection and other factors are thought to play a role in the disease process. Intrinsic asthma is usually occurs later in life and is more acute. Aspirin-sensitive asthma (ASA) is one type of intrinsic asthma. Both types of asthma show an increase in family occurrence.
Treatment goals for asthma
- Controlling the allergic response
- Improving and strengthening immunity
- Improving the health of the mucous membranes
- Clearing the airways
- Relaxing bronchial smooth muscle
Some of the key herbs that can be used in formula for asthma are;
Echinacea (immune support), Elecampane, (bronchial anti-spasmodic), Marshmallow (demulcent), Ginger (digestive), Passionflower (sedative), Goldenseal (tonic for mucous membranes).
About the author: Patricia Ferguson is a Consultant Medical Herbalist and the owner of Greenleaves Herbal Healthcare, a Herbal medicine practice in South London, near Croydon. For help and advice with asthma, book a consultation at Greenleaves Herbal Healthcare.