Acupuncture and Natural Therapies for Asthma

By Julie Segall Lic. Ac., Dipl. CH

Asthma affects approximately 20 million Americans every year. Conventional treatment options are limited to steroid inhalers and bronchodilators. While these medications are effective in relieving the symptoms of asthma, the side effects of continuous long-term treatment can be severe. There are numerous natural strategies to consider for chronic asthma that can offer effective treatment without the side effects.

Chinese herbs

  • Ginseng and gecko - A Chinese herbal formula (ren shen ge jie san) that clears heat and phlegm from the lungs and strengthens both lung and spleen Qi
  • Ding chuan tang -The most widely used herbal formula for asthma, ding chuan tang can be applied to all kinds of asthma. In particular, if the asthma is exacerbated by the onset of a cold, this formula works well.
  • Jade Windscreen - A Chinese herbal formula (yu ping feng san) that can be combined with one of the above formulas to add another support in strengthening immunity and boosting lung function.

Acupuncture

Practiced for over 2,500 years in various cultures throughout Asia, acupuncture has enjoyed a long history of treating internal medical conditions. Acupuncture can be very effective in the treatment of asthma. Acupuncture helps to reduce inflammation and balance the major organs that are contributing to one’s symptoms. In Chinese medicine, asthma can be caused by a variety of factors including stress, diet, allergies, candida infection and constitutional weakness. All of these factors are related to different internal organs that are causing the lungs to constrict. Acupuncture theory involves combining the patient’s symptoms with pulse and tongue diagnosis to get a clear picture of the body’s inner workings. Acupoints are used on the corresponding meridians that will balance any energetic or functional disharmonies. Adjunctive therapies are also very helpful for asthma, such as cupping and gua sha.

Diet

The main strategy for asthma sufferers is to avoid foods that provoke inflammation in the body. At the top of this list is the whole class of refined sugars and carbohydrates. Any food that converts into sugar very quickly in the body is going to cause inflammation. Many asthma patients report a marked improvement in their symptoms simply by taking this step.

In Chinese medicine, the lungs share a close relationship with the large intestine. Intestinal toxicity can cause a whole slew of internal problems, including asthma and allergies. If there is a history of constipation, then a cleansing approach is useful to detoxify the colon, which will indirectly benefit the lungs. A high fiber diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables is the key. Flax seed, prune, pear, ripe banana, and herbs such as rhubarb root are helpful colon cleansers.

Deep breathing

Anytime the asthma is in remission, I recommend undertaking deep breathing exercises as much as possible. Ujayi breathing in yoga is a very helpful practice for building lung capacity and strength. This is a long, exaggerated breath that is coordinated with each asana (yoga posture). Many of the chest opening asanas are healing for the lungs as well. Pranayama exercises such as the one minute breath and alternate nasal breathing are beneficial, especially is done on a daily basis. The one minute breath involves inhaling as slowly as possible for as long as possible, holding for as long as possible, then exhaling for as long as possible. Try to build up to a full minute of doing this. Alternate nasal breathing involves plugging one nostril, then inhaling deeply through the other, switching sides, then exhaling slowly and fully, inhaling deeply, then switching sides. This can be repeated several times.

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