Bronchial asthma is a common disease affecting 10-20 per cent
of the population. In the vast majority of cases, the disease is mild and
often unrecognised. There is evidence that the prevalence of asthma is
increasing. In spite of better understanding of the pathophysiological
processes involved in this disease, mortality from asthma has not been
influenced, and in our country, it has been increased!
Asthma means twitchy airways! These narrowed airways may
lead to coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath,
symptoms often being worse at night.
Invasion of allergens into our daily life is the prime
cause for it. Increasing industrialisation and spreading urbanisation are
the provoking factors for it. Surprisingly, in a majority of the cases,
allopathic drugs such as beta-antagonists, aspirin and non-steroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs often cause acute attacks of asthma. It is often
aggravated by non-specific factors such as cold air, tobacco smoke, dust and
acrid fumes, respiratory viral infection and emotional stress.
Asthma is a clinical condition characterised by attacks of
wheezing, breathlessness and cough due to the narrowing of the air passage
within the lungs. There are two types of asthma—extrinsic and intrinsic.
Extrinsic asthma occurs in the younger age group. Patients
are usually sensitive to pollen, house mice, feathers, food, fur, and drugs
and have a family history of similar sensitivities. Exposure to the
precipitating factor causes an inflammatory allergic reaction in the mucous
membrane. This type of asthma tends to be sporadic. Intrinsic asthma tends
to occur in older patients. It is a chronic condition. It has no apparent
allergic cause or family history. This type of asthma is precipitated by
bronchial infections, chronic bronchitis, strenuous exercise, stress or
Throughout the world, bronchial asthma is on the rise. Out
of sheer desperation, sufferers readily fall for any wonder cure.
Consequently, hundreds of traditional healers make tall claims of having
found a permanent cure for asthma. Most of these healers are quacks.
Bronchial asthma is a complex disorder, which needs to be treated by a
qualified medical doctor. Instead of searching for symptomatic relief or a
magical cure, it is always better to concentrate on predisposing conditions
and causative factors. If you identify them, then you can avoid frequent
Bronchial asthma is known as tamaka svassa in Ayurveda.
This medical science emphasises on gastro-intestinal factors apart from the
respiratory afflictions to be the cause for bronchial asthma. That is why in
the preliminary stage of the disease or just before its onset, the patient
complains of indigestion, constipation or diarrhoea.
It is mainly a kapha syndrome, though differentiation of
humoural types also exists. In other words, bronchial asthma can be from any
of the three humours—vaata, pitta or kapha. Most often, the disease is kapha
Vaata type asthma, is characterised by dry cough and
wheezing. Additional symptoms are thirst, dry mouth, dry skin, constipation,
anxiety and craving for warm drinks. Attacks occur predominantly at vaata
time—dawn and dusk.
Pitta type asthma is characterised by cough and wheezing
with yellow phlegm. Other symptoms are fever, sweating, irritability and
need for cool air. Attacks are at pitta time—noon and midnight.
Kapha type asthma is characterised by cough and wheezing
with abundant clear or white phlegm. The lungs are often congested producing
a whistling sound.
Attacks are at kapha time—morning and evening.
Guidelines & ayurvedic remedies
The treatment of asthma consists in the employment of
remedies to allay the paroxysms, and in the adoption of measures likely to
prevent the recurrence.
According to Ayurveda, the asthma of recent origin can be
treated effectively but if it becomes chronic, it can only be managed. It is
not the drug alone that can give relief from asthma but regulation of diet
and the change of conceptual thinking can also play a great role. Along with
proper medication and control over eating and living, asthmatics can get
better and quick results.
|During an acute attack, a hot chest and shoulder pack,
repeatedly given every half an hour, will have a sedative effect upon the
nerves and a relaxing influence generally, giving the quickest and most
satisfactory relief. |
|Hot milk or hot water when sipped little by little,
provides immediate relief from the attack. The inhalation of steam-laden
air may be provided by using an ordinary teakettle, attaching a funnel to
the spout, and inhaling from the upper wide end of the cone. This is very
effective in relieving spasms. In many acute attacks, relief will be found
in a simple hot hand-bath or hot foot-bath (immersing hands or feet up to
the elbows or knees). |
|Concussion to the cervical vertebrae from the fourth to
the seventh for six to eight minutes with half minute interruptions every
minute is excellent to relieve attacks. |
|A creeping plant known as somalataa (Ephedra vulgaris)
is found to be highly efficacious in relieving asthma. This grows in
western Himalayas in abundance and is sent in hundreds of tonnes to
western countries where ephedrine is prepared from it. The powder made
from the whole plant, after drying in the shade and is given in the dosage
of 100 to 250 milligrams, mixed with honey or water at the intervals of 8
to 4 hours. |
|At the time of a full attack, wrapping a hot brick in a
rough cloth and then giving dry fomentation with it to the chest is found
to be useful in asthma. Smearing chandanaadi oil and then giving heat
fomentation is also good. Turmeric paste used as poultice on the chest or
warming the chest with it is very soothing. |
|Only the use of pippalee (Piper longum) powder along
with pure honey, makes an attack of asthma subside. |
|The rhizomes of turmeric are to be baked in hot sand
slightly and made into fine powder. This is to be taken 3 grams twice a
day with sugar. The dose can be increased up to 10 grams in due course.
|During an acute attack of asthma, drink some hot water
with the juice of one clove of garlic. |
|Take the juice of the whole plant of Solanum surattense
(chote kateri)—7 to 14 ml as such, or with Trikatu (equal parts of dried
ginger, long pepper and black pepper)—one gm twice a day. You can even
take Terminalia bellirica powder (baheda)—3 to 6 grams with 4 to 6 grams
honey twice a day. |
|Mustard oil (sarason) is a good remedy. Take a spoonful
with jaggery, twice a day. |
|If you wish to use a compound formulation, then here is
a medicine for you. Prepare a decoction by boiling equal parts of root of
Adhatoda vasica (adoosaa), rhizome of turmeric, stem of Tinospora
cordifolia (giloa), and the fruit of Solanum surattense (chote kateri).
Take this decoction internally, 14 to 28 ml. with one gram of powdered
black pepper twice a day. |
|Smoke leaf of Datura stramonium (dhatura). This gives
instant relief but needs medical supervision. |
kartari: This cuts the kapha like scissors, hence the name. About 200
milligrams of this powder is to be wrapped in a betel leaf and chewed
slowly. As soon as the saliva mixes with the powder and reaches the stomach,
its effect will be clearly felt. Even when the attack subsides, four doses
of it are to be taken for the next 24 hours.
Bhaarangee guda: It is a good remedy for asthma. It also relieves all
types of coughs. A dose of 12 grams is taken together with one boiled fruit
of hareetakee (harad/Termilalia chebula).
Kanakaasava: It is a proven medicine for asthma and allied-complaints
like cough, tuberculosis, bronchiectasis, chronic fevers and haemoptysis.
The principal ingredient in this preparation is kanaka (Datura stramonium),
which has been a reliable drug for asthma. 10-30 ml of this medicine is to
be taken twice a day after meals.
Chyavana praasa and Agastya rasaayana: The main ingredient of the
former medicine is amla, the richest source of vitamin C in nature. A
peculiarity of this fruit is that its vitamin content is not lost by
exposure to heat, as is the case with other drugs and fruits. The latter
preparation is indicated in cases of asthma where the patient is
constipated. However, chyavana praasa is the better remedy. Both the
medicines can be taken in one teaspoonful doses thrice a day, preferably
before food intake. They are slow acting remedies but are surer in the
efficacy. In chronic cases, their effect is evident from the increasing gap
between successive attacks.
Sitopalaadi choorna: This should be taken three or four times a day
in one teaspoonful dose with honey. Since the drug is likely to cause
irritation of the throat, it is better when mixed with honey and taken as a
During Acute Attack
|In severe cases, any of the following medicines can be
tried with the advice of the physician—Swaasakaasa chintaamanee rasa,
Swaasa kuthaara rasa etc. |
|In case a patient has a long history of asthma and
other complications are present, the panchakarma therapy of Ayurveda gives
satisfactory results. |
Diet and other considerations
|Avoid foods that can aggravate asthma. Common foods,
which trigger asthma, are animal foods, milk products, food items which
take more than two hours to digest, mucous producing foods such as curd,
bananas, sugar, sweets, black gram, etc. |
|Drink plenty of liquids, 8 to 10 glasses a day, to keep
secretions loose. |
|Find out what triggers your asthma, and get rid of
things that bother you at home and work. Upper respiratory infections,
either viral or bacterial often trigger an asthmatic attack. Exposure to
smoke, perfumes, paints or other strong chemical odours are common
|Change in weather, exposure to moulds, animal dander,
grass or tree pollen triggers asthmatic attacks. Certain food colourings
and preservatives may trigger asthma. Drugs, such as aspirin,
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors can
precipitate an asthma attack. |
|Make a special effort to keep your bedroom
allergen-free. Sleep with a foam or cotton pillow, not a feather pillow.
|Use a plastic cover over the mattress. If possible,
wash your mattress in hot water every week. |
|Dust your room often, but not with a broomstick. Vacuum
cleaning is the better option. Wear a dust filter mask when you do so.
|Avoid using perfumes. |
|Wear a scarf round your mouth and nose in cold weather.
Doing so will warm the air as you breathe in and will prevent cold air
from reaching sensitive airways. |
|Mild exercise, like swimming, is good for asthmatics.
However, some asthmatics are allergic to chlorine, which rules out
swimming in a public pool. |
|During an asthma attack, sit up straight or bend
forward. Do not lie down. |
|If you have an air conditioner, change its filter
|Make a paste of rock-salt and old ghee or mustard oil.
Rub it on the chest. Alternately, you can massage Saindhavaadi tailam on
the chest. |
|Place a hot towel over the chest. This helps to relax
muscles and restore normal breathing. |
|For an acute asthma attack, try steam inhalation. Add a
few drops of eucalyptus oil in a bowl of hot water. Cover your head and
the bowl with a towel. Be careful that the water is not so hot that the
steam burns your face. |
|You should not suppress natural urges like urination,
thirst and cough. In addition, you must avoid smoking and moving in the
|It may be useful to assess the alignment of your spine.
Often the upper throacic vertebrae are not in alignment with the spine
after an asthmatic attack. This ultimately puts greater pressure on the
lungs and possibly precipitates another attack. Getting a professional
massage, specifically between the shoulder blades with Chandana bala
laakshaadi taila can reduce the frequency of attacks. |
|Yoga benefits asthmatics. The integral yoga approach to
asthma includes correction of distorted posture and faulty breathing
habits, methods for the expectoration of mucous, teaching a system of
general muscle relaxation, techniques for the release of suppressed
emotion and for reducing anxiety. |
|In yoga, the purpose of functional breathing exercise
is to learn to engage both abdominal muscles and the diaphragm in
breathing. The duration of exhalation should double the inhalation.
|During the process of breathing, you must learn to
relax. Asanas such as suryanamaskaara, shashankaasana, pranamaasana,
sarvangaasana, supta vajraasana, ushtraasana, hasta-uttanaasana,
uttita-lolaasana, dwikonaasana, matsyaaasana are helpful. Pranaayaamas
like naadi-shodhana, bhastrika, kapaala-bhaati are beneficial. If you want
to try some higher range of yoga procedures, shat karmas such as
vastradhauti, shankha-prakshaalana, jalaneti are considered therapeutic.
Other yoga related aspects like yoga-nidra, antar-mouna, meditation and
relaxation techniques are useful to remove the source of nervousness.
|The first and foremost thing is to keep the bowels
regular. Constipation should not be allowed to supervene. Exposure to cold
should be avoided. Edibles, which are hard to digest, should also be
avoided. The supper should contain easily digestible and light food. It is
better if the food is taken before sunset. Boiled water should invariably
be taken. If milk increases coughing or phlegm, it may be boiled with,
equal quantity of water and two or three numbers of pippalee (long pepper)
crushed and ground. |
|Curd, buttermilk, bananas, guavas and fried foods are
to be avoided. All sour substances should be banned. Smoking—both active
and passive, should be strictly prohibited. |
|Allergens and other substances liable to provoke
attacks of asthma are to be avoided. For example, pollen may be avoided by
not being exposed to flowering vegetation and closing the bedroom windows.
Mites in house dust may be prevented by cleaning mattresses and blankets
with vacuum cleaners. Animal dander is best avoided if contact with dogs,
cats, horses or other animals is avoided. It will be good if feather
pillows are substituted with cotton pillows. Often, allergens are produced
from certain foods such as fish, eggs, milk, yeast and wheat. These should
be carefully identified and eliminated from diet. Exposure to chemicals is
to be avoided. If it is not possible, it is better to change the
profession. In addition, indiscriminate usage of chemical pain relieving
drugs should be avoided. Physical and mental stress should be avoided.|
As we all are genetically different with
different constitutions and patterns, we respond to treatments in many
different ways. Hence Standard Ayurvedic Treatments are always individually
formulated. This article is intended only for information. It is not a
substitute to the standard medical diagnosis, personalized Ayurvedic
treatment or qualified Ayurvedic physician. For specific treatment, always
consult with a qualified Ayurvedic physician.
Dr. Ch. Murali
Manohar, M.D. (Ayurveda)
Directorate of Women Development,
Main Road (Sarathi Studio Road),
Hyderabad - 500073.,
+91 (040) 23742146; Mobile: 09246575510
a.m. to 1.30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8.30 p.m.
a.m. to 1.30 p.m.