Asthma is a chronic condition of the airways or bronchioles which transport air to and from the lungs.Asthma causes inflammation and narrowing inside the lung which restricts air supply and makes it difficult to breathe. Thankfully, Ayurveda can help in managing asthma with Ayurvedic remedies.
The symptoms of asthma often present in periodic attacks or episodes of tightness in the chest, wheezing, breathlessness, and coughing.
In a person with asthma, the inside walls of the airways, known as bronchial tubes, become swollen or inflamed.This swelling or inflammation makes the airways extremely sensitive to irritations and increases their susceptibility to an allergic reaction.
In an allergic reaction, the airways swell, and the muscles around the airways tighten, making it difficult for air to move in and out of the lungs.
Western medicine can manage the symptoms of asthma and can help someone with asthma lead a full and active life but a complete cure is not available for this condition.
A detailed description and differential diagnosis of a group of disorders involving respiratory distress are mentioned in all three of the major Ayurvedic texts.
These diseases are collectively known asswasa roga(respiratory disorder) which includes the following.
The last variety,tamaka swasa is a form ofswasa roga(respiratory disorder). It roughly corresponds to chronic bronchial asthma in western medicine.
Curing such a condition is possible only if it has recently occurred and the individual is otherwise strong and healthy. In a weak individual, however, only palliative management is advised.
In Ayurveda, it is considered to be the only type of respiratory disorder which can be controlled but not fully cured. The Ayurvedic scholar Charaka has mentioned that asthma is not easily curable but can be managed.
Tamaka Swasais apranavaha shroto vikar(respiratory tract disorder) characterized by dyspnea, cough, airflow obstruction, and wheezing. Similar characteristics are found in chronic bronchial asthma in conventional medicine.
Ayurveda clearly describes this condition as being multifactorial. It includes environmental and emotional factors as well.
Renowned Ayurvedic scholar Vagbhata has given a clear explanation of the causes and onset of asthma. According to Vaghbata, all cases of asthma involve an aggravation of both Vata and Kapha doshas.
Possible causes of asthma include
Acharya Vagbhata has also mentioned possible causes of asthma like chronic diarrhea, excessive vomiting, poisoning, anemia, fevers, excessive exposure to dust, smoke or strong wind, trauma to the vital organs, and drinking very cold water.1
An aggravatedVata goes in the upward direction in the passages, carries increased Kapha due to various causes, and reaches the head and throat region. This results in the following clinical features as described in the Ayurvedic textAstanga Sangraha.
The condition is further aggravated by changes in weather like the onset of clouds, rain, cold breeze, and easterly winds.
Diet and lifestyle choices that are ‘cold’ in nature also aggravate this condition.
Tamaka swasa is controllable but usually persists lifelong if not properly managed on time. It is curable but only if its onset is recent and affects an otherwise strong and healthy person.2
If further aggravated and left untreated, the Kapha obstructs the movement of Vata in the chest area.
Due to this obstruction, Vata spills out of its normal channels (srotas) and spreads in all directions, carrying the vitiated Kapha dosha.
As a result, the three major channels in the chest area become blocked and, to a greater or lesser degree, become dysfunctional. These channels arePrana Vaha Srota (governs respiration),Anna Vaha Srota (governs digestion of food), andUdaka Vaha Srota(governs water distribution).
At this point, the disease no longer stays in its incipient stage and asthma ortamaka swasa manifests.
Ayurvedic classification ofTamaka Swasa
Recommended Dietary Changes For Managing Asthma
Ayurvedic Home Remedies For Asthma
Asthma orswasa rogais highly variable in its course. Therefore, managing asthma with Ayurvedic remedies also needs a very individualized approach, depending on its possible causes. The two primary lines of treatment in Ayurvedic medicine are the following.
The general Ayurvedic approach and remedies for treatingswasa rogaor asthma are to first gain control of the disease as quickly possible with strong Vata and Kapha purification measures followed by appropriate herbal therapies. Ayurveda aims to treat the root causes of asthma as well.
The patient also has to undergo oleation(snehan) and fomentation(swedan) before undergoing purgation(virechan) or therapeutic vomiting(vaman).
Afterpanchakarma (Purificatory Procedure), various herbs are used to normalize the physiology. Here are some of the herbs used. Panchakarma is a very well known remedy for asthma.
Tylophora asthmatica or Tylophora indica (Anantamool)is an Ayurvedic medicine that is believed to treat respiratory disorders associated with mucus accumulation.
The leaves ofAnantmulor Indian sarsaparilla are used in remedies for managing asthma, bronchitis, common cold, dysentery, and rheumatism.
It is believed to possess cathartic, diaphoretic, emetic, and expectorant effects. This indigenous plant is recognized as a bronchodilator.
Read More: Anantmool Benefits, Uses, Side Effects (Indian Sarsaparilla)
Scientific Research on Anantamool
Dhananjayan and his co-workers (1975) conducted an extensive study on the pharmacological effects of the plant.3
They observed that the plant extracts produced muscle relaxant effect, antagonism of smooth muscle stimulants and immunosuppressive effects in different species of laboratory animals.
In another study, pre-treatment with the plant extracts prevented bronchospasm induced by Freund’s adjuvant and bovine albumin in rats. In recent years, the leaves have been used in the treatment of bronchial asthma.
The anti-asthmatic activity of the plant is attributed to the presence of phenanthroindolizidine alkaloids. An alkaloid mixture (0.17%) has been isolated from the aerial parts of the plant.
Tylophorine, the major alkaloid, has been studied extensively. The presence of tylophorine in the roots of the plant was first described in 1891.Subsequently, two crystalline alkaloids tylophorine and tylophorinidine were isolated.
Anantmool extracts produced muscle relaxant effect, antagonism of smooth muscle stimulants and immunosuppressive effects
Several studies confirmed the value of Tylophora asthmatica in the treatment of bronchial asthma and allergic rhinitis. Through a unique combination of anti-inflammatory action and immunosuppressive effects.
Tylophora asthmatica extracts mitigate the inflammatory as well as allergenic symptoms of asthma, providing prolonged relief to the sufferers and helping them manage the symptoms.
The plant has been reported to be beneficial in preventing asthma attacks, rather than in controlling acute attacks.The effect of Tylophora asthmatica on bronchial tolerance to inhalation challenges with specific allergens has also been investigated.
The scientific confirmation of its efficacy was obtained from both open and double-blind, cross-over trials.One group of researchers reported that the administration of one raw leaf daily for six days or 40 mg of alcoholic extract daily, for six days, gave the patient with bronchial asthma relief which lasted for several weeks.
A subsequent double-blind study using powder of the dried leaf of Tylophora asthmatica revealed significant effects only in patients with the perennial type of asthma.3
Albizzia lebbeck, orshirisha, is an indigenous tree used for bronchial asthma and bronchitis in Ayurvedic medicine. It contains saponins. Tripathi et al. studied asthmatic patients who were treated with this plant and showed reduced histamine levels and elevated cortisol levels. This herb may treat asthma attacks caused by allergies.
Treated guinea pigs also were protected from histamine-induced bronchospasm. As a consequence, Tripathi further explored the effects of histamine and Albizzia.4
In a 1979 controlled study, 18 guinea pigs were treated with distilled water, histamine, or histamine plus alcoholic extract of Albizia lebbeck bark.
Albizzia counteracts the effects of histamines.
Plasma cortisol, catecholamine, and histaminase levels were measured and lungs and adrenals were examined.Histaminase levels were high in both groups but were highest in histamine treated groups.
The cortisol levels were high in the histamine group and highest in the Albizia group. Catecholamine levels were highest in the histamine group, indicating stress.
Histologically, the adrenals in the Albizzia treated group had larger cells and nuclei with many microvacuoles, indicating hyperactivity.
Also, lung tissue in the Albizzia treated group appeared normal as compared to bronchospasm and luminal obstruction in the histamine group. Tripathi concluded that Albizzia counteracts the effects of histamine either by possibly neutralizing histamine directly or by causing increased cortisol production.
Adhatoda vasica (vasaka or Malabar Nut) is widely used in India for cough, bronchitis, bronchial asthma, glandular tumors, consumption, diarrhea, dysentery, cough, fever, jaundice, and tuberculosis.
Its leaves and roots were prescribed by Ayurvedic practitioners as a mucolytic, antitussive, antispasmodic, and expectorant.In other cultures, the fruit is used for bronchitis and the root is used for asthma, bilious nausea, bronchitis, fever, gonorrhea, and sore eyes.
The essential oil is claimed to have expectorant, antitubercular, and antihelmintic effects. Active chemicals are considered to be alkaloids, vasicine, vasicinone, and vasicinol.
Read More: Vasaka – An Ayurvedic Herb For Asthma
Adhatoda has been used in traditional medicine to manage respiratory disorders like Asthma. Both vasicine and vasicinone the primary alkaloid constituents of Adhatoda are well established as therapeutical respiratory agents (Dorsch and Wagner, 1991).
Extracts of Adhatoda‟s leaves and roots are useful in treating bronchitis, and other lung and bronchiole disorders, as well as common coughs and colds. A decoction of the leaves of Adhatoda has a soothing effect on irritation in the throat and acts as an expectorant to loosen phlegm in the respiratory passages.
To evaluate the antitussive activities of Adhatoda extract in anesthetized guinea pigs and rabbits and in unanesthetized guinea pigs showed the plant to have a good antitussive activity (Dhuley, 1999). Recent investigations using vasicine showed bronchodilatory activity both in vitro and in vivo (Lahiri and Pradhan 1964).5
Please consult your Ayurvedic practitioner before trying the Asthma remedies mentioned in this article.
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