Asthma and Ayurveda
By Dr. Sajimon George BAMS. AAA. ATMS
Bronchial Asthma is a common disease affecting around 16 per cent of the global population.
The etiology of asthma is unknown. Varying factors of modernisation such as air pollution and unhealthy food habits have caused an increase in the prevalence of asthma. It is a chronic disorder but it manifests periodically with phases of relapse.
Exposure to triggering factors such as smoke, dust, pollen, perfumes etc leads to an allergic reaction which subsequently results in an attack of asthma. Severe difficulty in breathing, wheezing, gasping, shortness of breath and inability of speech are the symptoms caused by an asthmatic attack. An attack can last for few minutes but a severe attack could become fatal.
Lungs exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide between the air and your blood. Easy functioning is facilitated by lubrication caused by mucous secretion inside the lungs. Moistening of inhaled air and temperature regulation of inhaled air contribute to the production of this mucous. When mucous is secreted in excess it affects the proper functioning of the lungs.
Inflammatory changes along with this excess mucous cause constriction of air pathways. Narrowing of air passages leads to hypoxia which results in the symptoms of an asthmatic attack.
Ayurvedic approach and management of Bronchial Asthma
Ayurveda considers asthma as a disease of gastro-intestinal origin. This is the reason why dyspepsia, indigestion, constipation or diarrhea is experienced in the initial stage of this disease. During later pathological changes, the respiratory system is also affected. Symptoms such as gasping, difficulty in breathing and speech, wheezing and shortness of breath develops.
Asthma is considered as a disease of the Kapha Dosha with strong influence of Pitta. In the later stages of the disease Vata takes over as the predominant dosha.
Ayurvedic treatment of Bronchial Asthma
Ayurvedic treatment for asthma is in two ways. It aims at managing the acute phase and management of chronic asthma patients.
Acute asthmatic patients are given a suitable oil with rock salt on the chest and heat is applied. This application of heat softens and dissolves hardened Kapha. This facilitates easy removal of Kapha by Vamana or medicated vomiting.
In a chronic condition, if the patient is in a relieved phase, suitable ghee or oil may be orally administered after assessing the digestive power. The choice is made by a physician after assessing the patient’s clinical condition.
Mild to moderate sweating or steaming is done with boiling herbs in water. After Swedana, purification procedures are done.
Vamana or medicated vomiting is a useful procedure for Bronchial Asthma. It is a purification procedure for the stomach (Amaashaya), chest (Uras) and upper respiratory tract. It is done by giving suitable herbs mixed in milk or suitable liquids.
Virechana or medicated purgation – Medicines suitable to each patient’s condition will be given for purgation. This helps in cleaning the lower alimentary tract.
Shamana or alleviating medicines – After the above mentioned purification procedures, medicines to improve digestive fire or Agni are given. Along with this, other medicines with Shamana or alleviating properties on bronchial asthma may be given.
Rasayana or rejuvenating treatment – Formulations helping rejuvenation of dhatus are prescribed here. It is continued for longer periods to prevent recurrence of bronchial asthma.
Yoga , Meditation and Exercises for Bronchial Asthma
Postural corrections and teaching of proper breathing techniques enable relief and prevention of further episodes of asthmatic attack. Yoga and meditation help relieve emotional disturbances and anxiety.
Asanas such as Suryanamaskaara, Sarvangaasana and Pranayaamas like bhastrika, kapaala – bhaanti are useful.
Bronchial Asthma Tips
- Chemical food colors and preservatives can trigger an asthmatic attack
- Avoid Dust in room
- Use vacuum cleaning and wear a dust filter mask whenever exposed to dust
- Mild exercise is good
- During an asthma attack, sit up straight or bend forward. Do not lie down
- Natural urges like urination, defecation should not be forcefully blocked. This will aggravate Vata and worsen the condition
- Exposure to cold wind should be avoided
- Supper should be taken before sunset
- Boiled water with dry ginger should be taken whenever thirsty
Ayurvedic Medicinal Herbs useful for Asthma Treatment
Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum), Ginger (Zingiber officinalis), Shirisha (Albezzia lebbeck), Kantakari (Solanum xanthocarpum) , Vaasha (Adhatoda vasica), Bharngi (Clerodandrum serratum) Madhuyashti (Glycerrhiza glabra), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera are useful in Bronchial asthma.