Acupuncture and Natural Therapies for Asthma

By Amie Brooke, L. Ac, MSOM
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine in Marin
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine in San Francisco

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 and debilitating. There are numerous natural strategies to consider for chronic asthma that can offer effective treatment without side effects.

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 because it 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. Acupoints are used on the corresponding meridians that will balance any energetic or functional disharmonies in the respiratory system. Adjunctive therapies are also very helpful for asthma, such as cupping and gua sha.

The following nutritional supplements and herbal formulas are used to help control asthma:

Supplements

Quercetin - Recognized as one of the superior flavonoids because of its marked antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Quercetin is known for its ability to stabilize mast cells and help control allergies. If the asthma is directly related to allergic reactions, then quercetin is an excellent supplement to try.

Grape Seed extract - A strong antioxidant that is also very good at reducing inflammation and breaking the chronic pattern of allergy-induced asthma.

Cod liver oil - High in essential fatty acids, cod liver oil reduces inflammation, promotes healthy circulation, and is generally strengthening for immunity.

MSM - MSM is an organic sulfur-containing nutrient, a naturally occurring compound in the environment and in the human body. Sulfur is necessary for the structure of every cell in the body. Hormones, enzymes, antibodies, and antioxidants all depend on it. Because the body utilizes and expends it on a daily basis, sulfur must be continually replenished for optimal nutrition and health. MSM has anti-inflammatory properties. It boosts immunity and is helpful for allergies.

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 more support in strengthening immunity and boosting lung function.

Diet

The main strategy for asthma sufferers is to avoid foods that provoke inflammation in the body. At the top of this list is all refined sugars and carbohydrates. Any food that converts into sugar very quickly in the body is going to cause inflammation.  Reducing or eliminating dairy product is also important as they create excess phlegm and mucous in the system and bronchial airways.   Many asthma patients report a marked improvement in their symptoms simply by reducing or removing these foods from their diet.

In Chinese medicine, the lungs share a close relationship with the large intestine. Intestinal toxicity can cause a whole cascade 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 if 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.

If your stress level is high, then I recommend learning how to meditate for 15-30 minutes per day. If you need help with this, please ask me.

Amie Brooke, MSOM is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and holistic nutritional therapist. She can be reached at (415) 322-3134.