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Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture for Asthma

Traditional Chinese doctors have employed herbal medicine and acupuncture for asthma treatment for centuries.  The theory and practice of asthma treatment differs from Western medicine.

Modern medical theory describes asthma as a predisposition to chronic pulmonary inflammation which involves intermittent, reversible constriction of the airways (bronchi).

Asthmatic attacks involve constriction of the smooth muscle cells in the bronchi, inflammation and swelling of the bronchi, and difficult breathing. The person experiences this as a tight chest.  Airborne or food allergies often underlie this condition.

According to Chinese medical theory, this condition has two possible primary causes, both of which could occur in a single individual: 1) pulmonary inflammation, or "lung heat," arising from infection or allergy, or 2) a constitutional weakness of adrenal and pulmonary function.

Acupuncture for Asthma

Modern research on acupuncture treatment of this condition has produced conflicting results.  However, in my practice I frequently find that people who have asthma breath much easier after an acupuncture treatment.  It appears that the experience of asthma itself causes people to get tense in their chest and diaphragm, which increases the difficulty of breathing.  Acupuncture produces relaxation of the chest and diaphragm, resulting in easier breathing.

Chinese Herbal Medicine for Asthma

Dr. Xiu-Min Li, M.D., of the Department of Pediatrics, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York, published a review of  Traditional Chinese herbal remedies for Asthma and Food Allergy [full text] in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.  He reported "Controlled clinical trials with anti-asthma TCM formulas such as ASHMI [anti-asthma herbal medicine intervention], mMMDT [modified Mai Men Dong Tang, a classic formula), and DCT {Ding Chuan Tang, another classic formula], etc., highlight the potential of TCM formulas to be efficacious and safe alternatives or complements to standard western therapy for asthma. FAHF-2 [Food Allergy Herbal Formula #2], a potential TCM herbal treatment for food allergy, was shown to be remarkably effective against food anaphylaxis in an animal model with the potential to be a long-lasting therapy."

In Efficacy and mechanisms of action of traditional Chinese medicines for treating asthma and allergy Dr. Li reviewed studies on herbal medicine treatment of this condition and found that herbal medicines may act by exerting anti-inflammatory action, inhibiting airway smooth muscle contraction, and modulating immune response.

Food Choices and Asthma

Diets high in common vegetable oils (corn, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, etc.) provide excessive omega-6 linoleic acid which promotes inflammation.  Reduce all fats and oils to a minimum.

Excessive sugar also contributes to inflammation.  I recommend minimizing intake of sugar, corn syrup, honey, agave, and all other sweeteners, including fruit juices.  To satisfy your sweet tooth, eat more whole fruits.

As with other conditions, I recommend composing your diet primarily of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes.  Read my Food Therapy page to learn more.


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