Ayurvedic Herbal Treatments for Asthma

Ayurveda_AsthmaCharacterized by the inability to breathe, asthma is much more serious than the feeling that you can’t breathe with a stuffy, congested nose. It may start with an itch in the throat and coughing, but can quickly progress to wheezing and chest tightness. Ultimately, contraction of small muscles in the lung, combined with inflammation in the lining of the bronchial tubes, can make it virtually impossible to breathe—even through the mouth—for asthma patients. The constriction and inflammation is caused by factors (e.g., respiratory infections, weather changes, allergens, and irritants) that trigger the immune system to produce inflammatory proteins. For the estimated 300 million people worldwide affected by asthma, there are fortunately a number of synthetic and natural treatment options available.61-62

This scary condition is typically effectively treated with bronchodilator medication that reduces inflammation and relaxes the lung muscles. For more severe cases, however, inhaled anti-inflammatory steroids must also be used, increasing the risk of adverse side effects associated with these drugs.61-62

Some Ayurvedic herbal and plant remedies traditionally used for asthma have been researched according to modern clinical testing standards and appear to offer some promise as natural and safe asthma treatment options:

  • Frankincense (Boswellia serrata). Essential oils from frankincense are used as a warming and clearing aromatherapy scent to balance the vata dosha. In Ayurveda it is considered a kapha-reducing essential oil. Botanically frankincense is similar to guggul (Commiphora mukul)—commonly known as myrrh.15
  • Based on the fact that this plant’s anti-inflammatory properties show promise in clinical studies for arthritis and that other arthritis drugs help asthma patients, frankincense has been studied in asthma patients as well. A 6-week clinical trial involving 80 patients with mild asthma demonstrated that 300 mg of frankincense taken three times a day reduced the frequency of attacks and improved breathing as compared to placebo. This was a double-blind study—meaning that neither the study participants nor the researchers knew which subjects were taking placebo and which were given the herbal treatment until the study was completed. Boswellic acid appears to be the active constituent in frankincense, and it has been shown to indirectly inhibit production of certain inflammatory proteins.61-62

  • Tylophora (Tylophora indica). The leaves and roots of this climbing perennial native to India have been traditionally used to treat a number of respiratory conditions, and tylophora continues to be popular for asthma. However, for the most part clinical studies that showed a positive effect conducted in the 1970s failed to meet modern testing standards, and the one that was better-designed did not show a benefit.29
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