Asthma is an ancient Greek word meaning ‘panting or short-drawn breath’. It is an allergic condition resulting from the reaction of the body to one or more allergens, and is the most troublesome of respiratory diseases. An asthma patient gets frequent attacks of breathlessness, in between which he may even be completely normal.
Causes and Symptoms of Asthma
Patients suffering from asthma appear to be gasping for breath. Actually, they have more difficulty in breathing out than breathing in, and this is caused by spasms or sudden involuntary muscular contractions of the smaller air passages in the lungs. The effect is to blow the lungs up because the patient cannot drive the air properly out of the lungs before he has to take another breath. Most asthmatics have more difficulty at night or early morning.
Asthma is caused by a variety of factors. It may be due to an allergy caused by weather conditions, food, drugs, perfumes, and other irritants. Allergies to dust are the most common. Foods which generally cause allergic reactions are wheat, eggs, milk, chocolates, beans, fish, and sea foods. The disease may also result from psychological factors. According to some studies, about twenty-five per cent of young asthmatics have a deep-seated emotional insecurity and an intense need for parental love and protection. Heredity also plays an important role.
Natural Remedies on Asthma
Honey: Honey is one of the most common home remedies for asthma. It is said that if a jug of honey is held under the nose of an asthma patient and he inhales the air that comes into contact with it, he starts breathing easier and deeper. The effect lasts for an hour or so. One to two teaspoonfuls of honey provide relief. Honey can also be taken in a cup of milk or water. Honey thins out accumulated mucus and helps its elimination from the respiratory passages. It also tones up the pulmonary lining and thereby prevents the production of mucus in future. Some authorities recommend one-year old honey for asthma and respiratory diseases.
Figs: Among fruits, figs have proved very valuable natural cure for asthma. They give comfort to the patient by draining off the phlegm. Three or four dry figs should be cleaned thoroughly with warm water and soaked overnight. They should be taken first thing in the morning, along with the water in which they were soaked. This treatment may be continued for about two months.
Lemon: Lemon is another fruit found beneficial natural cure in the treatment of asthma. The juice of one lemon, diluted in a glass of water and taken with meals, will bring good results.
Indian Gooseberry: Indian gooseberry (Amla) has also proved valuable in asthma. Five grams of gooseberry mixed with one tablespoon of honey forms an effective medicinal tonic for the treatment of asthama disease. It should be taken every morning. When fresh fruit is not available, dry gooseberry powder can be mixed with honey.
Bitter Gourd Roots: The roots of the bitter gourd plant have been used in folk medicine for asthma since ancient times.
A teaspoon of the root paste, mixed with an equal amount of honey or juice of the tulsi leaves, given once every night for a month, acts as an excellent medicine for this disease.
Drumstick Leaves: A soup prepared from drumstick leaves, and taken once daily has been found beneficial in the treatment of asthma. This soup is prepared by adding a handful of leaves to 180 ml of water and boiling it for five minutes. After being allowed to cool, a little salt, pepper, and lime juice may be added to this soup.
Ginger: A teaspoon of fresh ginger juice, mixed with a cup of fenugreek decoction and honey to taste, acts as an excellent expectorant in cases of asthma. The decoction of fenugreek can be made by mixing one tablespoon of fenugreek seeds in a cupful of water. This remedy should be taken once in the morning and once in the evening.
Garlic: Garlic is another effective home remedy for asthma. Ten garlic cloves, boiled in 30 ml of milk, make an excellent home medicine for the early stages of asthma. This mixture should be taken once daily by the patient. Steaming ginger tea with two minced garlic cloves in it, can also help to keep the problem under control, and should be taken in the morning and evening.
Bishop’s Weed: The herb bishop’s weed (Ajwain) has been found valuable in asthma natural treatment. Half a teaspoon of bishop’s weed should be mixed in a glass of buttermilk and taken twice daily. It is an effective remedy for relieving difficult expectoration caused by dried-up phlegm. A hot poultice of the seeds should be used for dry fomentation to the chest, twice daily. The patient can also inhale steam twice a day from boiling water mixed with ajwain. It will dilate the bronchial passages.
Safflower: Safflower seeds are beneficial in the treatment of bronchial asthma. Half a teaspoon of powder of the dry seeds, mixed with a tablespoon of honey, can be taken once or twice a day in treating this disease. This acts as an expectorant and reduces the spasms by liquefying the tenacious sputum. An infusion of five grams of flowers mixed with one tablespoon of honey, taken once daily, is also useful in this disease.
Linseed: A decoction of linseed is also considered useful in curing congestion in asthma and preventing recurrence of attacks. The decoction is prepared by boiling a teaspoon of linseed powder and a piece of palm candy in two cups of water till the mixture is reduced to half. This decoction taken with a tablespoon of milk once daily will provide relief from chest congestion. Simultaneously, a linseed poultice should be applied externally during the attack, at the lung bases.
Mustard Oil: During the asthma attack, mustard oil, mixed with a little camphor, should be massaged over the back of the chest. This will loosen up phlegm and ease breathing.
Copper: One of the preventive measures to stop attacks of asthma is to drink water which has been kept overnight in a copper vessel. This water, with traces of copper in it, is believed to change one’s constitutional tendency to get respiratory problems.
Dietary Considerations for Asthama
The patient should avoid common dietetic errors. Ideally, his diet should contain a limited quantity of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins which are ‘acid-forming’ foods, and a liberal quantity of alkali-forming foods consisting of fresh fruits, green vegetables, sprouted seeds, and grains (See also : Acidic alkaline balance in diet). The patient should avoid foods which tend to produce phlegm, such as rice, sugar, lentils, and curds. He should also avoid fried and other difficult-to-digest foods, strong tea, coffee, alcoholic beverages, condiments, pickles, sauces, and all refined and processed foods. (See also : Harmful ingredients, additives in food)
The patient should also follow the other laws of nature. Air, sun, and water are great healing agents. Regular fasting once a week, an occasional enema, breathing exercises, fresh air, a dry climate, light exercises, and correct posture go a long way in treating the disease.