- 1.Asthma affects the small airways (bronchioles) that carry air in and out of the lungs. If you have asthma your airways can become inflamed, swollen and constricted (or narrowed) and excess mucus is produced.
- 2. An asthma 'attack' describes the symptoms of tightness in the chest, a wheezing or whistling noise in the chest, coughing and difficulty breathing that occur when the airways become narrowed, inflamed and blocked by plugs of mucus.
- 3. Asthma is a chronic condition. Although there are times when acute episodes strike asthmatics, most people can say there are long periods during which they have few, if any, symptoms.
- The main symptoms of asthma are:
Shortness of breath
Tight feeling in the chest
Herbal helpers (it is not intended that these plants replace prescribed medication).
Liquorice tincture - liquorice has a long history of use as an anti-inflammatory and helps to inhibit prostaglandin manufacture. Liquorice is also an expectorant - a useful action when treating asthma.
Tylophora asthmatica - the leaves have been used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine for treating asthma and other respiratory disorders. It is thought this is due to its alkaloids which possess anti-histamine and antispasmodic activity. However, a side effect can be nausea and as such this plants is best taken in small quantities or in combination with other herbs as a tincture.
Ginkgo biloba - contains several unique molecules, known as ginkgolides, which inhibit platelet activating factor (PAF). PAF has shown to be a key component in asthma, inflammation and allergies. Ginkgo competes with PAF for binding sites, and thus inhibits the events induced by PAF. Clinical studies used 120mg of pure ginkgolides and was shown to produce improvements in respiratory function.
- Magnesium - In 1912, it was demonstrated that magnesium relaxed bovine bronchial smooth muscles. Later, controlled clinical studeis wtih injectable forms of magnesium revealed beneficial effects in the treatment of patients with asthma. Unfortunately, this promising line of research was dropped when anti-histamines and bronchodilators became available.
- Oral magnesium therapy can raise the bodys stores of magnesium, but it can take up to six weeks. It is an area well worth investigating as dietary magnesium, intake appears to be related to lung function and asthma severity. Recommended dosage is 200-400mg three times per day.
- Asthma has many different causes.
- - Some doctors believe the airways become oversensitive because cells in the lungs are damaged by viruses.
- - Others believe the initial damage is caused by an allergic reaction causing the lungs to over-react to viral infections.
- - One of the most common predisposing factors for asthma are allergies to house dust mites, mould spores, pollen and pets, and sometimes food allergies.
- - Asthma tends to run in families that are prone to allergies, such as eczema, hayfever or allergic rhinitis.
- Environmental factors that increase the risk of developing asthma include:
- - Exposure to allergens during pregnancy (eg from foods in the mother's diet) that sensitise the unborn baby's immune system
- - Infections such as colds during early life
- - Being brought up in a house where there is a pet (especially a cat)
- - Being introduced to certain foods such as cow's milk and eggs at a young age
- - Being born at a time of year when the pollen count is high
- - Being exposed to cigarette smoke in the uterus or early life - babies whose mothers smoke are twice as likely to develop asthma
- - Air pollution