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Extrinsic and Intrinsic Asthma

Asthma - Symptoms and Signs

Causes / Triggers

Common Asthma Triggers

The Importance of Diet in the Ayurvedic Cure for Asthma

Other Cures for Asthma

Home Remedies

Asthma, pronounced as AZ-ma (from the Greek word panos, meaning panting) is the common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. The coughing often occurs at night or early in the morning.

When a person with asthma comes into contact with an asthma trigger, the muscle around the walls of the airways tightens so that the airway becomes narrower. The lining of the airways becomes inflamed and starts to swell. Often sticky mucus or phlegm is produced. All these reactions cause the airways to become narrower and irritated – leading to the symptoms of asthma.

Bronchial tubes that are chronically inflamed may become overly sensitive to allergens (specific triggers) or irritants (nonspecific triggers). The airways may become "twitchy" and remain in a state of heightened sensitivity. This is called "bronchial hyper-reactivity" (BHR). It is likely that there is a spectrum of bronchial hyper-reactivity in all individuals. However, it is clear that asthmatics and allergic individuals (without apparent asthma) have a greater degree of bronchial hyper-reactivity than non-asthmatic and non-allergic people. In sensitive individuals, the bronchial tubes are more likely to swell and constrict when exposed to triggers such as allergens, tobacco smoke, or exercise. Amongst asthmatics, some may have mild BHR and no symptoms while others may have severe BHR and chronic symptoms.

Asthma affects people differently. Each individual is unique in their degree of reactivity to environmental triggers. This naturally influences the type and dose of medication prescribed, which may vary from one individual to another.

The prevalence of asthma has increased significantly since the 1970s. As of 2010, 300 million people were affected worldwide. In 2009 asthma caused 250,000 deaths globally. In India, of the 25% of population that suffers from allergy, 5% of them are suffering from asthma.

Asthma may also be classified as atopic (extrinsic) or non-atopic (intrinsic).

Extrinsic and Intrinsic Asthma

Extrinsic, or allergic asthma, is more common (90% of all cases) and typically develops in childhood. Approximately 80% of children with asthma also have documented allergies. Typically, there is a family history of allergies. Additionally, other allergic conditions, such as nasal allergies or eczema, are often also present. Allergic asthma often goes into remission in early adulthood. However, in 75% of cases, the asthma reappears later.

Intrinsic asthma represents about 10% of all cases. It usually develops after the age of 30 and is not typically associated with allergies. Women are more frequently involved and many cases seem to follow a respiratory tract infection. The condition can be difficult to treat and symptoms are often chronic and year-round.

Asthma - Symptoms and Signs

The symptoms of asthma vary from person to person and in any individual from time to time. All of the symptoms mentioned below can be present in other respiratory, and sometimes, in heart conditions. The following are the four major recognized asthma symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath, especially with exertion or at night
  • Wheezing is a whistling or hissing sound when breathing out
  • Coughing may be chronic, is usually worse at night and early morning, and may occur after exercise or when exposed to cold, dry air
  • Chest tightness may occur with or without the above symptoms

Sometimes, asthma symptoms are mild and go away on their own or after minimal treatment. At other times, symptoms continue to get worse.

When symptoms get more intense and/or more symptoms occur, you're having an asthma attack. Asthma attacks also are called flare-ups.

It's important to treat symptoms when you first notice them. This will help prevent the symptoms from worsening and causing a severe asthma attack. Severe asthma attacks may require emergency care, and they can be fatal.

Causes / Triggers

Though the exact cause of asthma is not known, researchers think some genetic and environmental factors interact to cause asthma, most often early in life. These factors include:

  • An inherited tendency to develop allergies (Atopy)
  • Parents who have asthma
  • Certain respiratory infections during childhood
  • Contact with some airborne allergens or exposure to some viral infections in infancy or in early childhood when the immune system is developing
If asthma or atopy runs in your family, exposure to irritants (for example, tobacco smoke) may make your airways more reactive to substances in the air.

Not all asthmatics react to the same triggers. Additionally, the effect that each trigger has on the lungs varies from one individual to another. In general, the severity of your asthma depends on how many agents activate your symptoms and how sensitive your lungs are to them. Most of these triggers can also worsen nasal or eye symptoms.

Triggers fall into two categories:

  • Allergens ("specific")
  • Non-allergens - mostly irritants (nonspecific)
Common Asthma Triggers


  • "Seasonal" pollens from trees, grasses, and flowers
  • Year-round dust mites, moulds, animal fur, cockroaches
  • Foods, such as fish, egg, peanuts, nuts, cow's milk
  • Additives, such as sulphites in foods and drinks
  • Work-related agents, such as latex, formaldehyde and epoxides

  • Respiratory infections, such as those caused by viral "colds," bronchitis, and sinusitis
  • Drugs, such as aspirin, other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and non-selective beta blockers (used to treat blood pressure and other heart conditions)
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Outdoor factors, such as air pollution, smog, weather changes, and diesel fumes
  • Indoor factors, such as paint, detergents, deodorants, chemicals, and perfumes and hairsprays
  • GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder)
  • Exercise, especially under cold dry conditions
  • Work-related factors, such as chemicals, dusts, gases, and metals
  • Emotional factors, such as laughing, crying, yelling, and distress
  • Hormonal factors, such as in premenstrual syndrome
The Importance of Diet in the Ayurvedic Cure for Asthma
A proper diet is vital to help combat asthma. Amongst the products you should either avoid totally or certainly restrict in order to do so are foodstuffs that can trigger allergic reactions such as dairy produce, and sugar based food. You should also avoid eating goods that have just come out of a refrigerator. The chill produced can affect and restrict the breathing passageways.

You should also be careful to digest your food properly when eating as Ayurveda believes that poor digestion produces toxins that can trigger an asthmatic attack.

Other Cures for Asthma
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Walking or other regular outdoor physical exercise
  • Regular breathing exercises

Asthma is on the increase as modern life becomes too hectic, therefore it is vital to take some time out and find some personal space to detoxify from the stresses and strains we face. Yoga and/or meditation is the perfect relaxant, so let the calm they radiate wash over you and in doing so your passageways will loosen allowing better breathing that can prevent asthma.

If you find you don’t have the time for this, you should carry out regular, simple breathing exercises for the same effect. Brisk exercise such a taking a long walk is also important, as the stimulus created can clear any blockages that you may have in your chest and lung areas. Easing into physical activity with a warm-up period may be helpful. You also may want to wear a mask or scarf over your mouth when exercising in cold weather.

It is vital that to make the Ayurvedic method work in the prevention and cure of asthma that the sufferer combine the herbal remedies, dietary recommendations and partakes in exercise to benefit fully.

Home Remedies
Grind to powder form - 2 gms each of Nagar (Zingiber officinale) (and Bharangi (Clerondendrum serratum) and mix them in water to prepare a paste which should be taken, with warm lukewarm water, twice daily.

Mix 125gms of Shukti Bhasma, 1gm of Trikuti Choornam and 2gms of Vasa Choornam. Take 3 doses of this mixture at an interval of 6 hours daily, with honey.

Take 10gm of old gur (jaggery) with mustard oil daily

200 mg of Sitopladi Choornam, 150 mg of powder of liquorice, 50 mg of borax powder (purified) may be mixed with 2 tea spoons of honey and taken thrice daily.

Mix 1 teaspoon honey with 1 teaspoon of dalchini (Cinnamon, Cinnamomum zeylanicum) powder and have it before going to bed at night. This will help you in preventing the attack of asthma at night.
Boil carom ajwain (Bishop's Weed, Carum copticum) in water and inhale the steam.

Three Mustard Seeds Remedies: Healing the bronchial system with mustard seeds can be most effective and here are three ways to take advantage of their heat and healing power:

Brown mustard Rub: Rub some brown mustard oil onto your chest to give some relief

Mustard and Pippali Tea: Add ground mustard and pippali (black pepper, Piper longum Linn.) to tea. Steep ¼ teaspoon of each in a cup of hot water for about 10 minutes. You can add 2 teaspoons of honey to taste. Drink this 2 to 3 times a day. For better results, sip it every 15 minutes throughout the day.

Brown Mustard Oil: Mix a teaspoon of brown mustard oil with 1 teaspoon of organic sugar, Take a dose of this mixture twice or three times a day on an empty stomach.

Half Liquorice half Ginger tea: Use ½ teaspoon of the combined herbs of liquorice and ginger in a cup of water.

Cinnamon and Trikatu (Three spices - Ginger, Black Pepper and Long Pepper) tea: Add a teaspoon of cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon of trikatu to a cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes and add honey to taste before drinking. Take this tea twice a day.

Bay leaf and Pippali Mixture: Add ½ teaspoon bay leaf and ¼ teaspoon of Pippali to a teaspoon of honey. Mix well and take this mixture twice or three times a day.

For both immediate relief of asthma and prevention, try: Mix ½ teaspoon of sitopaladi (ingredients- Bambusa arundinacea, Piper longum, Elettaria cardamomum Cinnamomum zeylanicum), ½ teaspoon of punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa), and a pinch of Pippali.

For immediate relief, take the whole mixture, little by little, with honey. For long term use, take it once a day.

Onion and Black Pepper mixture: To relief congestion and alleviate breathlessness, take ¼ cup onion juice with 1 teaspoon honey and 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper.

Spinach tea with Pippali: Drink 1/3 cup of spinach juice with a pinch of Pippali twice day.

Chronic Bronchial Asthma: If you have this condition, try taking this cure:

Stick 7 cloves into a peeled banana, and leave it overnight. Eat the banana and cloves the next morning. Obstinate from food and drink for an hour. Then drink a hot cup of honey water to energise the lungs and reduce any asthmatic wheezing.

Ayurveda remedies can help asthma problems. If you find that some medication no longer help or seem to work for you anymore, or if you have difficulty breathing and other symptoms like swollen feet, chest pains and profuse sweating, and a history of heart problems, seek medical attention at once.

Diet and Other Regimen

The patient is advised to avoid curd, butter, milk, bananas, guavas, and fried foods. Light food should be taken at night and all sour substances should be almost banned. Smoking is contraindicated and consumption of liquor should be reduced to the minimum. Excessive physical exercise and exposure to cold and damp should he avoided.

Ayurvedic Classification of Asthma
Ayurveda states that there are five types of asthma determined by their range in difficulty to treat and three types based on imbalance of:
The air element - dry type asthma,
Fire element - infection type asthma
Water type - congestion type asthma

Who is at risk?

Dry type asthma is usually found in people who are constipated, thin and frail and who have dry and are sensitive to cold climates.

Infection type asthma is usually found in those who are prone to infection in general, have red rashes on the skin or psoriasis and those who are prone to bronchitis.

Congestive type asthma is usually found in those who are heavier in body weight, big boned, prone to colds and sinus congestion or chest congestion and water retention and are sensitive to cold and humid climates.

What can we do to reduce our chances of developing asthma?

To treat dry type asthma increase fluid intake as it will help to increase moisture and oxygen in the body. Keep the head, chest and back covered on cool days and avoid exposure to wind. Massage the body daily with sesame oil to add moisture to the body and try to eat foods that are moist and warm rather than raw, cold and rough dry foods. Avoid dairy products and nuts.

For infection type asthma drink plenty of water and avoid eating after 10:00 PM. Eating late at night causes the accumulation of toxins in the body due to improper digestion. Avoid deep fried foods, exertion in the cold or heat and consume fruits and vegetables more than meat and dairy products. People prone to infection type asthma should consume more turmeric, Echinacea in the form of tea and dandelion to prevent infections and boost the immune system. Mediation and breathing exercises are also helpful for such people as their asthma is usually related to stress and anger.

For congestive type asthma avoid dairy, wheat products, refined sugar and excess sweet, sour and salty foods. Eat bitter, astringent and spicy foods to increase circulation and flow of mucus and to prevent congestion. Massage the chest and back with mustard oil to promote circulation in the chest.

Balm of Gilead is very effective when rubbed on the chest. It can prevent a chest cold from turning into pneumonia and can dilate the bronchial tubes to encourage deeper breathing. Those who are prone to this type of asthma should exercise daily and do some cardio exercise for fifteen minutes per day. They should also avoid eating before 10:00am and after 9:00pm to ensure that they do not suffer from weak digestion which is the prime cause of asthma for them. They should keep the head and torso covered on cool days and avoid walking in the rain. It is important for them to drink hot water or lukewarm water rather than cold water and they should avoid iced beverages, ice cream and other cold foods to prevent mucus from becoming clogged.

In general, all people with asthma or chest problems should perform deep breathing exercises daily and can add a few simple spices to their diets to help keep their chests clear.
Ginger, turmeric, black pepper cumin can be ground together and mixed with honey to create a paste. A teaspoon a day of this mixture is very useful in keeping the chest clear. Applying balm of Gilead, eucalyptus oil, cinnamon oil or clove oil to the chest and back also helps to improve breathing. Note, essential oils should be mixed with a carrier oil like sesame for those with dry or infection type asthma or mustard for those with congestion type asthma.

Below is a breathing technique than can be used to help increase lung capacity and stamina.

Deep Breath

While inhaling, always remember that the body is being filled with air. When something is full it expands. When we exhale we are emptying the body, thus, it will contract or shrink as it is emptied. Remember that unless otherwise mentioned, all breathing is done through the nose.

Sit in a position that is comfortable. The posture should be good. If the spine is not straight, the body cannot fill to its full capacity.
Sit with the hands on the ribs and tummy and inhale. Fill the tummy first and then feel the inhalation filling the rest of the lungs. Continue to breathe until the throat is full and then immediately begin to exhale. Exhale until the body is completely empty.
Repeat this exercise four times.
This breath can be performed anytime during the day to help you relax.

Benefits - It is very good for those who have asthma as it helps to increase lung capacity and awareness of the lungs and the breathing process. It also helps to soothe both body and mind.
Many ailments can be treated with this breathing exercise because it increases the flow of oxygen to all parts of the body.

Ayurvedic Treatment for Bronchial Asthma

Bronchial Asthma is known as Tomaka Shvasa in Ayurveda. It is an allergic condition resulting from the reaction of the body to one or more allergens and is one of the most fatal respiratory diseases. Bronchial asthma is increasing day by day with the increase in level of pollution and the stressful lifestyle followed by people.

Causes of Bronchial Asthma

Bronchial asthma is caused from the afflictions of the stomach and the gastro-intestinal tract. That is why in the preliminary stage of the disease or just before its onset, the patient complains of indigestion, constipation, or diarrhoea. The attack of asthma may come without warning because of the hypersensitivity of the patient to certain substances like pollen, dust, emanations from certain animals like dogs and cats, certain foods to which the person is allergic and, of course, certain bacteria.

Symptoms of Bronchial Asthma

Some of the main symptoms of bronchial asthma may be as follows:

The patient may have difficulty in hearing.
He may feel as a sense of tightness.
There may be some constriction around the chest.
A wheezing noise may be come as the breath is expelled.
The small bronchial tubes which connect with the lungs are compressed due to swelling or accumulation of viscous mucus in the main bronchi, hence there may be difficulty in inspiration and expiration.

The attack of bronchial asthma mainly comes on in the early morning when the patient suddenly wakes up with a feeling of apprehension and alarm. He sits up as the breathing suddenly becomes very difficult while he is lying down. He may rush to open the window to take fresh air in, as it becomes difficult to breathe in a closed room. The attack may last for a few hours or in some cases for few days before it subsides, and, in the early stages of the disease, the patient feels normal after the attack. In case of chronic asthma the patient acquires a typical asthmatic look - a pale face and an emaciated (very thin and malnutritioned) body.

Some Ayurvedic Medicines & Prescriptions for the Treatment of Bronchial Asthma

Well-known preparations for the treatment of bronchial asthma in Ayurveda are Chyawanaprash and Agastya Rasayana. The main ingredient of the Chyawanprash is amla (gooseberry), the richest source of Vitamin C in nature. The peculiarity of this fruit is that its vitamin content is not lost by exposure to heat as is the case with other drugs and fruits. Agastya Rasayana is used in cases of asthma where the patient is constipated; in particularly emaciated sufferers, however, Chyawanaprash is the better remedy. Both the drugs can he taken in one teaspoonful doses thrice a day, preferably before food is ingested. They are slow-acting remedies but are surer in their effectiveness. In chronic cases, their effect is evident from the increasing gap between successive attacks.

Along with the preparations mentioned above, Sitopaladi Choornam should be taken thrice or four times a day in one teaspoonful doses with honey. Since the drug is likely to cause irritation in the throat, it is better to take it with honey.

Home Remedy For Bronchial Asthma

Stop the Wheezing: Liquorice tea can be prepared as soon as you begin to feel an asthmatic attack is coming. Symptoms include tightness in chest, some difficulty in breathing or other symptoms you recognize from experiences. When you have prepared the tea, the effect can last for about 72 hours and does not lose its effectiveness.

You need:
5 – 1- drops of Mahanarayan Tailam or ½ teaspoon plain ghee
1 teaspoon of liquorice root (Yashtimadhu, Glycyrrhiza glabra Linn.)

Boil the root in a cup of water for a few minutes. When you are about to drink the tea, add the ghee or the Mahanarayan Tailam. Sip the tea every 5 to 10 minutes.

In some cases, the tea may induce nausea and vomiting, and this is beneficial for it eliminates kapha from the stomach and relieves the spasm from the lungs and bronchial tubes. The person will feel a lot better after this.

This tea is not limited to emergency only. As a precaution, you can also take it every day if you are prone to develop asthma.

Warning: If you have hypertension, do not use liquorice tea regularly as a drink as it makes the body retain sodium. Use it only during an emergency to avert asthma attack.

Living with Asthma

Asthma is a long-term disease that requires long-term care. Successful asthma treatment requires you to take an active role in your care and follow your asthma action plan. Asthma cannot be cured, but most people with asthma can control it so that they have few and infrequent symptoms and can live active lives.

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