Owing to increased exposure to outdoor pollution and climatic changes, the prevalence of lung diseases and respiratory ailments such as asthma are on the rise. A fast growing number of asthma cases has brought people's attention towards building overall endurance and boosting immunity. However asthma is a chronic lung disease. Managing and controlling asthma symptoms and balancing day to day life with the help of long term drugs such as corticosteroids can be a real challenge.
Identifying and treating the source of the asthma symptoms in an individual is the key to asthma management. Due to this reason, the goodness of Ayurveda and rare natural herbs to cure and manage asthma is garnering significant attention in the east and the west. The benefits and functioning of some Ayurvedic preparations, evidence-based therapies and cleansing programs to manage asthma such as Panchakarma, Shodhana, Shamana are lauds worthy. These therapies focus on a comprehensive diagnosis of the root cause of the problem and an individual's Prakriti (constitution) and aim to eliminate the toxins responsible for causing the asthma symptoms such as excess Kapha. This in turn helps stop the symptoms from recurring.
Being a holistic science of medicine, Ayurveda focuses on the larger goal of treating asthma. Before starting the purification procedures, the body is first prepared and empowered with prescribed methods namely Snehan and Svedana so that it is able to eliminate the toxins effectively and with great ease. Since all such Ayurvedic purification and cleaning programs help alleviate the root cause of the disease, they can be highly effective in managing asthma.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic disease which affects the lungs in a significant and life-threatening manner. It causes your airways to narrow and swell making it hard to breathe. People with asthma may produce extra mucus than usual which results in irritation in the airways and persistent coughing and wheezing in addition to shallow breathing.
Asthma is regarded as one of the leading causes of morbidity and disability impacting 334 million people worldwide. It is a chronic airways disease that can worsen over time and significantly reduce quality of life. According to WHO, Asthma took a toll on an estimated 262 million people in 2019 and caused 461000 deaths. Furthermore, the prevalence of clinical asthma was the highest in five countries. While Australia (21.5%) and Sweden (20.2%) were the most impacted, UK (18.2%), Netherlands (15.3%), and Brazil (13.0%) stood on the 3rd, 4th and 5th number respectively.
If left untreated, asthma can create serious hindrances in day to day life and functioning which can in turn wreak havoc on both physical and mental health of a patient. It may even lead to frightening episodes of asthma attacks which can be life threatening.
While high levels of air pollution is one of the main causes of asthma, environmental allergens such as dust, fumes, smoke, grass pollen, tree pollen, weeds, pet dander, changes in the weather, and perfume can also trigger asthma. Whatever may be the cause, the rapid rise in the number of asthma cases is a matter of grave concern.
Symptoms of Asthma
Asthma impacts different people in different ways. While some people may experience a mild form of asthma such that symptoms may last for two days per week but not daily, some people may experience severe asthma attacks which may be difficult to control.
Below are the most common signs and symptoms of Asthma
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness or pressure
- Chest pain
- Coughing or wheezing which aggravates during a strenuous physical activity or exercise
- Coughing or wheezing which gets triggered during a viral infection such as a cold or the flu
- Coughing or wheezing that causes troubles while sleeping at night
- Respiratory symptoms that do not subside after the use of an inhaler
Common Asthma Triggers
Asthma is driven by inflammation of the airways in your lungs. Over time, it can weaken your lungs and lead to fatigue. Thus patients with asthma may experience severe breathing difficulty than usual in specific situations. Below are a few common triggers of asthma.
- Exercise-induced asthma - Since asthma is a chronic lung condition associated with shortness of breath it may instantaneously get triggered by vigorous or prolonged exercise or strenuous physical activity. In fact exercise is one of the most common triggers of asthma which induces narrowing of airways during or soon after exercise.
- Occupational asthma - Wheezing and coughing sensations may also get triggered when a person unknowingly and accidentally breathes in workplace irritants such as chemical fumes, gases, dust or other substances that their lungs may be sensitive to. Inhaling such substances can cause an instant allergic or immunological response that may lead to irritation in the airways.
- Allergy-induced asthma - For some people, asthma may get triggered by airborne substances, such as tree and grass pollens, mold spores, dust mites, pet dander, and weeds, This kind of asthma is more common during the allergy season when pollen and mold spores are constantly floating in the air.
What causes Asthma according to Ayurveda?
Different people are influenced by Universal elements in a different manner depending on their natural constitution (Prakriti) which is mainly characterized into three doshas - Vata dosha, Pitta dosha and Kapaha dosha. According to Ayurveda, Asthma is caused due to an imbalance in the Kapha and Pitta Dosha. When they move out of balance, they cause symptoms like wheezing, coughing, fever and irritability which are associated with Asthma.
On the other hand, Tamaka Swasa or Bronchial asthma which is a life threatening condition is likely to develop when both Kapha and Vata dosha are predominant. According to Ayurveda, it is also caused due to consumption of dry, cold, heavy foods, irregular intake of food, and residing in areas with increased levels of smoke and dust. Any unfortunate and sudden trauma to the throat, chest and vital organs can also cause asthma.
Types of Asthma according to Ayurveda
Ayurvedic experts have a unique and holistic perspective about asthma. According to them, Asthma is a Swasa Roga (Dyspnoea – difficulty in breathing). In general, there are five types of asthma respiratory disorders or Swasa Roga listed in Ayurveda classics.
Maha Swasa – This type of asthma is associated with prolonged expiration and wheezing sound. People with maha swasa often experience extreme difficulty in breathing and sound like a provoked bull. Also the person makes a loud noise or sound during respiration which could be heard from a distance.
Urdhva Swasa – In this type of asthma, the patient witnesses prolonged forced expiration. The expiration is accompanied by a pause and inspiration is delayed due to obstruction. When a doctor diagnoses the lungs of such a patient, he will typically find white mucosal coating on the upper & Lower respiratory tract. Someone with this kind of asthma may even lose senses, become unconscious and experience tremors in the body due to loss of breath.
Chinna Swasa – A patient with this type of asthma experiences interrupted breathing along with pain. The pain is unbearable and the person feels like his vital organs are being injured. It is very often compared to Cheyne –stoke breathing. This is because people with cheyne stoke also experience similar symptoms such as Chinna Swasa that is gradual deepening of the breath and faster breathing which occurs somewhat at the time of death.
Tamaka Swasa – It is Bronchial Asthma in which the patient experiences chronic inflammation in the airways. It is characterized by recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, and cough when inhaling and exhaling.
Kshudra Swasa – Air contains a majority of dust particles some of which are harmful. Kshudra Swasa is caused due to aspiration of such particles into the trachea which leads to the lungs. This form of asthma is also known as Dyspnoea.
Out of all the above types of asthma, Tamaka Swasa or Kshudra Swasa are more common affecting more than 75% of patients.
Ayurvedic treatments for Asthma
Ayurvedic herbs, medicines and therapies have multiple potential health benefits for asthamatic patients. They work in a natural manner and aid in eliminating toxins and boosting the body’s natural resistance to fight diseases thus helping manage asthma.
In general, the first line of treatment given to Tamaka Swasa patients is ‘Shodhana’. It is basically a purification procedure which helps reduce the toxicity and eliminate waste products from the patient’s body. It mainly helps expel the excess doshas from the body and deep cleanses which helps reduce the chances of recurrent asthma symptoms. This purification procedure should be performed by trained Ayurvedic practitioners only.
In addition to therapies and purification procedures, Ayurvedic preparations and medicines are considered as highly effective in managing asthma symptoms. Some of the most commonly prescribed Ayurveda drugs to balance the doshas and control Asthma symptoms are as below -
- Agastya Rasayana
- Sithopaladi Churna
- Swasa kasa chintamani rasa
- Shringyadi Kwatha
- Swasakuthara rasa
- Vasantha kusumakara rasa
Ayurvedic treatments also encompass a wide range of common herbs. For the treatment of bronchial asthma and allergic asthma, Ayurvedic practitioners recommend and prescribe below common herbs.
- Argemone mexicana
- Piper betel
- Holy basil (tulsi)
- Euphorbia hirta, often referred to as asthma weed
Never attempt to consume Ayurvedic drugs and medicines on your own. Always consult a certified and experienced Ayurvedic practitioner to avoid potentially dangerous herbal or other therapeutic interactions.
(image by Shatayu Ayurveda)
Panchakarma and Asthma
Panchakarma therapies are very effective in eliminating toxins from the body and removing doshas. Panchakarma for asthma helps clear up any obstruction in the respiratory channels and enhance breathing processes, thus making the lifestyle of an asthma patient much easier. The detoxification process takes a person through 5 stages.
- Snehana – During this stage, the patient is provided a Ayurvedic therapeutic massage using medicated oil mixed with mild salt using gentle hand movements on the chest and back. This helps loosen the Grathita Kapha (mucus plug) from the chest and the sanga (obstruction of the airway).
- Swedana – When this Ayurvedic process is implemented on the patient's body, the grathita kapha slowly starts to dissolve and becomes softened. As a result, the original quality of the movement of Vata is restored. It becomes stable and starts to function normally.
- Vaman – This is a critical stage used in the Panchakarma therapy. It helps eliminate or expel the loosened Kapha and clear the congestion in the lungs allowing the person to breathe freely.
- Nasya – During this stage, medicated oil is administered via both the nostrils to reduce the severity of asthma attacks. The patient will need to remain in a lying position for a minute or so, to allow the nasya to penetrate. It is highly beneficial in the prevention of Tamak sawas.
- Dhumrapan – Our body also comprises pathogenic substances in the Linavastha state (not completely purified) which can trigger abnormality of the doshas. Dhumrapan, a herbal smoke inhalation procedure performed after vamana can help eliminate these hidden pathogenic substances in the dosha.
- According to Ayurveda asthma is caused due to imbalanced doshas. Bringing such doshas into the right balance is the key to managing asthma.
- Being a holistic health system, Ayurveda works on the root cause of asthma in a person depending on their Prakriti and the balance of the doshas. Hence ayurvedic treatment for asthma is uniquely tailored to an individual.
- Increased Kapha dosha in the lungs, trachea and bronchi is the prime cause of Asthma. As Ayurvedic treatments and therapies aim to eliminate the excess Kapha from the body and restore the disturbed balance of the doshas, they help manage and control asthma in a natural and sustainable manner.
- A combination of Panchakarma therapies, ‘Shodhana’ and medicines can be highly effective in improving the health of your respiratory system and getting relief from asthma. By removing accumulated doshas, it helps clear the obstructions in the lungs. Ayurvedic treatment for asthma could only be performed under strict supervision of an Ayurvedic Doctor.
- Pollution, dust, pollen allergy and a lot of other factors can trigger asthma and aggravate breathing issues. Although you cannot completely avoid allergens, try to protect yourself as much as possible from these allergens to avoid severe asthma symptoms.
Published research on Ayurvedic treatments for Asthma
- Clinical effect of Virechana and Shamana Chikitsa in Tamaka Shwasa (Bronchial Asthma)
- Dosha phenotype specific Ayurveda intervention ameliorates asthma symptoms through cytokine modulations: Results of whole system clinical trial
- Antioxidant Activity of The Ancient Herb, Holy Basil
- ROLE OF VARIOUS AYURVEDA THERAPIES IN ASTHMA MANAGEMENT
- Asthma Therapy in Ayurveda: An Ancient Scientific Approach
Frequently Asked Questions about Ayurveda for Asthma
Is there a cure for asthma in Ayurveda?
If Asthma is in the initial stage, it is comparatively easier to manage. One can have almost complete control of the symptoms which wouldn't feel any less than a cure. If you have been dealing with Asthma that has gotten worse over time, Ayurvedic treatments may take some time to respond. In general, asthma types namely Maha Swasa, Urdhva Swasa and Chinna Swasa are not curable. However, Tamaka Swasa or Kshudra Swasa are the more commonly observed types of asthma and affect more than 75% of asthma patients. By inculcating a healthy lifestyle and diet and following proper ayurveda treatments, they can be effectively managed and controlled.
Is there any permanent solution for asthma?
To date, there are no clinical trials to support a permanent solution for asthma. However, it is highly manageable and treatable. With proper, timely and individualized treatment, asthma patients can lead a better life and a healthier lifestyle. It is important to note that people with asthma have highly individual triggers and responses, their own causes and risks. The more individualized the treatment plan, the lesser the chances of recurrence, hence an ayurvedic treatment for asthma is found to be beneficial if it is performed under the supervision of an experienced Ayurvedic Doctor.
Is Ashwagandha safe for people with asthma?
Pure Ashwagandha is an absolutely safe ancient medical herb with a range of health benefits. Right from stabilizing blood sugar to reducing inflammation and boosting endurance and stamina to improving immunity and relieving stress and anxiety, Ashwagandha promotes natural healing. This in turn helps fight a number of diseases, including asthma. There are a lot of brands that market Ashwagandha in different forms: pills, powder.. It is very important to check and be knowledgeable about their quality and production process as only high-quality Ashwagandha has the benefits mentioned above.
Who should not take ashwagandha?
While ashwagandha has a host of health benefits and works like a magic in boosting immunity and endurance, it should not be taken by those who are pregnant and breastfeeding. Also, this herb is not suitable for individuals struggling with hyperthyroidism. It may also interact with medications for diabetes, high blood pressure, psychoactive disorders, immunosuppression and sleep disorders and can cause adverse reactions. Always consult a certified ayurvedic expert and let them know about your health conditions before taking ashwagandha.
Does Ashwagandha have side effects?
There is an old proverb: Excess of everything is bad. Similarly, taking large amounts of ashwagandha can lead to side effects such as gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. This may be due to direct irritation to the intestinal mucosa.
It is strictly not recommended to take ashwagandha during pregnancy because it may cause distress for the fetus and premature labor. In addition, people with preexisting health conditions should be careful about the use of this herb. They must talk to their doctor and inform them about their present health conditions before consuming ashwagandha to avoid potential side effects.
**The benefits of Ayurveda vary from person to person and the results may vary immensely based on the quality of the herbs, oil concoctions and medicines. BalanceBoat.com is not responsible or liable for the effectiveness and outcome of the Ayurvedic treatments. The information above is shareable purely for educational purposes; it is not to be considered as a replacement for medical advice. Please always consult a certified specialist/Doctor before you embark upon a treatment.