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Herbal Remedies for Asthma

by Karin C. Uphoff, M.S., M.H.

With dietary and lifestyle changes, cleansing, and follow-through to promote success, many people can put their inhalers away altogether!

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Asthma kills thousands of people in the world each year, and the number grows as air quality decreases. Asthma usually points to a compromised immune system, stressed adrenal glands, and a highly sensitized nervous response to an allergen. Therefore it's important to address the immune system in general and the adrenals and nervous system in particular.

Herbs such as astragalus, ashwaganda root, borage leaf and seed oil, licorice, and eleuthero support both the lungs and adrenals. Nervous-system regulators such as oatstraw and skullcap will also help. If your asthma is caused by allergies, consider taking supplements such as NAC, quercetin, SOD, and homeopathic detoxification formulas to support the liver in its effort to detoxify. It's also important to work the lungs to improve their capacity.

Asthma is further aggravated by, and sometimes an indication of, a congested bowel, so consider a bowel cleanse.

Asthma can be triggered by environmental factors such as allergies to specific pollens, dairy products, processed grains like wheat or corn flour, animal dander, and especially molds, mildews, and fungi. Many of us live with more mold and airborne fungal spores than we realize. Fungi that survive in dry climates are more enduring and aggressive than those of wetter habitats. However, in wet climates, molds have a way of proliferating that can sometimes run us out of the spaces we live in.

Carefully assess the amount of mold you cohabit with and take steps to minimize it. This entails regular airing of your house and closets (even in the winter), using dry heat, maximizing light exposure, and thorough spring and fall cleaning using organic soaps and natural fungicides such as citrus oil, thyme, oregano, grapefruit-seed extract, sage, eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender, bay and tea tree.

Ward off mildew and moths by placing dried bay leaves and sage in cabinets, drawers, and corners of the room that feel damp. Seal all leaks, and make sure flooring under appliances like the refrigerator and washer stay dry. Burn essential oils of thyme, grapefruit, lemon, eucalyptus, or tea tree in a central room (they will spread throughout the house), or use an atomizer for specific areas such as the bathroom, to dissuade fungal growth. Unfortunately, sometimes one may have to make major repairs, structural changes to a home, or move altogether.

Asthma can also be triggered by emotional stress, especially in children. Therefore, it is always necessary to identify underlying physical and emotional disharmony, which so often accompanies asthma.

Where do you need more breathing room? What fears or which person in your life is suffocating you? Bodywork (especially in the thoracic region), spinal adjustment, lifestyle changes, color or sound therapy, relaxation techniques, and flower remedies all come into play. If you have chronic lung problems, especially asthma, it's imperative that you do not consume dairy products and other mucus-forming foods such as sugar, most flours, pastas, potatoes, and baked bread products. Many people have eliminated allergies simply by thorough cleansing of the body.

Herbs that naturally dilate bronchioles are lobelia, American ephedra (Ephedra americanus, also referred to as joint-pine or Brigham Young tea), yerba matte (Ilex paraguariensis), Chinese ephedra or Ma huang (E. chinensis), coffee bean, and cola nut (Cola spp.).

Antispasmodics include grindelia, skunk cabbage rhizome, and cherry bark. Lobelia is both a bronchial dilator and antispasmodic that can help reduce dependency on pharmaceutical inhalers. This is a step-by-step process whereby 10-15 drops of lobelia tincture is taken on the tongue whenever one feels the desire to use the inhaler. Lobelia works by relaxing bronchiole muscles, allowing airways to open. Lobelia can lower blood pressure, so it's contraindicated for those with very low blood pressure. Always keep the inhaler nearby for support, and certainly use it if needed. Over a period of two to four months the need for an inhaler will decrease markedly.

Eventually, with dietary and lifestyle changes, cleansing, and follow-through to promote success, many people can put their inhalers away altogether. In a similar manner, lobelia can be used to help quit cigarette smoking, by taking a few drops every time a cigarette is desired, along with high dosages (3-6 grams) of vitamin C each day. Stimulating expectorants have the capacity to cause vomiting, which in some cases may be necessary to clear out the lungs; lobelia is such an expectorant, so keep dosages small.

American ephedra is a milder bronchial dilator than its Chinese cousin and can be used safely when made as an infusion and sipped by the half-cupful throughout the morning and afternoon (not to exceed two cups a day for adults). The healing herb Chinese ephedra (Ma Huang) has been a source of conflict and confusion due to its misuse and consequent harm to those who have taken it in improper dosages or in combination with the excessive circulatory stimulants in weight-loss supplements. More effective for severe asthma due to its higher levels of ephedrine, Ma Huang is best used with other supporting herbs.

Excerpted with permission from Botanical Body Care ©2007 by Karin C. Uphoff, M.S., M.H., published by Cypress House, Fort Bragg, CA. Available in stores or visit www.cypresshouse.com.

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