The Herbalist - theherbalist.com.au - Dipaunka Macrides

Herbs & Asthma

Air is something we all need yet take for granted. The automatic process of breathing ( though some people don’t breathe properly ) is something we don’t give a second thought to , but for some one who suffers from Asthma , they are very concious or should be about this process. It is a very stressful occurrence, more so for the person suffering the attack but also for any loved ones who are witness to this.

In brief what happens with asthma is the bronchi go into spasm as a result of an allergic reaction , anxiety or stress. This causes wheezing and breathlessness which is very distressing and can result I panic which then can obviously exacerbate the situation . This is more likely in children or the elderly , so calming herbs like Catnip or California Poppy in a mix are beneficial .

There are a number of things that should be avoided in Asthma .

Here is a list of foods etc to be avoided : Milk , peanuts, wheat , tree nuts , eggs , fish , shellfish, meat containing antibiotics or tenderising enzymes. Preservatives - benzoates , sodium, sodium metabisulphite , antioxidants . Dyes , artificial colours or flavours . Red wines containing preservatives or antioxidants .

There are some politics involved in the business of Asthma, which by the way is a Multi Million dollar business in Australia alone, not to mention the rest of the world. There are a number of herbs that are extremely effective in treating Asthma that have been banned or put on the schedules list , Coltsfoot, Lobelia , Ma Huang , Comfrey . I will not get on my soap box about the politics of Health at this point . Here is a list of herbs that are good for Asthma . There may be more that I am unaware of , if you know of any please let me know .Herbs Catnip , comfrey, coltsfoot , elecampane, euphorbia , butterbur, gingko, Grindelia, ma Huang, lobelia, pleurisy root, Japanese honeysuckle , senega, sundew, weeping golden bell, wild Chinese violet , wild cherry bark .

This herb grows profusely and is a member of the Compositae family like dandelion , daisy, tansy and yarrow . In England they have large cough lollies called coltsfoot rock which is very hard but enjoyable , a sort of all day cough drop . This herb has been used for at least 2500 years for coughs and smoked to ease breathing . It is also used in herbal cigarettes .The common name s due to the shape of the leaves and the Latin name refers to it’s use for coughs.

Parts used : Leaf and flowers 
Properties : Anti-catarrhal , anti-tussive, anti-inflammatory , expectorant, demulcent, diuretic .
Uses : Coltsfoot has a wide range of uses in respiratory complaints like , asthma, bronchitis, laryngitis , irritating coughs , whopping cough . It can be used externally as a poultice for ulcers and sores .
The reason for its efficacy in these conditions is that the leaves contain significant levels of zinc . The mucilage in the plant helps give it a very soothing effect which is beneficial in chronic emphysema . The plant contains an alkaloid called pyrolizidine which can cause hepatoxicity if Taken in large doses . In clinical trials { I Hirono et al 1976 } it was shown not to cause any damage to human chromosomes in vitro . The amount need to cause in damage is extremely high but nevertheless caution should be exercised . The leaves should be used for no more than 3- 4 weeks at a time then take a break . Also not to be used in pregnancy or Breast feeding .

Grindelia - Grindelia camporum .
It is also called Gumplant because of it’s resin content which makes it very sticky . Native Americans used it externally to treat poison Ivy rashes and internally for bronchial complaints .
Parts Used : Aerial parts
Properties : Anti asthmatic , antispasmodic , expectorant , hypotensive .
Uses : It is used for treating Asthma and bronchitis especially in cases that are triggered by anxiety . This is because Grindelia has a relaxing action on the heart muscles which is why it can be used to lower blood pressure though not as effective as Hawthorn or Lavender . If there is any upper respiratory catarrh like with Hayfever you can combine Grindelia with Golden Rod , Elder flower or Eyebright.
For Whooping cough it can be combined with Coltsfoot , horehound , sundew , thyme and a little honey as the horehound and thyme are a little bitter .
Grindelia’s antispasmodic action is a primary factor in it’s treatment of Asthma and bronchitis , it also is used for treating emphysema .

Sundew - Drosera rotundifolia
In the 16th and 17th centuries it was used to treat Melancholy which was the condition related to the Spleen and the element Earth . In Chinese medicine the emotion related to the spleen is reflection or worry . It was also used externally to treat scrofulous sore .
Parts used : Aerial parts
Properties : Anti asthmatic , anti spasmodic , anti tussive , demulcent , expectorant .
Uses : It looks a little like a bright version of the Venus fly trap . Again like the other 2 herbs in this article it is used for any conditions involving spasms in the chest like Asthma, bronchial asthma and whooping cough . In scientific studies one of the compounds { Plumbagin } showed antimicrobial action on parasitic protozoa, bacteria and pathogenic fungi . Also it is effective against streptococcus , staphylococcus, and pneumococcus bacteria .
It can be used in cough syrups with wild cherry bark , licorice , thyme , coltsfoot , violet flowers or leaf and fritillary .
If you have stomach ulcers Sundew will be of benefit with other herbs like Golden seal, comfrey root , marshmallow root , meadowsweet and Echinacea .

I see a number of patients who have varying degrees of Asthma and other related problems like Eczema and we are having a good deal of Success in dealing with these conditions .

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