Difficulty breathing, especially exhalation, wheezing, coughing, and a sensation of choking.


What is Asthma?

From Modern Western Medicine

Asthma is recurrent attacks of breathlessness accompanied by wheezing during exhalation. Severity of symptoms changes from day to day and from hour to hour. The illness frequently starts up in childhood and often clears up or becomes less severe in early adulthood.

Asthma may be caused by outside allergens that can bring on an attack or internal causes, such as stress. For suffers of extrinsic asthma, tests can often discover common allergens that may be responsible and thus be avoided. Prophylactic drugs are used as a means of prevention. These are frequently taken as inhalers.

From Traditional Medicine

The majority of cases fall into a general asthma syndrome. People with asthma often suffer from hypoglycemia, were weaned too early (usually before the end of the first year) and onto excessive amounts of wheat, dairy products, and sugar. The child may also have been treated for early illnesses with immune suppressive treatments (high levels of antibiotics, for example, which scientists have found to be immunosuppressive), which can trigger the onset of asthma. A history of chronic colds and bronchitis often precedes the onset of asthma. Wheat, dairy products, and sugar are common allergens for people who suffer from asthma. Even when food intolerances are not the cause, however, they tend to play a role in the larger picture.

Traditional healers often encourage the elimination of stored toxins, mucus, and waste products. Such elimination, however, is often prevented by the use of pharmaceutical drugs, which results in increased accumulation within tissues, exacerbating the illness or acting as the cause.

Rather than focusing exclusively on the lungs and bronchial passages, Chinese medicine also treats the kidneys, which tend to be weak in asthmatics. In the Chinese five element system, the energy of the lungs should travel smoothly and efficiently into the kidneys. When the kidneys are weak or stressed, the lung energy can not pass freely and thus becomes stagnant in the lungs, causing accumulation and the onset of asthmatic symptoms.


Who Gets Asthma?

Both sexes get asthma and although it frequently begins early in life (most have their first attack by age 5), it can develop at any age.


Foods to Eat

  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Chlorophyll and vitamin A foods (protect lungs and provide cell renewal): spirulina, blue-green algae, apricots (not more than two to three a day), pumpkin, carrots, and mustard greens
  • Omega-3 and GLA fatty acid-rich food (exceptional for alleviating the constrictions and spasms of asthma): Salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, anchovies, rainbow trout, and tuna
  • Alpha-linolenic acid is contained in the following foods and is a good source of omega-3: Tofu and tempeh, flaxseed, pumpkin seed, chia seed, and dark green vegetables


Foods to Avoid

  • Dairy products, including whole and skim milk, yogurt, and ice cream
  • Refined white sugar and foods that contain refined sugar
  • Highly refined foods
  • Foods containing artificial ingredients
  • Alcohol
  • Wheat
  • Coffee and black tea


Herbs to Treat Asthma

  • Ephedra (contains natural ephedrine, which acts as a bronchodilator) ¼ – 1 tsp. of tincture or 1 cup of tea, two to three times daily. Consult a health practitioner if you suffer from heart disease, diabetes, glaucoma, or thyroid disease.
  • Lobelia (antispasmodic, relaxes the bronchial muscle): ¼ – ½ tsp. of tincture, three times a day; mix with cayenne for increased effectiveness (3 parts tincture of lobelia with 1 part tincture of capsicum)
  • Capsicum desensitizes the respiratory system to irritants and is helpful in stopping an asthma attack
  • Grindelia (to ease bronchial spasms and to promote the removal of mucus from the lungs): ¼ – ½ tsp. of tincture, two to three times daily
  • Licorice (for its anti-inflammatory and antiallergenic effects): ½ tsp. of tincture or 1 cup of tea, two to three times daily. Licorice should be used with caution for those who suffer with high blood pressure.



  • Arsenicum: for dry wheezing asthma that comes on in the middle of the night, accompanied by anxiety and restlessness
  • Ipecac: for gagging, profuse mucus that can’t be coughed up, or long spasms of coughing that may end in vomiting
  • Spongia: especially if asthma is accompanied by loud wheezing



  • For chronic suffers: hot Epsom salt bath, two times a week; alternate hot and cold water in the shower daily; chest packs nightly
  • For acute attacks: hot chest compresses plus hot footbath
  • Hot footbath with mustard and lobelia plus ice pack to the back of the head
  • Warm bath for 45 minutes with relaxation and diaphragmic breathing


Chinese Medicine

All the foods to eat for asthma come from Chinese medicine recommendations. There are four basic types of asthma. The first is cold-type asthma, which is characterized by white, clear, or foamy mucus, cold extremities, pale face, and frequent feeling of coldness. Heat-type asthma is characterized by fast, heavy breathing, red face, sensation of heat in the body, yellow mucus, dry stools, and scanty urine. Mucus-type asthma is characterized by copious mucus, the mouth is often held open, breathing is difficult when lying down, and the tongue coating is thick and greasy. Deficiency-type asthma is characterized by a weak pulse, little or no tongue coating, pale complexion, shortness of breath, head needing to be propped up in order to sleep, and breathing becoming difficult with slight body exertions.

A valuable herb/seed tea for treating cold-, mucus-, and deficiency-types of asthma consists of equal parts of fennel seed, flaxseed, fenugreek seed, licorice root, lobelia seed and/or leaf, and mullein leaf or flower. This formula minus the warming ingredients (fennel and fenugreek) is beneficial for heat-type asthma. For cold-type asthma, cook food moderately to well. Pressure cook and boil grains; steam and boil vegetables. Avoid raw food.

Eat the following: garlic (for lungs and large intestine), anise (for lungs), fresh ginger (for lungs), black beans (for kidneys), and oats (for liver).

For heat-type asthma, eat daikon radish (large intestine), sprouts, apricots (a maximum of two to three times daily), lemons, and tofu.

For mucus-type asthma, eat oats, brown rice, barley, black beans, nuts (especially walnuts and almonds), black beans, and buckwheat.


  • Vitamin C: 500 mg daily
  • Vitamin B6: 3 – 5 mg daily
  • Vitamin E: 400 IU daily
  • Quercetin: 500 mg, with 250 mg bromelain, two times daily, for anti-inflammatory and antihistamine effects