Asthma is a chronic allergic inflammation of bronchial tubes that causes shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and coughing. Over 5.2 million people in the UK have asthma and it is more common in children and elder people (over 65).
People with asthma tend to have an increased sensitivity in their bronchial tubes to allergens or other stimuli. When exposed to such allergens or stimuli, the bronchial tubes become inflamed causing increased mucosa secretion and airways tightened and constricted, thence asthmatic symptoms. These symptoms intensify during an asthma attack, which occurs when exposure to allergens or other stimuli further inflame the airways.
Although in most cases asthmatic symptoms can be well controlled by conventional medications such as inhalers, it can be much worse or even life-threatening when a severe or long-lasting asthma attack (Status asthmaticus) fails to respond to a routing treatment. Chronic asthma can also cause further impairment of respiratory function or cause other complications such as chronic obstructive pulmonary syndrome (COPD), affecting health and quality of life in a long run.
TCM Understanding on Asthma
Asthma is called “Xiao Chuan” in Chinese medicine, meaning wheezing and breathlessness. Chinese medicine believes that multiple causative factors such as genetic endowment, immaturity, enduring illness, aging, faulty diet can play a role in the onset and development of asthma. It is more a systemic condition rather than pulmonary only. These factors can cause body’s internal weakness of various organs (deficiency of Lung, Spleen or Kidney). The weak dysfunction of these organs causes enduring deep-lying phlegm accumulating in lung. Externally when exogenous pathogenic factors (such as wind cold or wind heat) invade the body, it activates deep-lying phlegm causing lung Qi losing its function of breathing etc., thence asthmatic episodes occur.
In order to give effective treatment, a TCM practitioner would need to make a “syndrome differentiation” – to find out what syndrome pattern the case belongs to among superficial or interior stages, cold or heat pattern, excess (e.g. phlegm retention in Lung) or deficiency (of Lung, Spleen or Kidney) nature. Then a most appropriate treatment plan can be established accordingly.
Based on their own specialty and experience, practitioners may choose Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture or the combination of both to treat their asthmatic patients. Other relevant therapies could be also used such as cupping, moxibustion. If you go a TCM practitioner to seek effective treatment for your asthma, your practitioner will talk through about your case history and treatment arrangement at your initial consultation.
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