The word ‘asthma’ is derived from the Greek meaning ‘ panting’ or ‘labored breathing’. Asthma is a condition characterized by a paroxysmal wheezing dyspnoea (difficulty in breathing), mainly expiratory.
Causes of Asthma
According to the etiology, bronchial asthma is divided in the following groups:
1. Allergic (extrinsic/ atopic) – This type of asthma usually starts in childhood and is often preceded by eczema. But most of the young adults (<35 yrs) developing asthma also fall in this category. Genetic factors also play a significant role i this. In this type of asthma the allergen leads to production of excessive (IgE) immunoglobulins.
2. Infective or Intrinsic – This is not hereditary or allergic, but may be caused by, or at least associated with upper respiratory tract or bronchial infection which is usually viral.
3. Psychological factors (like anxiety, emotional stress etc) are often considered to be the sole cause of some asthmatic attacks, but it is still not certain whether it can be the sole cause or is only a precipitating factor.
4. Occupational asthma – This can occur in certain industries in which there is exposure to metallic dusts (esp. platinum salts), biological detergents, toluene diisocyanate, polyurethane, flour and dust from grains etc.
Asthma – MECHANISM – WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS?
What ever may be the cause, it ultimately leads to paroxysms of bronchial obstruction produced by widespread bronchial spasm accentuated by plugging of the bronchi with excessive mucus.
Asthma – SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
- Recurrent episode of paroxysmal dyspnoea (difficulty in breathing)
- The breathing is laboured, with a wheezing sound, mainly on expiration.
- Asthma attacks often occur in the early hours of morning (when there is no immediate precipitating cause). During the attack patients often prefers to sit then lie down.
Asthma – HOW DIAGNOSIS IS DONE?
Diagnosis can usually be made clinically by a competent doctor. Allergen sensitivity tests, X-ray, spirometry, sputum and blood tests etc may be of use in finding the cause and severity of the condition.
Asthma – WHAT TO DIFFERENTIATE FROM?
- Cardiac asthma
- Renal asthma
- Isolated attacks of non-paroxysmal dyspnoea.
Asthma – COMPLICATIONS
- Apart from chronicity, usually no complications.
- Pneumothorax, emphysema, or areas of consolidation or pulmonary collapse may occur in very advanced cases.
Homeopathic Treatment for Asthma
Homeopathy treats the person as a whole. It means that homeopathic treatment focuses on the patient as a person, as well as his pathological condition. The homeopathic medicines are selected after a full individualizing examination and case-analysis, which includes the medical history of the patient, physical and mental constitution etc.
General Approach – As far as I know homeopathy is the only system of medicine which tries to ‘cure’ this disease, instead of trying to provide symptomatic relief. While dealing with a case of asthma, a homeopath not only records the symptoms of the disease but also studies the medical history, family history, physical and psychological characteristics of a person. This helps to find the cause, the precipitating factors, and the hereditary tendency etc. Of special interest to a homeopath is the history of suppression of skin disease. Homeopaths believe that when there is a tendency or predisposition for a disease – it first manifests on the less vital organs, towards the periphery (like skin). If this manifestation is suppressed than the disease shifts inwards, towards the more vital organs (like lungs, heart, brain etc).
The fact that in children asthma is often preceded by eczema is observed by the allopaths also. This fact is written in all their textbooks of medicine. They say that children often ‘move-out’ of eczema and ‘move-into’ asthma. But they are unable to make a correlation. Homeopaths believe that the suppression of eczema with topical preparations, does not cure the disease/sensitivity of the person, it merely drives it inwards.
Now after ascertaining the symptoms and the cause, the homeopath tries to find a medicine which matches the symptoms as well as the general characteristics of the person. The medicine so selected is administered to the patient.
It is often (not necessarily) observed by homeopaths that when a right medicine is given, the asthma disappears but the old eczema (if it was there originally) reappears for some time, before finally disappearing itself. This reappearance of old symptoms is seen as a reversal of disease process and is considered a very good prognostic sign by homeopaths.
Following homeopathic medicines have been found effective in many cases of Asthma:
MEDICINES – There are lots of medicines in homeopathy for asthma and it is not possible to list them all here. Some of the common medicines are ars-alb, ipecac, lachesis, pulsatilla, spongia, sulphur, ignatia, antim-tart, hepar-sulph, nat-sulph, tuberculinum etc. The selection of medicine varies from patient to patient.
Acalypha indica: Cough with bloody expectoration; sometimes violent dry cough precedes the expectoration.
Ailantheus glandulosa: Deep dry and hacking cough, with asthmatic expansion of lungs; cough with headache and congestion of face.
Aletris farinosa: Short, dry and tickling cough worse on waking and talking; discharge of urine during cough; cough suddenly relieved by menstruation.
Aralia racemosa: Cough associated with constriction of chest, worse lying down, after the first sleep, has to sit up and cough violently; asthma, with oppression as from a weight on stomach, worse night on lying down, better by raising a little tough mucus.
Asarium europaeum: Frequent cough followed by difficult breathing; cough caused by deep inspiration.
Blatta orientalis: Asthma associated with bronchitis, suitable for fatty people, cough associated with dyspnoea.
Blumea odorata: Barking like cough controls hoarseness due to cough.
Boerhavia diffusa: Indicated for dry cough as well as cough with whitish thick expectoration.
Ephedra vulgaris: Mother tincture is used to control asthmatic attack; in reduced doses it is also helpful in pulmonary heart disease.
Glycyrrhiza glabra: Used as expectorant; prevents recurrent respiratory infections.
Grindelia: Tenacious mucous difficult to detach.
Justicia adhatoda: Violent cough with tough expectoration and tightness of chest; great fear of suffocation; usually cough associated with vomiting.
Pothos foetidus: Asthma worse from any inhalation of dust. Rumex crispus: Cough usually with headache; worse eating, in the evening and on lying down
Asthma – CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT
Bronchodilators, anti-allergic drugs, and corticosteroids are commonly used to provide symptomatic relief.
Asthma – Lifestyle & General Management
- Avoid the allergen you are sensitive to.
- Do regular light exercise like brisk walking or jogging. Heavy exercise can precipitate an attack of asthma, so always do mild exercise without putting too much strain on your body.
- Learn breathing exercises to improve your lung capacity. Of especial use is ‘pranayam’, a yoga exercise.
- Learn some stress relieving exercises, meditation, or yoga to minimize the psychological factors related to disease.
- Eat healthy, nourishing and well balanced diet.
WHERE ELSE TO FIND MORE INFO? – INTERNET RESOURCES
Davidson’s Principles and Practise of Medicine, 17th ed, 1996, Churchill Livingstone
A primer of Medicine, M.H.Pappworth, 5th ed, 1993, Butterworths
Hutchinson’s Clinical Methods, Michael Swash, 20th ed, 1995, W B Saunders
New Manual of Homeopathic Materia Medica & Repertory, William Boericke, 2nd revised ed., 2001, B. Jain
Select Your remedy, Rai Bahdur Bishambhar Das, 19th ed, 1999, Bishambar Free Homeo Dispensary
A Concise Repertory of Homeopathic Medicines, S.R.Phatak, 3rd ed, B. Jain
Practical Homeopathic Therapeutics, Dewey, reprint ed, 1993, B.Jain