Asthma, as most of the people know, is a condition where a person experiences trouble or difficulty in breathing. But how does asthma really happen? What happens to the body when asthma attacks?
Well, here are some of the basic information that answers some of the frequently asked questions about asthma. Also, some of the best herbs that can help treat or address asthma will be given and discussed.
Asthma is one of the conditions of the body where the airways of a person tighten or narrow. Asthma also causes the airways to swell with a possibility of producing excess mucus in the body—mucus is a fluid substance that is produce by most lining tissues in a human body. By being a trap,mucus acts as a protection of the body from several irritants like bacteria, smoke and dusts.
It is also one of the essentials for the body to function since it keeps some of the critical organs inside from dying out; it acts as a layer that protects and moisturizes them when necessary.
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When airways narrow and swell, that is when the breathing gets difficult. It sometimes triggers coughing to occur too causing the throat to get itchy, irritated and sore. There are also instances when wheezing occurs—wheezing the high-pitched whistling sound that people hear when they breathe out while having asthmatic attacks.
Asthma is a chronic or long-term disease of the lungs. Some doctors refer to it as Chronic Respiratory Disease while some refer to it as Bronchial Asthma. With proper treatment, a person can live normally without having to suffer from severe asthmatic attacks. But without proper treatment, it could be a life-threatening situation for most people.
Unfortunately, asthma cannot be cured. But the good thing is its symptoms, which easily show up, can be controlled. Because asthmatic attacks change over the course of time, it is integral for a person with asthma to work and communicate with a doctor in order to easily observe and track the symptoms as well as adjust and be given with treatment or medication that is needed.
Symptoms of Asthma
As observed by the professionals with knowledge about asthma, its symptoms are sometimes different from person to another person. Others may experience frequent asthmatic attacks while others may not. Others may experience symptoms most of the time while other people may not—it just gets triggered at sometimes, usually when being exhausted from doing physical activities such as exercising, running and many more.
Some of the signs or symptoms which indicate that asthma may occur soon are experiencing tightness and pain in the chest, having difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath, wheezing when breathing out, coughing, wheezing attacks that get worse when having some respiratory virus such as cold and trouble sleeping due to some of the symptoms that are mentioned above. Most of these signs and symptoms are evident and common to children with asthma.
While signs and symptoms are mentioned above, here are some of the signs saying that a person’s asthma is about to get worse: first is when the need of using inhaler happens more often than usual, second is when some of the sign and symptoms mentioned previously show up more frequently and the last one is when the difficulty in breathing increases when measured using a peak flow meter—a device that is used to measure and check how the lungs of a person is working well or effectively.
For some people who do not experience frequent asthmatic attacks, there are different types of asthma that get triggered in different situations.
The first one is called exercised-induced asthma—from the name itself, this type of asthma gets triggered when a person does physical activities such as exercising; this first type gets worse usually when the ambient air is cold and dry.
The second one is occupational-induced asthma—this one type of asthma gets triggered by the presence of some irritants found in the working place; some of these irritants are dusts, chemicals and gases.
The third type is called the allergy-induced asthma—this type gets triggered by several substances, usually airborne substances. Pollens, fur, waste from insects and skin particles of animal are just some of these airborne substances.
Some Factors That Increase the Risk of Developing Asthma
Just like most of the diseases a human body can have, the risk of developing asthma can be increased by some genetic, environmental and external factors. These factors are:
Just like most of the diseases, the genes of a person are one of the most common factors that contribute to developing some serious diseases. Genes, obviously, affect the way the immune system of a person develops. Having parents or siblings with asthma increases the risk of a person to develop asthma too. Especially if his or her mother has asthma.
Obesity or being overweight
It is believed that obesity increases the risk of developing asthma or sometimes, worsening its symptoms. People who are overweight experience some changes in the immune system and inflammation that is why it is easier for them to develop asthma.
It is observed that people who have asthma are the ones who usually have other kinds of allergies—they may be allergic to some food or sometimes dusts, pollens and many more. It is also believed that the more things that you are allergic to, the higher your risk of developing asthma is. To further explain this, asthma is one of the usual types of allergic reaction.
Being a smoker or being exposed to secondhand smoke
Smoking, as most people know, causes the lungs to be weak. A person’s lungs are one of the most, if not the most, important organ that his or her body needs in order to breathe. The weaker the lungs, the higher the chances or having more difficulty in breathing.
Respiratory infections and wheezing
Some children develop respiratory infections at their very young ages. It is believed that these health issues contribute to having a higher risk of developing asthma over the course of time.
Race or ethnicity
It is still unclear as to why, but Puerto Ricans, African Americans and Hispanic are among the people who are at higher risk of developing asthma compared with other races and ethnicities in the world. Data also shows that Hispanic and African American children have more asthma-related deaths compared with children who are non-Hispanic white Americans.
Gender and age
Among children, girls are less likely to develop asthma compared to boys. But among teens and adults, women are more likely to develop it compared to men.
One of these environmental factors if being exposed to cigarette smoke while still in the womb or during the early years of a child’s life. Another is being exposed to poor quality of air and allergens. Another one is being exposed to variety of microbes during the early stages—these early stages are essential to a child’s health since it is when his or her immune system develops.
Sometimes, too much emotional stress like being angry, intense crying or hard laughing can also cause asthma to attack. Theses stresses can be overwhelming and can cause hyperventilation.
Some people who are suffering from severe asthmatic attacks are sensitive to certain medicines. The intake of some medicines causes them to develop serious respiratory problems.
Classifications of Asthma
Doctors classify asthma based on the severity of its symptoms. Here is how it is ranked in the classification:
Mild Intermittent Asthma
Asthma is classified to be Mild Intermittent Asthma when are only a few attacks of it. To be specific, mild symptoms attack less than twice in one week and nighttime symptoms attack less than two times in a month.
Mild Persistent Asthma
Asthma is classified to be Mild Persistent Asthma when it causes some activities to be affected. To be specific, symptoms show up for three to six times in one week and nighttime symptoms attack for three to four times in a month.
Moderate Persistent Asthma
Just like Mild Persistent Asthma, Asthma is classified to be Moderate Persistent when it causes some activities to be affected. To be specific, symptoms show up for three to six times in one week and nighttime symptoms attack for three to four times in a month.
Severe Persistent Asthma
Asthma is classified to be Severe Persistent Asthma when a person must limit doing some of his or her daily activities. To be specific, symptoms show up or attack continuously through day and night.
Common Types of Asthma
The use of bronchodilators does not make this long-lasting asthma stop. Bronchodilators are one of the types of medications for asthma; it helps the lungs relax and subsequently makes it easier for someone to breath by widening his or her airways. This type of asthma is one of the types that needs to be addressed right away.
Asthma in Children
This type of asthma, obviously from the name, is the one appearing in most children. This type usually has varying symptoms from children to children and from episode to episodes.
This type of asthma is common to people with ages between 35 years old and 50 years old; it is associated with having a high amount of white blood cells in the body.
Asthma can develop at any age in a person’s life, but it is believed to be more common to people who are not beyond 40 years of age.
This type of asthma happens when symptoms get severe during nighttime.
This one is quite self-explanatory—this type of asthma gets triggered when a person takes aspirin.
This one type of asthma has only one symptom—suffering from having a long-term cough.
Other types of asthma
Other types of asthma may include occupational-induced asthma, allergy-induced asthma and exercised-induced asthma. All these three types of asthma have already been explained in the first parts of this article.
Best Herbs for Asthma
In order to further address asthmatic attacks, here are some of the best herbs that can be a supplement to a person’s asthma medication:
1. Garlic (Allium Sativum)
Garlic is one of the most famous herbs that are commonly used as an ingredient in Indian cuisine. Besides having so many benefits for having a good health, garlic also is effective to help people who are suffering from asthmatic attacks. Since asthma is an inflammatory disease, garlic is a truly good herb to combat it. Garlic has some anti-inflammatory properties that help lungs to be relaxed by providing relief. It is also proven to have antimicrobial properties that help the body combat some infections that might trigger asthmatic attacks.
To further improve the immune system, it is advisable to eat two raw cloves of garlic every day. When taking garlic supplements such as capsules, it is advisable to take 1000 milligrams to 3000 milligram per day. Garlic oil can also be taken, it is advisable to have 0.03 milliliter to 0.12 milliliter three times in one day.
Large doses of garlic should not be taken when taking medicines such as aspirin, warfarin, indomethacin, dipyridamole and other medications that make a person’s blood thinner.
2. Ginger (Zingiber Officinale)
Ginger is also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties like garlic. Ginger is considered to be of great importance in treating asthma in Ayurveda—an alternative medicinal system that originated in the Indian subcontinent. It is proven that ginger contains some compounds such as gingerols, shogaols and zingerones; these compounds are believed to have antioxidant properties which are of very big help in the treatment of asthma.
To clear the airways, it is advisable to mix one teaspoon of ground ginger in just a cup of water.
3. Turmeric (Curcuma Longa)
Some types of asthma are triggered when allergies attack. Also, as mentioned above, people with allergies to have higher risks or developing asthma. After some studies, it was proven that turmeric has some anti-allergy properties. Curcumin, which is found in turmeric, is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatories for both chronic and acute conditions; it is also believed to reduce inflammation in different biological pathways.
The results of a study made in India showed that 60 percent of their asthma patients showed relief in symptoms after the intake of 6 grams to 12 grams of turmeric powder fried in ghee—a type of butter that originated in India.
Another study with just a small number of 77 participants showed that taking curcumin capsules for 30 consecutive days helps decrease the obstruction in airways.
4. Ginkgo (Ginkgo Biloba)
Results of some studies show that ginkgo is a truly great help in treating asthmatic attacks cause by certain allergens. It is believed that the intake of ginkgo reduces a person’s sensitivity problems which are associated with asthma. This incredible plant is so full benefits since it also has antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties.
Ginkgo is considered to be one of the oldest herbs that are still helpful hitherto. Ginkgo is believed to prevent Platelet Activating Factor; herbs that are anti-PAF are proven to be of good aid in treating asthma and some allergic reactions.
Results of one study show that the intake of 600 milligrams of ginkgo helps in reducing the hypersensitivity of airways for patients with asthma.
5. Licorice (Glycyrrhiza Glabra)
The use of roots of licorice is one of the traditional treatments to help restore a person’s breathing. It also helps calm the breathing passageway of a person. Licorice also has anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants. It is said that people use the roots of licorice to soothe the lungs.
Although, some studies say that the even though the use of licorice roots is effective for asthmatic attacks, it has some side effects such as having high blood pressure. It is still better to consult the doctor before deciding to use some herbs as a supplement to the proper medications.
6. Red Clover (Trifolium Pratense or Trifolium Pratense L.)
Red clover has been one of the famous traditional medicinal herbs that were commonly used in Europe, Russia and China. Red clover is believed to be of assistance for medical conditions such as bronchial asthma, digestive-related diseases and liver-related diseases.
Red clover is thought to purify the blood, treat conditions such as eczema, serve as an herbal plant to treat cough, have positive effects on high blood pressure. But besides all of that, enough evidence has been collected to prove that red clover is also or great assistance to treating asthmatic attacks.
7. Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia or Lavandula Officinalis)
Lavender is one of the most famous flowers that have a really, really good scent. It has been best known for its calming effects. It is also believed that lavenders slow the nervous system’s activity down which, subsequently, promotes a soothing feeling and relaxation.
Surprisingly, lavender has so many good uses that it can also be of help in treating wounds, eczema, fungal infections, sunburned skin and even acne.
While this medicinal plant is also used to be a chest rub, it is also proven to relief and reduce the symptoms of some diseases such as chronic coughs, common colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, flu, laryngitis, tonsillitis and asthma.
To make lavender tea, just mix one to two teaspoon of this dried herb or one tablespoon of this fresh herb to a cup of boiling water: steep it for about 10 minutes to 15 minutes. One to three cups of this tea would be enough for one day.
8. American Ginseng (Panax Quinquefolius)
This herbal medicine has been long used in the tradition of native Americans. This herb has been used as an effective way of treating several conditions such as poor appetite, mental stress, emotional stress, physical exhaustion, anemia, irritability, colds, AIDS, blood sugar disorders, vomiting, nausea, constipation, impotence, bronchitis, respiratory problems, poor memory, indigestion, tuberculosis, rheumatism, cystitis and headaches.
American ginseng has also been proven to boost a person’s weakened immune system. Also, some Native American tribes used this herbal medicine to treat infertility among women.
There are still so many uses of this herbal medicine and another one is it can be used to treat different types of asthma, asthmatic attacks and allergies.
The short-term use of American ginseng is said to have very little effects, it is advisable to use it for a long course of time. Just a very low dose of 200 milligrams daily, that can also be increased gradually to 600 milligrams, is advisable for intake of capsules. It can also be taken in the form of a decoction.
9. Tulsi or Holy Basil (Ocimum Tenuiflorum)
Holy basil or Tulsi is considered as a holy herb in the country of India. Holy basil is believed to be effective in treating most, if not all, respiratory problems there is. It is also believed to be of great help in providing relief for patients who are suffering from asthma or asthmatic attacks. In case of asthmatic attacks, studies have also shown that it is effective to be used in reducing the swelling and narrowing of airways
10. Black Seed (Nigella Sativa)
Black seed or also known as Nigella Sativa has been the topic of some studies who are interested in finding some of the medicinal herbs out there. Some of those studies conducted that include black seeds suggested that Nigella Sativa truly has several medicinal benefits including reducing the symptoms of asthmatic attacks.
Although further studies are still needed to be done and completed, another study tried to prove its effectives as a treatment; the results concluded that black seeds are really a great help for the treatment of airway functions, inflammation and asthma symptoms.
The above-listed herbs are just some of the best herbs that usually help in treating different types of asthma; there are still some out there that are still waiting to be discovered by scientists and researchers.
But fortunately, the above-listed herbal medicines are already discovered to help the lives of people who are suffering from asthma. Remember that the use of herbal plants or supplements made from those plants is within the discretion of a patient who are diagnosed with a certain disease. Some people believe in the effectiveness of these herbs while some people do not.
Studies have shown the effectiveness and the help that these herbs have given the humans. It cannot be denied that they truly are a big part of most people’s lives.
But be sure to consult a doctor first before deciding to add these herbs as supplement to the proper medication needed to address different diseases because some of these herbs, besides their useful effects, hinder or prevent the effectiveness of some medications that are prescribed by doctors.