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Written by Dr Ashwini Konnur,
Growing cities, expanding industrialization may have seen prosperity but it has also given us a polluted environment, one fatal enough to have dropped oxygen levels in the atmosphere. Trees that are essential to provide us with oxygen are being cut down every day and this has seen a definite increase in the number of health hazards. Asthma is one such disease which has increased in today’s world.
Asthma is a condition characterized by shortness of breath and recurrent attacks of breathlessness which is accompanied by wheezing. This happens due to the inflammation of respiratory passages which reduces the space for movement of air in and out of the lungs.
In Ayurveda, Asthma is considered as Swasa Roga (Dyspnoea – difficulty in breathing). There are five types of Swasa Roga listed in Ayurveda classics:
Maha Swasa – It is characterized by prolonged expiration during which the affected person sounds like a provoked bull. The respiration of the person could be heard from distance.
Urdhva Swasa – Expiration is prolonged with a pause and inspiration is impeded. Usually there is white mucosal coating on the upper & Lower respiratory tract.
Chinna Swasa – Interrupted breathing. Breathing is accompanied with pain as though the vital organs are being injured. Usually compared to Chyne –stroke breathing meaning gradual deepening and diminishing respiration.
Tamaka Swasa – It is Bronchial Asthma.
Kshudra Swasa – Dyspnoea, due to aspiration of any article such as dust, etc. into the trachea.
The first three types listed here are not curable. More than 75% of Asthma patients suffer from either Tamaka Swasa or Kshudra Swasa.
Tamaka Swasa or the Bronchial Asthma
“Tamasoati andhakarena \ Kim vaa tamasaa tamogunena \\”
A person suffering from Tamaka swasa often feels as if he is entering through darkness during the paroxysm. The attack of Asthma often becomes worse in evening and at dark. It is Kapha dosha predominant ailment but vata and pitta act as accessories. Vata associated Asthma is characterized by wheezing and dry cough, associated with other symptoms like thirst, dryness of skin, mouth, constipation, anxiety and craving for hot liquids. When there is involvement of Pitta the phlegm is yellow or green in color. Along with cough and wheezing there might be fever, sweating, irritability and wanting for cool breeze. Kapha dosha when involved there is too much wheezing and cough with plenty of white thick phlegm. Lungs often get congested and respiration is usually with a sound “ghur-ghur” or whistling.
A few other symptoms of Asthma are chest tightness and pain due to increased coughing, breathlessness, anxiety, distended abdomen, uneasiness in the body, palpitation, weakness and tiredness, fainting, delusion, unconsciousness during repeated coughing, restlessness, hoarseness of voice, sleeplessness, dark circle around the eye and dyspnoea specially during lying posture.
What causes Asthma?
Cause of Asthma from a western medical viewpoint is complex, involving genetic and environmental interfaces. Ayurveda considers the cause of Asthma is due to impaired agni or due to improper digestion. When the food is not digested properly Ama or toxins arise which circulates throughout the body. This ama aggravates Kapha dosha in the lungs and starts obstructing the passages of the respiratory tract which results in aggravation of Vata. The clogging of kapha results in directional change of vata dosha which results in dyspnoea.
Some of the aggravating factors of Asthma are tobacco smoke – active or passive, food allergy, infections in airways and chest, airborne allergens, some medications, psychological factors, fear, anxiety, stress and of course weather changes. The degree of attack varies from person to person. Children are getting more prone to the attack of asthma.
What to do at the time of Asthma attack?
During the attack of asthma it’s better to sit straight or just lean forward than staying in lying down position.
Never panic during the attack, panicking will only worsen your condition. Instead relax and keep your mind calm.
Apply warm “Lavana Taila” (salted oil) on the chest, back and shoulder. It should be followed by hot water fomentation using the hot water bag or steam to the chest and back area. This will help in melting of the kapha.
One could drink hot soup or sip hot water every now and then, this will provide relief.
Vomiting at the time of attack will give instant relief from asthma attack. This will take out all the phlegm from the chest and clear the congestion.
Ayurveda can help in treating Asthma. If Asthma is of recent origin then cure is very easy. If Asthma is from a longer duration then treatment may take time but definitely there is a positive result. Ayurveda aims to improve the immune system and to strengthen the body and mind. The herbs help in reducing the symptoms and cure asthma in a natural way. The treatment eliminates the toxins and increases disease resistance in the body.
Traditionally first line of treatment for Tamaka Swasa is ‘Shodhana’ or purification procedure called Vamana (upward cleansing process). An experienced Ayurveda expert takes necessary precautions and decides the apt timing to give the treatment so that the excess doshas is expelled from the body. Shodhana helps in deep level cleansing process and decreases the chances of recurrence of the disease. This line of treatment should only be given if the individual is strong enough and the disease is not overpowering the individual. After purification palliative treatment is given.
Some of the most commonly prescribed Ayurveda drugs are Agastya Rasayana, Chyavanaprash, Kanakaasava, Sithopaladi Churna, Swasa kasa chintamani rasa, Shringyadi Kwatha, Pushkaramulasava, Swasakuthara rasa, Vasantha kusumakara rasa.
Home Remedies to reduce Asthma symptoms:
Following an appropriate diet is very important to maintain a perfect health. Here are some of the dietary and lifestyle tips that one can follow to combat Asthma:
Yoga for Asthma
Asanas that are useful in asthma are Pavanamukta Asana (Wind relieving pose), Setubandhasana (Bridge pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra pose), Adhomukha Svanasana (Downward facing dog), Ardha Matsyandriyasana (sitting half spine twist) and Shavasana (Deep relaxation). Pranayama – Kapalabhati, Nadishuddhi pranayama (Alternate nostril breathing) is also recommended.
20 minutes of yoga practice daily increases one’s physical and mental energy. Pranayamas like naadi-shodhana, bhastrika, kapaala-bhaati increases lung capacity and clears the airway passages. Yoga-nidra, antar-mouna are other meditation and relaxation techniques that are useful to remove the source of nervousness.
Ayurveda and Yoga together is most beneficial to reduce the symptoms of asthma and avoid recurrence of the same. The remedies suggested above will help you reduce the symptoms to certain extent but that is not a cure. Consulting Ayurveda expert at the earliest is better to get the disease treated from the root at the earliest.
What is Pranayama?
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