Asthma is the most common chronic condition in the United States , affecting an estimated 15 million people and costing $5.8 billion annually in treatment. In an effort to promote a safe and effective complementary natural asthma treatment , Pacific College of Oriental Medicine hosted “Breath & Relax – Asthma Day” at their New York campus on March 19 th 2000. This event, co-sponsored by the Student Government and the Professional Health Services Clinic, focused on the treatment and education of those who suffer from a type of asthma . Acupuncture and herbs for asthma have had significant success rates. “We were interested in choosing an illness that afflicted patients across the board with no discrimination in sex, race or age,” said student government president Barbara Roesch. “We wanted to select an illness that had a high success rate with treatment through traditional Chinese medicine . Because of the prevalence of asthma in this region, we were interested in providing the community a service by educating the public in the benefits of being treated with TCM.”
During the five-hour event, patients participated in lectures given by Pacific College of Oriental Medicine faculty, student interns, and a registered nurse from Yonkers Community Hospital . A range of topics was discussed from what to expect during an acupuncture treatment to the use of nutrition, Qi Gong, Chinese herbs for asthma and acupuncture as natural asthma treatment . Interns, assistants and a faculty supervisor staffed the college’s clinic to educate and give complimentary acupuncture treatments and herbal consultations to approximately 75 people. The event drew attendees that had never received acupuncture before, as well as first year PCOM students who were interested in listening to the lectures.
“The lectures were fascinating, especially the one concerning nutrition, because it related directly to my experience with asthma and helped to put things in perspective” said one patient.
Reine Deming, Chief Administrative Officer of Pacific College in New York , commented, “We received tremendous positive responses by both student and patient participants. This is quite an exciting time to be practicing traditional Chinese medicine .” In an effort to become involved in the community by educating the public and addressing current national health issues, Pacific’s New York campus plans on making events similar to Asthma Day a regular part of its outreach program each semester. The campus’ next event is scheduled for August 9, 2000. The college will be partnering with the Asian American Women’s Artist Alliance in lectures by Pacific College faculty on menopausal issues. The event, which will be held at an art gallery in Manhattan , is expected to draw approximately 100 people. For more information on this event, please call Pacific College of Oriental Medicine New York campus at (800) 729-3468.
Treating Asthma with TCM
Asthma is the pulmonary disease characterized by reversible airway obstruction, airway inflammation or increased airway responsiveness to allergens. Although many asthmatics suffer throughout the year, symptoms become more acute in fall and spring. This is because the main type of asthma is caused by an IgE mediated Type I allergic reaction which mainly arises in these seasons.
In five phase theory, the fall season is associated with the metal element, and metal is associated with the Lung organ. Since the Lung is the main organ involved with the pathological process of asthma , it is easy to see why the season associated with the Lung would be a time when the condition is exacerbated. Spring is associated with the Wood element, which in turn is associated with the Liver organ. Wood is controlled by metal, and in spring when Wood is in abundance, it may go against the controlling cycle and disrupts Lung functions.
In traditional Chinese medicine , the Lung is the yin organ that governs qi . The Lung takes in and downbears clear natural qi and expel turbid qi . Lung also governs the skin and is closely associated with defensive qi . External pathogenic factors enter the body through the skin and affect the Lung first.
The causes of any type of asthma in TCM can be divided into two categories, excess and deficient patterns. Excess patterns include external invasion of wind-cold and internal accumulation of phlegm heat in the Lung, while deficient patterns include Lung and Kidney deficiency unable to grasp qi .
In asthma due to invasion of wind-cold, the main symptoms include coughing with thin white sputum and rapid, labored breathing. The wind-cold pathogen obstructs the flow of Lung qi and causes the lung unable to disperse and descend qi . The acupuncture points often prescribed are Lu7 (Lie Que), Lu5 (Chi Ze) on the lung channel, UB12 (Feng Men), UB13 (Fei Shu) on the urinary bladder channel and extra point Ding Chuan. Ma Huang Tang/Ephedra Decoction is one of the common formulas used in this pattern. Points or herbs for asthma may be added or taken out of the prescription according to individual presentation.
In asthma due to phlegm heat, a product of Spleen deficiency, the main symptoms include short and rapid breathing, wheezing and coughing with thick yellow sputum. When Spleen deficiency causes dampness, it ascends and is stored in Lung. Storage of dampness eventually turns into phlegm and heat. The phlegm in the Lung will gradually stagnate the qi impeding the flow of Lung qi , resulting in asthma . The natural asthma treatment principle for this pattern is to first dispel phlegm and clear heat, following up with a Spleen tonifying formula.
A chronic type of asthma involves deficient patterns, including Lung and Kidney deficiency. The Lung is the organ that takes qi in and directs it down, giving it a descending function. Kidney, on the other hand, has a grasping effect on the qi once it is in the body. Both organs must function properly in order for the clear qi to circulate through the body. When Lung qi is weak, there will be short and rapid breathing, feeble voice and weak cough. When Kidney qi is deficient, some of the signs include dyspnea upon exertion, severe wheezing, short breath, lassitude and weakness and cold limbs. Points often prescribed are UB23 (Shen Shu) on the urinary bladder channel, Kid3 (Tai Xi) on the Kidney channel, UB13 (Fei Shu) on the urinary bladder channel, Ren 17 (Tan Zhong), Ren 6 ( Qi Hai) on conception vessel, and Ding Chuan. The typical formula for this pattern is Jin Gui Shen Qi Wan.
Acupuncture is a natural asthma treatment , free of the side effects associated with asthma medications, and often results in fewer attacks. The Word Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health both recognize the use of acupuncture in the treatment of respiratory disorders including asthma . For more information on the treatment of asthma with traditional Chinese medicine , please contact the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine Clinic at (212) 982-4600 or (619) 574-6932.