World Asthma Day, which is observed on May 3 every year, is organised by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) to raise awareness of asthma worldwide. Even though asthma cannot be cured, it is possible to reduce and prevent asthma attacks, also called episodes or exacerbations. This year, the theme for the day is ‘Closing Gaps in Asthma Care’.
What is asthma?
“Asthma is a condition in which your airway gets inflamed, narrow, swell, produce extra mucus, and makes it difficult to breathe,” stated Dr Archana Sukumaran, Ayurveda doctor (BAMS) at Kerala Ayurveda Ltd. She also noted that while asthma may be mildly uncomfortable for some people, for others, it is a major problem that affects daily activities and leads to a life-threatening asthma attack. The main symptoms of asthma are shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and tightness of the chest. The exact cause of asthma is unknown and it varies from person to person. The main triggering factors are pollen, dust mite, smoking, cold air, stress, exercise, and seasonal variations, among others.
How can asthma be managed with Ayurveda?
Dr Sukumaran shared that asthma is referred to as tamaka swasa in Ayurveda. “The word tamaka refers to the feeling of drowning in darkness. Ayurveda considers asthma as an imbalance of Vata and Kapha dosha. This imbalance happens due to accumulation of metabolic toxins or Ama due to lifestyle and seasonal changes and a diet that is oily, heavy and cold.”
Classical Ayurveda management concentrates exclusively on treating the root cause rather than just addressing the symptom. “The management of any disease in Ayurveda has five key steps. Steering clear of triggers is a prime step to getting relief from all diseases. The purificatory procedures (shodhana), medicines, a healthy diet, practising yoga, and pranayama are also cardinal steps,” said Dr Sukumaran.
Ayurvedic remedies for asthma
According to Dr. Sukumaran, the following remedies aid in the management of asthma:
- Triphala: Gut health plays an important role in managing asthma symptoms. Triphala is a combination of three gut friendly herbs — gooseberry or amla, Chebulic Myrobalan or haritaki and Baheda or Bibhitaki. You can consume triphala tea instead of your morning coffee. In case you don’t like the taste, you can try taking triphala tablets.
- Turmeric: Turmeric is known as Haridra in Sanskrit, meaning the one that adorns Hari or Lord Vishnu. Its radiant yellow colour is considered auspicious and is an integral part of various rituals. It is said to possess multitudinous powers and due to its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric can help relieve asthmatic symptoms. Haridra Khandam is a very effective ayurvedic medicine for allergies that can also ease the lung congestion associated with asthma.
- Dasamoola: It is a potent combination of 10 herbal roots, that is effective in managing respiratory ailments. Agasthya rasayanam is a classical Ayurvedic formulation with extracts of dasamoola and other herbs and is widely used to ease symptoms of asthma.
- Kapura: Camphor is a natural decongestant that helps in clearing the airways. Karpooradi thailam is a warming chest rub oil made from the recipes written in the 5,000 years old Ayurveda scriptures. It provides quick relief to clear airways and ease breathing.
Tips to ease the symptoms of asthma
Incorporate the following habits in your daily life to manage asthma symptoms, as specified by Dr. Sukumaran:
- Avoid dairy products, cold foods, smoking and refined sugars.
- Include simple pranayama techniques to improve lung health.
- Never stop your medications unless specified by your doctors.
- In case of severe symptoms, try to seek medical help as soon as possible.
- Yoga asanas like ustrasana, sarvangasana can be helpful.