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Asthma – Alternative Healthcare

for Traditional Healthcare Professional



Desmond Allen, PhD, ND, RCP

Dr.   Allen advises all readers to consult their physician before abandoning any pharmaceutical therapy or adding any natural remedy.  He also encourages everyone to take responsibility for their own healthcare decisions, and to seek the opinion of an alternative healthcare professional.

Pre-edited version of the published article in Adv Resp Care Prac, Mar 12, 2001, vol 14, No 5



Although the allopathic definition for asthma seems to change every few years, doubtless the characteristic symptomology has been the same since man took his first breath.  Unfortunately, and curiously, the asthmatic population has increased dramatically in recent years.1  But naturopathy has a persuasive argument for this dilemma.  The increasingly poor nutritional value of the virtual non‑foods on which our society subsists (especially our children), has impaired our immune systems, making them venerable to attack by various allergens that would normally be keep at bay.  Thus, the treatment is three‑fold.  Identify and avoid allergens.  Restore proper cellular and immune system functions.  And provide supplemental nutrients that address symptomology. 

Most asthmatics are well aware of their particular triggers: dust, pollens, animal dander, molds, fumes, aspirin, etc.  But a primary, and generally overlooked, condition that sets the stage for these triggers is often a chronic allergic reaction to common, even favorite, foods or their additives.3-7  Although such allergies may go undetected by modern allergy tests, they can be identified by other, practical measures such as a rotation or elimination diet.3

There seems to be is a link, proportionally, to the ever‑increasing consumption of foods with little or no nutritional value and the growing number of asthmatics.  As the national dependence upon processed foods increases, so too do the asthmatics.  The metabolism of these non‑foods and empty calories rob us of nutrients needed to maintain healthy immune systems.8 Real foods replace these nutrients, but processed foods leave the body naked, unprotected against the enemy, and forced to resort to defensive allergic reactions.  The simply suppression of these reactions with synthetic drugs has proven to be an inadequate solution.

Westerners want and expect a potion for every illness.  This permits indulgence and requires no change in lifestyle.  Thus, the popularity of allopathy.  Permit me to mix a couple of metaphors; there are no "magic bullets" to let us "have our cake and eat it too."


Step One

Identify and avoid foods that provoke attacks.  Many common foods are known to cause either postponed or immediate allergic reactions: milk, chocolate, wheat, citrus, food colorings, eggs, fish, shellfish, alfalfa, corn, peanuts, soy, beets, carrots, colas, red meats, pork, poultry, salt, sulfites, spinach, white flour and refined sugar.  But there are many other culprits as well.


Step Two

Restore the immune system.  Maintain a balanced diet especially high in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, brown rice and whole grains.  Avoid refined sugars and hydrogenated oils.  Avoid animal products as much as possible.  This is not a pitch for vegetarianism, but many asthmatics have an imbalance in fatty acid metabolism.9  This contributes to an increased production of leukotrienes, which are 1,000 times more potent bronchoconstrictors than are histamines.3  

There are specific foods that help to prevent or relieve asthmatic symptoms.  Eat them regularly.  Garlic and onions inhibit enzymes that promote the release of inflammatory chemicals.  The capsaicin in chili peppers helps desensitize mucosa to various irritants and has even been reported to give relief during attacks.  A locally produced honey or bee pollen is an age‑old method of increasing tolerance to local pollens.  Because of its moisture absorbing ability it also relieves inflammation and soothes painful coughing spells.  Of course, it should not be given to infants. 

Green tea has mild bronchodilation and antioxidant actions.  Kelp and pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium‑‑another mild bronchodilator.  Grains and fish are high in selenium, which contains an enzyme very important for reducing leukotriene formation.  Acerola fruit, broccoli, horseradish, cauliflower, rose hips, lemon, papaya, cabbage, oranges, and asparagus, are also a most for asthmatics.  They are high in Vitamin C, a significant factor in the metabolism of fatty acids, thereby inhibiting leukotriene production.                 

Another helpful dietary procedure is a three‑day fast each month.  Drinking only a combination of distilled water and lemon juice will help rid the body of toxins and mucus.10


Step Three

Several herbs and supplements have proven effective.2,3 11-14  Here are but a few of them.  Use as suggested by the distributor or your local alternative health care provider.

Marshmallow and Fenugreek: anti‑inflammatory, bronchodilation, reduces mucus production, relieves coughing, expectorant.  Anemarrhena and Astragalus: soothes inflamed bronchi, fights infection.  Ephedra and Passion Flower: decongestant, relieves allergies.  Mullein oil: stops coughing, reduces mucus production.  Bugleweed: bronchodilator.  Lobelia extract: bronchodilator, expectorant.  Licorice root: cough suppressant, expectorant, anti‑allergy activities, an anti‑inflammatory similar to cortisone.   Chinese skullcap: inhibits allergic, inflammatory agents.  Grape seed: anti‑inflammatory, antioxidant.  Pau d’arco: natural antibiotic, anti‑inflammatory.

Certain minerals are very important as well.  Proper levels of magnesium--mild bronchodilator, calcium, selenium help to avoid attacks.  Some herbs high in magnesium are Irish moss, licorice root, nettle leaf, peppermint leaf, dog grass, boneset, dulse, white willow bark, burdock root, althea root, astragalus root, and Siberian ginseng root.  Some herbs high in selenium are hibiscus flower, catnip, dog grass, milk thistle, lemon grass, lady’s slipper, yarrow flower, valerian root, barberry root, blessed thistle, bayberry root, althea root, dulse, and sarsaparilla root.  Some common herbs for calcium are valerian root, buchu leaf, kelp, pau d’ arco bark, cabbage, nettle leaf, barberry bark, and dandelion.

Flaxseed, evening primrose, and borage oil promote production of anti‑inflammatory prostaglandins.  L‑Cystine and L‑Methionine can reduce inflammation and repair lung tissue.  Vitamin B complex is an anti‑allergen and anti‑inflammatory.  Vitamin B6 helps correct blocked tryptophan metabolism, common in asthmatics.  Tryptophan converts to serotonin, a known broncho‑constrictor.   B12 improves sleep, appetite and shortness of breath on exertion, especially in those with sulphate sensitivities.  The same glands that secrete hydrochloric acid also secrete a substance that makes Vitamin B12 absorption possible.

Vitamin C deficiencies are also common in asthmatics.  Yet it is key to the metabolism of fatty acids, thereby contributing to the decreased production of leukotrienes.  Potent antioxidant.  Oxidizing agents can stimulate bronchial constriction and allergic reactions.  Vitamins E, and A with its B‑carotenes: potent antioxidants.





1.  H Yoos, et all, “An Asthma Management Program for Urban Minority Children, Journal of Pediactric Health Care.  March/April, 1997.

2.  Balch James F and Balch Phyllis A.  Perscription for Natural Healing.  2nd ed.; Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publishing Group; 1997.

3.  Murray Michael and Pizzorno Joseph.  Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine.  Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing; 1991. 

4.  Oehling A.  Importance of Food Allergy in Childhood Asthma.  Allergol Immunopathol Suppl 1981; (IX): 71-3.

5.  Bock SA.  Food Allergy in Childhood Asthma.   J.  Asthma.  1983; 20: 377-81.

6.  Ogle KA and Bullocks JD.  Children with Allergic Rhinitis and/or Bronchial Asthma Treated with Elimination Diet: a Five-Year Follow-Up.  Ann Allergy 1980; 44: 273-8. 

7.  Pelikan Z.  Nasal Response to Food Ingestion Challenge.  Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 1988; (114): 525-30.

8.  Ballentine Rudolph.  Diet and Nutrition.  Honesdale, PA: The Himalayan International Institute; 1978, p.9.

9.  Bray GW.  The hypochlorhydria of asthma in childhood.  Quart J Med 1931: (24) 181-97.

10.  Adams Rex.  Miracle Medicine Foods.  New York: Parker Publishing Company, Inc.; 1977. 

11.  Pederson Mark .  Natural Herbology.  4th ed.; Warsaw, IN: Wendell W.  White Company; 1998.

12.  Hutchens Alma R.  Indian Herbology of North America.  Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc.; 1973. 

13.  Edward Shook.  Advanced Treatise in Herbology.  Warsaw, IN: Wendell W.  Whitman Co.; 1999.

14.  Michael Tierra.  Planetary Herbology.  Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press; 1988.          




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