Asthma has become a common condition in recent decades. It can cause a cough, tightness of the chest, wheezing and breathlessness. It is caused by the inflammation of the airways, or the bronchi, which carry air to, and from the lungs. This inflammation is known to be triggered by a variety of factors which tightens of muscles around the bronchi.
Conventional Medical Treatment
NHS Choices says that “the aim of treatment is to get your asthma under control and keep it that way. Everyone with asthma should be able to lead a full and unrestricted life. The treatments available for asthma are effective in most people and should enable you to be free from symptoms”.
This indicates clearly that conventional medicine seeks to manage rather than to cure asthma.
The main treatment offered by conventional medicine is inhalers, that deliver a drug directly into the airways. Sometime a ‘spacer’ is used to increased the amount of medication reaching the lungs, and reduce the ‘side-effects’ of the drug.
Reliever inhalers, such as Salbutamol and Terbutaline, which aim to relieve asthma symptoms quickly, and contain a ‘short-acting beta2-agonist’ which ‘works by relaxing the muscles surrounding the narrowed airways’. NHS Choces claim that these are “generally safe”.
Preventer inhalers, such as Beclometasone, Budesonide, Fluticasone and Mormetasone, aim “to reduce the amount of inflammation and ‘twitchiness’ in the airways and prevent asthma attacks occurring”. These inhalers contain corticosteroid drugs. NHS Choices say that these “Inhaled corticosteroids can occasionally cause a mild fungal infection (oral thrush) in the mouth and throat”,
Long-acting reliever inhalers, such as Formoterol and Salmeterol, are used when this treatment fails to work. “These work in the same way as short-acting relievers, but they take longer to work and can last up to 12 hours”.
Preventer medicines. If this treatment does not work the following drugs are then used:
Leukotriene receptor antagonists (Montelukast): a drug that “blocks part of the chemical reaction involved in inflammation of the airways”.
Theophyllines: “a drug that helps widen the airways by relaxing the muscles around them”.
Oral Steroids: NHS Choices say that these drugs ”are usually monitored by a respiratory specialist” as the “long-term use of oral steroids has possible serious side effects, so they are only used once other treatment options have been tried”.
Omalizumab (Xolair). This is given as an injection every 2 to 4 weeks, at a specialist asthma centre. NHS Choices says that this drug “binds to one of the proteins involved in the immune response and reduces its level in the blood. This reduces the chance of an immune reaction happening”. NHS Choices say that the National Institute for Heath and Clinical Excellence (NICE) “recommends that omalizumab can be used in people with frequent severe asthma attacks which require visits to A&E or hospital admission”.
Bronchial thermoplasty. NHS Choices say that this is used “to treat severe asthma by reducing airway narrowing” and is a treatment “carried out either with sedation or under a general anaesthetic” where a hollow tube, or bronchoscope containing a probe “is inserted through the mouth or nose into the airway and expanded so it touches the airway wall, it then heats up”. It goes on to say that “the long-term risks and benefits are not yet fully understood”.
NHS Choices then goes on to discuss some of the ‘side-effects’ of these treatments, but as usual, their coverage seems to downplay what is known about these treatments, particularly some of the more worrying research. These concerns apply particularly to the ‘long-acting reliever inhalers’, and the subsequent treatment offered by Conventional Medicine.
Therefore, before accepting conventional treatment for Asthma I would recommend that some research is done into the more serious adverse reactions.
This website, whilst saying that these treatments are “usually well tolerated”, it does at least seem to cover most of the more serious dangers of this treatment. This includes evidence about a link between this treatment and Cataracts and Glaucoma, poor physical growth.
Homeopaths have been treating people with Asthma successfully for a long time, not just in managing the condition, but curing it. However, it is important to remember that in Homeopathy any illness or disease, including Asthma, requires individualised attention.
As usual, there are many remedies used by Homeopaths in the treatment of Asthma. These remedy descriptions have been taken from Robert Medhurst’s article on the Hpathy website.
Commonly indicated in children, asthma appears suddenly at night with a suffocating cough and palpitations and the sufferer feels the need to sit upright. Worse from warm weather or being warm, better for motion, belching or lying on the right side
The sufferer has periodic attacks of asthma with a burning sensation in the chest, restlessness, anxiety, extreme fatigue and cold sweats. Attacks may be associated with hayfever or emphysema. Symptoms are worse immediately on lying down, from walking or exertion and better for warmth and warm food.
Occasional bouts of asthma that force the sufferer to sit up to breathe, with exhaustion and a burning in the chest. Worse for dry, cold weather or exertion, better for open air.
Asthma with a sensation of exhaustion and weakness in the chest with difficulty getting air into the lungs. Worse at or near the seashore, warmth or drafts, better for motion or exercise.
Frequently useful in the elderly, this remedy may be indicated where there is an association with gas in the stomach. The sufferer experiences cyanosis, a coldness to the skin and extreme dyspnoea. Worse for sitting or lying down, better for eructation and walking.
Characterised by suddenly occurring spasmodic attacks often arising from emotional disturbances or fright, with facial cyanosis. Hiccoughs often occur before asthma attacks. Worse from motion, menses, touch and pressure, better for drinking cold water.
Spasmodic asthma with wheezing, loose cough, a feeling of tightness in the chest, nausea, anxiety, perspiration and restlessness. Worse from motion or warm, humid air, better for open air, rest and pressure.
May be indicated by the appearance of wheezing asthmatic attacks frequently occurring just after midnight or around 3 a.m. Worse from walking, cold air or change of weather, better for leaning forward, warm weather and motion.
Asthma attacks usually occur on falling asleep or when wrapped too tightly around the throat. Symptoms improve on coughing up phlegm. Worse during and after sleep, hot drinks and during menopause and better for open air and cold drinks.
Asthma with often brought on by exercise and preceded with a feeling of prickling over the skin, with nausea and profuse salivation. Worse from exertion, warm food, exposure to cold, better for rapid walking.
Asthma that often has a familial basis, and may be associated with a rheumatic complaint and occurs during wet weather. It is accompanied by a loose cough producing thick white or greenish mucus. Diarrhoea often arises during or after each attack. Worse for damp weather and lying on the left side, better for open air and lying on the back.
Asthma often arises from gastric disturbances, the sufferer is frequently nauseous, flatulent, irritable and constipated and has a yellow-coated tongue. Symptoms are worse after midnight or early morning, and worse for cold or exertion. Better after belching, damp, wet weather, lying on the back, changing sides or sitting up.
Asthma often associated with skin disease, or suppression of skin diseases, it occurs from a recurrent cough and produces an expectoration of thick offensive sputum. Worse for bathing and overheating, better for standing and dry, warm weather.
Like all Homeopathic remedies, these are all safe. But as asthma can be a serious disease, and it is recommended that anyone suffering from asthma should consult with a registered Homeopath to ensure a good match, at the correct potency.
Randomised Controlled Tests (RCTs)
RCTs are the third, and decidedly the least important type of evidence supporting Homeopathy as a medical therapy.
Contrary to what the NHS Choices website says, incorrectly, about evidence proving the value of homeopathic treatment of Asthma, there are several RCTs which have looked into the treatment of Asthma with Homeopathy
“Researchers at the University of Glasgow in the UK, have found that 80% patients who received very small, “homeopathic”, doses of whatever substance they were most allergic to had significant relief of symptoms within the first week of treatment, compared to 38% of patients who received placebo”.
“This study provides evidence that homeopathic medicines, as prescribed by experienced homeopathic practitioners, improve severity of asthma in children”.
This paper looks at the clinical research into allergic conditions treated with homeopathy, including a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (RCT) for hay fever with positive conclusions, and two positive RCTs in Asthma. It also looks at cohort surveys that have shown improvement in asthma in children, and general allergic conditions and skin diseases. It also looked at some economic surveys that have shown positive results in eczema, allergy, seasonal allergic rhinitis, asthma, food allergy, and chronic allergic rhinitis, outlining some of the homeopathic remedies found to be useful in the treatment of hay fever, asthma, eczema and urticaria.