FACTS & FIGURES ON ASTHMA in IRELAND
|• 7.1% of 18+ population have asthma|
• 18.9% of 13 – 15 year olds have asthma
• 38.5% of 13 – 15 year olds reported wheezing
• More than 1 person a week dies from asthma
• 29% of asthma patients miss school or work
Ireland has the fourth highest prevalence of asthma in the world
Frightening figures to say the least – so how can homeopathy help?
Homeopathy is a branch of alternative medicine and one of the most effective ways to treat asthma, in my opinion. Homeopathy recognizes disease as a holistic disturbance and believes in totality and an individualistic approach where physical symptoms manifested in the body correlate to one’s mental and emotional state. Therefore, homeopathy does not aim to treat specific organs, but the body in its entirety. Many factors affect a person’s life, such as environment or inherent diseases. Consequently, each experiences and manifests the same disease in different ways and thus must be treated individually. Unlike conventional medicine, homeopathy does not merely offer a palliative or symptomatic relief for asthma, but aims to permanently cure and rid the body of the disease.
In asthma the bronchial tubes narrow and this makes it more difficult to breathe. Symptoms that occur in asthma are chest tightness, coughing, wheezy breathing and shortness of breath. These symptoms may simply occur when the body has to work harder – such as on walking quickly, going upstairs or running. House dust may provoke an asthma attack if there is a history of allergy as may exposure to cat, dog or horse hair. People who suffer from hay fever may find that they get asthma-like symptoms too. It is helpful to find out if the asthma is caused by an allergy as this can offer some direction that treatment with homeopathy may pursue. Asthma patients may have a personal or family history of hay fever and/or eczema, as these conditions tend to exist together.
In terms of conventional treatment, the medication available can offer reasonable control of symptoms. Bronchodilator inhalers (available on prescription) such as Salbutamol (Ventolin) and Bricanyl (Terbutaline) are designed to act on the muscles of the airways and help the air flow through. You could think of the airways as tunnels, which narrow down when there is asthma. The bronchodilators are the workmen which widen the tunnel allowing greater flow of air (the traffic). There are also steroid inhalers such as Becotide (Beclomethasone) and Pulmicort (Budesonide) which you could imagine to be the workmen who do the maintenance work in the tunnel preventing the build up of debris or do things which keep the tunnel nice and wide – they act by reducing the inflammation. If used well and if the asthma is not severe, inhalers such as Becotide can do a good job. If someone has asthma and they are already on conventional medicine I would strongly recommend that they do not stop their medication or alter it without deciding this together with a doctor. Stopping medication can result in a flaring up of the asthma and this may be confused with a homeopathic aggravation, or worse, it could be potentially very serious.
Nevertheless sometimes people do not like the thought of taking these drugs and of the side effects that can occur. The side effects of Salbutamol are generally mild and steroids used short term rarely cause problems but the long term use of steroids even if inhaled may lead to potential problems if large doses are used. Initially homeopathic treatment may be used alongside conventional treatment but eventually we wish for a reduction in inhaler use and hopefully we can wean the patient off them provided that homeopathy gives a result as good or better than that obtained with inhalers.
So what homeopathic medicines are available to treat asthma? Asthma is a condition for which I would highly recommend professional treatment – I would not advocate self-treatment. Here are the outlines of a few remedies, which may be helpful in the treatment of asthma.
Arsenicum album: A person needing this remedy can feel exhausted, yet be very restless and anxious. Breathing problems tend to be worse while lying down, better when sitting up, and may begin, or be the most intense, between midnight and two a.m. Dry wheezing may progress to a cough that brings up frothy whitish fluid. The person can be thirsty, taking frequent tiny sips. General chilliness is usually seen, with burning pains in the chest and heat in the head. Warmth often brings improvement.
Carbo vegetabilis: This remedy may be indicated when a person feels weak or faint with a hollow sensation in the chest. Coughing jags can lead to gagging. The person may be very cold (especially hands and feet), yet feel a need for moving air, wanting to sit beside a fan or open window. Gas and digestive upset are also likely, and sitting up and burping offers some relief. Feeling worse in the evening, and worse from talking, eating, or lying down are other indications for this remedy.
Chamomilla: Asthma with a dry, hard, irritating cough that starts after being exposed to moving air, or after becoming overexcited and angry, may be helped with this remedy. The cough is often worse around nine p.m., and may continue into the night. The person seems hypersensitive and may be extremely irritable and agitated. (Children may even shriek and hit, though they often calm down if someone carries them.)
Ipecacuanha: Coughing spasms that lead to retching or vomiting strongly indicate this remedy. Wheezing can come on suddenly with a feeling of suffocation and heaviness in the chest. Mucus collects in breathing tubes, but the person has difficulty coughing much out. The person may sweat a lot and feel clammy or nauseous, be worse from motion, and sometimes worse from warmth.
Natrum sulphuricum: This remedy is sometimes indicated when asthma attacks are brought on by exposure to mold and dampness. The person may hold the chest while coughing, because it feels so weak. Wheezing and breathing difficulties are aggravated by exertion, and episodes tend to be worse in the very early morning.
Nux vomica: Indications for this remedy include a tense, constricted feeling in the chest during asthma attacks, with pressure in the stomach. Problems are often worse in the morning. Overindulgence in stimulants, alcohol, sweets, or strong spicy food can bring on or aggravate an episode. Both physical effort and mental exertion can make things worse, and warmth and sleep often bring relief. A person needing this remedy is typically very irritable and impatient, with a general feeling of chilliness.
Pulsatilla: Wheezing that starts when a person gets too warm (especially in a stuffy room), or after eating rich food, can indicate this remedy. Coughing brings up yellow-colored mucus, with gagging and choking. Tightness in the chest tends to be worse in the evening and at night, and is relieved by cool fresh air. A person who needs this remedy is likely to be changeable and emotional, wanting a lot of attention and comforting. (Pulsatilla is often useful in children’s illnesses.)
Spongia tosta: A hard or “barking” cough during an asthma attack is a strong indication for this remedy. Breathing can be labored, with a sawing sound, and not much mucus is produced. The person may feel best when sitting up and tilting the head back, or when leaning forward. Warm drinks may be helpful. The problems often start while the person is asleep (typically before midnight). Spongia is often used in croup, as well.
Sinéad Hurley LIC.I.S.H, I.S. Hom, is qualified registered homeopath who teaches and consults with clients in her consulting rooms in Kenmare, Co. Kerry via phone or SKYPE