Managing Asthma with Natural Medicine

Managing Asthma with Natural Medicine
By Randall Neustaedter
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herbs and natural medicineNatural medicine can significantly strengthen immune function, preventing asthma attacks and even curing the underlying cause of symptoms. The most successful approach to asthma, and the easiest for parents to adhere to, is constitutional homeopathy as practiced by an experienced, certified, classical homeopathic practitioner (see ).

The constitutional medicine is a single substance that corresponds to the overall picture of a child’s physical symptoms, medical history, general metabolism, and behavior. A skilled homeopath will discern the correct medicine and prescribe it in a single dose on sugar pellets or in repeated daily doses of a liquid solution. The typical effect of homeopathic care is a gradual reduction in asthmatic and other respiratory symptoms and the improvement of overall health, with less need for conventional drugs.

A homeopath usually schedules a one-hour initial appointment with one or both parents and the child. That interview will include a detailed history of the asthma, respiratory illnesses, and allergies, including factors and conditions that stimulate symptoms, the time of day when coughing occurs, food triggers, types of weather that aggravate respiratory problems, and the nature of the child’s coughs. Such apparently inconsequential details as a child’s favorite foods, sleep position, fears, expressions of anger, nervous habits, reaction to change in temperature, and a whole range of idiosyncracies, are also considered in the initial interview. The homeopath decides which of these details best characterize the individual child and chooses the medicine based on this encompassing view. At the end of the interview, the homeopath will prescribe the proper medicine and any other appropriate interventions.

Conventional asthma medication should continue during the beginning of treatment; symptoms should be clearly stabilized before the ongoing drug regimen is gradually reduced. Homeopathy has several prescribing techniques to ensure that conventional drugs do not antidote or interfere with homeopathic medicines.

During a follow-up visit in two to four weeks, and usually monthly for several visits after that, the homeopath reviews symptom recurrence and improvement to determine whether the treatment has been effective. A medicine may need to be repeated or changed over the course of several months based on this evaluation of progress. The goal is a consistent lessening and even complete absence of symptoms. Cure is defined as a year or more without any symptom recurrence.

Oriental medicine and Chinese herbs have the ability to directly strengthen immune function. The disadvantage of herbs is their bad taste, and the most effective strategy for children is to mix liquid extracts of herbs with juice to improve their taste. A licensed acupuncturist experienced in the treatment of children can assess an individual child’s needs and prescribe an herbal formula to relieve congestion and build immune function. The correct formula will adjust the child’s energetic imbalances and strengthen weaker areas of energy that have led to decreased resistance and heightened susceptibility to allergens. The result is reduced symptoms and increased resistance to infections. An oriental medicine practitioner may also suggest a course of acupuncture, depending on the child’s age and willingness to have treatment with needles. (For a list of practitioners, see [nationwide] and [California].) 

Classical homeopathy, with its 200-year history of treating asthma, and oriental medicine, with a 3,000-year history, are the most consistently effective forms of natural medical treatment for childhood asthma. Both have also been proven effective for asthma treatment in double-blind clinical studies

Homeopathic Treatment at Home
Of all the natural home treatments available, homeopathic medicines offer the quickest relief and are easiest for children to use, because they taste like sugar. Homeopathic medicines have no side effects, dangers, or dosage complications, nor will they interfere or interact with conventional asthma medications. Parents can feel totally confident in the safety of homeopathic medicines. Overdosing is impossible; a child could swallow an entire bottle of any homeopathic medicine and never suffer an adverse reaction.

The effectiveness of homeopathy, of course, depends upon selecting the correct medicine for the symptoms. The process of choosing the right medicine for an asthma attack is simple enough, involving finding the closest match between the child’s symptoms of coughing and wheezing and the description of symptoms for each medicine. A homeopathic practitioner can suggest a list of acute medicines that will be most appropriate for a particular child’s symptoms. Otherwise, parents can read through the list of symptoms associated with each of the medicines described here and keep on hand those that sound most like their child’s symptoms.

{C} The general rule for prescribing any acute homeopathic medicine is to repeat the dose until symptoms improve, then stop and observe. If symptoms return, begin the medicine again. For asthma and cough, if no improvement is noted within 24 hours, re-evaluate the medicine and change to an alternate prescription. If symptoms change markedly after the prescription of the first medicine, then also re-evaluate and consider a second medicine. If a respiratory infection changes form, for example from a runny nose to a deep chest cough, it is often necessary to switch medicines. Since asthma symptoms tend to recur in the same form in an individual child, parents soon become adept at choosing medicines that work best for their child.

The following list separates medicines for dry and loose coughs. This is a relatively arbitrary distinction, since children may have both dry and loose cough at different times of the day. (Coughs tend to sound more congested during the night and morning when the child is lying down and mucus collects in the throat.) A tight, high-pitched, ringing cough can be clearly distinguished from a deep, rumbling, fluid-filled cough. Each of these medicines also addresses wheezing and chest tightness.

All homeopathic medicines should be given in the 30c strength. The amount of medicine administered is not critical; any amount will work equally well. A typical dose is two pellets every two to three hours, more often if wheezing is severe. However, when wheezing worsens, parents will be using conventional medications, which should also relieve symptoms quickly, making more frequent repetition of homeopathics unnecessary.

Dry Cough
1. Lobelia is the first medicine to think of when wheezing is accompanied by short, dry coughs. Shortness of breath is brought on by exposure to cold air and any exertion. The chest is tight and constricted.

2. Cuprum metallicum is characterized by spasms, spasmodic coughing, and spasmodic vomiting. These children feel a painful constriction of the chest. Their cough is better from drinking cold water and worse in hot weather.

3. Kali carbonicum . Children must sit up and lean forward in order to breathe more easily. Typically, they wake at 2 or 3 a.m. with a dry cough and wheezing. They must have open air when an attack occurs, but the cough is often brought on by cold weather.

4. Sambucus. Sudden spells of asthma that resemble croup in their intensity. The child awakes nearly suffocated, gasping for air until the attack passes. These sudden, dramatic attacks usually occur at night, with a hollow dry cough, which is worse lying down and worse in cold air.

Loose Cough
1. Ipecacuanha corresponds to more childhood asthma symptoms than any other medicine, including racking, rattling coughs, with rumbling in the chest, wheezing, and coughing with every breath, accompanied by nausea, gagging, or vomiting. Attacks occur in warm or damp weather, and symptoms improve in the open air. Mucus collects in the throat or chest, causing a loose gagging cough. Loud bubbling noises from congestion can be heard in the chest.

2. Antimonium tartaricum . There is a great deal of mucus in the chest, and very little is expectorated. Children seem weak and wheezy and appear sicker than those who need Ipecac, though the Ipecac children may have more rumbling chest sounds. Children must sit up to breathe. The chest rattles and the cough is loose, worse in the evening and at night.

Massaging specific points on a child’s body during asthmatic episodes helps to relieve cough, induce relaxation, and decrease wheezing. The techniques fall into two categories: pressing on acupuncture points and massage of acupuncture channels. Both are simple, straightforward, and require no training.

There are six important pressure points for the relief of asthma symptoms (see list below). With your child lying down, apply finger pressure to the points on both sides of the body, simultaneously if possible. Hold for about two minutes, or hold for ten seconds, release for ten seconds, and repeat ten times. The points may be tender. Apply pressure without causing undue pain.

1. Lung 1 opens blocked energy in the lungs; located on either side of the chest in the soft space just under the lateral head of the clavicle (collarbone).

2. CV 17 clears the lungs and disperses congestion; located in the center of the chest at the level of the nipples.

3. Pericardium 6 opens the chest; located in the center of the palmar surface of the forearm, two child-sized finger breadths above the crease of the wrist.

4. Ding chuan is a specific point to relieve asthma; located on the back, just below and lateral to the most prominent vertebra at the base of the neck (at T7).

5. Liver 3 is a calming point that brings energy down out of the chest; located on the top of the foot, in the depression at the junction of the first and second toes.

5. Stomach 40 relieves congestion; located just lateral to the shinbone at a level half the distance between the prominent bones at the knee and ankle.

Tui na pediatric massage is soothing and effective for symptom relief in infants and children up to 12 years old. It involves repetitive massage, 100 strokes at a time, repeated two to three times daily. For massage of the limbs, do one side and then the other. Young children respond especially well to tui na.

1. Ring finger. Rub the palmar surface of the ring finger in a straight line in one direction only, from the second knuckle to the fingertip.

2. Chest. With thumbs together at the midpoint of the chest between the nipples (CV 17), and hands wrapped around the chest, push the thumbs out towards the nipples.

3. Back. With thumbs on the medial border of the scapulae, and hands wrapped around the back, push apart the curves of the scapulae with thumbs moving in one direction, from above to below.

4. Forearm. Use only if the child does not have a fever. Rub along the lateral edge (thumb side) of the long bone of the forearm (radius) in one direction only, from wrist to the elbow.


Jobst, K.A. “Acupuncture in Asthma and Pulmonary Disease: An Analysis of Efficacy and Safety.” J Altern Complement Med 2, no. 1 (Spring 1996): 179-206.

Joos, S., et al. “Immunomodulatory Effects of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Allergic Asthma: A Randomized Controlled Study.” J Altern Complement Med 6, no. 6 (Dec. 2000): 519-525.

Reilly, D., et al. “Is Evidence for Homeopathy Reproducible?” Lancet 344 ( Dec. 10, 1994 ): 1601-1606. This double-blind study of patients with severe asthma showed that, after four weeks of treatment with a homeopathic preparation of an allergen, the treatment group experienced significant relief of symptoms compared to the placebo control group.

Randall Neustaedter , OMD, LAc, is the author of The Vaccine Guide: Making an Informed Choice and the forthcoming book, The Child Health Guide. He has practiced homeopathic medicine for over 25 years, specializing in child health care. A licensed acupuncturist and doctor of oriental medicine, he lives and practices in the San Francisco Bay Area and can be reached at his website,

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