May is Asthma Awareness Month.  Events are being held across North America in an effort to increase awareness and educate the public on the condition, which seems to be increasing in epidemic proportions.

In my effort to help educate, I’ve made up a list of a few Traditional Chinese Medicine substances commonly used by Chinese herbalists in treating Asthma.  In this series, I will include some explanation as to what we understand as to the medicinal effect of each of these herbs from a TCM, and occasionally, from a conventional medicine perspective.

The purpose of this series of posts is simply to educate.  It should not be attempted by untrained individuals to use the listed herbs in an attempt to treat asthma.  A proper TCM diagnosis by a licensed practitioner is the only way to ensure safety when prescribing the herbs.

Ku Shen: English name: Sophora root; Pharmaceutical name: Sophorae Flavescentis Radix.  Essential for both chronic and acute stages.  TCM: Scatters Wind, Clears Phlegm, Clears Heat by promoting urination, stops itch (useful especially when Asthma is coupled with Eczema – common).  Western:  Shown to stimulate B-receptors of the sympathetic nervous system to relax the bronchioli and relieve asthma.  Has a strong anti-allergic and expectorant action, is anti-inflammatory and also has some immune-suppressive action.

Ling Zhi: English name: Red Reishi Mushroom, Ganoderma; Pharmaceutical name: Ganoderma Lucidum.  TCM:  A major ingredient for the chronic stage.  Strengthens Qi, stops coughing and wheezing, clears phlegm.

**The combination of Ling Zhi, Ku Shen and Gan Cao (Licorice Root), known as ASHMI in a recent double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trail, was shown to be effective in treating asthma.  Please refer to my previous blog post on the subject of this study, which contains the link to a downloadable PDF of the study.**

Chan Tui:  English name:  cicada molting; Pharmaceutical name:  Cicadae periostracum.  A major ingredient in all atopic (allergic) states.  TCM: strong Wind dissipating effect.  Western: Strong anti-allergic effect.  Yes, this makes the herbal formula look like it’s got a bunch of bugs in it, but it’s not the actual bug, simply its molten shell.

Wu Wei Zi:  English name: Schisandra Fruit; Pharmaceutical name: Schisandrae Fructus.  TCM: Contains the leakage of Lung Qi (recurrent cough and wheezing is considered ‘leakage of Lung Qi).  Western: Good anti-allergic effect, contains adaptogens.

Zhi Ma Huang:  English name: Prepared (honey fried) Ephedra stem; Pharmaceutical name: Herba ephedrae preparatum.  Essential in early / acute stage.  Strong bronchodilating action.  Can substitute Bai Qian (Cynanchum root and rhizome) in children or patients with weak constitutions.  Ma Huang has received a ‘bad rap’ due to its misuse by diet pill companies and other misguided individuals.  Like most herbs listed as ‘toxic’ or ‘dangerous’, when used appropriately and if indicated within the paradigm of a proper TCM diagnosis and in the proper dosage, Ma Huang is perfectly safe.  Preparing the herb by stir-frying it in honey further reduces any of the adverse effect elicited in the raw form of the herb.

Again, it is very important to note that the purpose of this post is simply to educate.  The list is not intended for use by untrained individuals attempting to treat asthma.  A proper TCM diagnosis by a trained, registered, and certified TCM practitioner (Dr.TCM, TCMP, or Registered TCM Herbalist) is the only way to ensure safety when prescribing the herbs.

A complete list of individuals licensed to prescribe Chinese medical substances in British Columbia is available through the CTCMA, the government regulatory body for TCM in BC.