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Acupuncture for Asthma and the Respiratory System

Acupuncture, TCM, and Asthma

Does Acupuncture work for Asthma? Asthma is characterized by inflammation and constriction of the airways of the lungs. This can cause difficulty breathing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Asthma is usually triggered by some type of allergen, such as animal hair, dust, mold, and pollen. You may recognize seeing an individual with an inhaler when the wheezing becomes worse or when there is a sudden attack. There are Current treatments for asthma include different medications to help eliminate triggering factors and the inflammation such as beta agonists, bronchodilators (aka inhalers), Leukotriene inhibitors (Singular and Accolate), and corticosteroids, just to name a few.

Growing up I saw my sister experience asthma attacks as a kid and she had to go to the hospital a few times. Now she’s grown and a great singer and does not suffer from any asthma symptoms. She maintains good eating habits eats natural, organic foods.

Asthma during childhood can be difficult to deal with. It is the leading cause of hospital stays and absences from school in children1, and in 2009 here in the U.S. respiratory problems in children make up 23% of the the non-newborns admitted to the hospitals2. Respiratory disorders seems to be a big concern among many families and individuals, which has caused an interest in looking at complementary and alternative medicine as an adjunctive therapy in the management of these health issues.

TCM and Asthma

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we believe in genetics and passing on qi. Your body consists for two types of qi (“chee”) in general, one from which we acquire from our parents, and then there is the qi we acquire after birth, which is affected by our diet, lifestyle, environment, mood, habits, etc. Together they form you, and sometimes the the qi from the parents is weaker than it should be and will manifest not only may cause a naturally weakened immune system passed down, but also effects such growth and development issues.

The Lungs in Traditional Chinese Medicine

In TCM the lungs play an important role in protecting your body from outside viruses, allergens, and invaders in general. It is comparative to the immune system in western or allopathic medicine. Our lungs control the openings into the body, so it plays a role in releasing sweat from the skin as well as water metabolism. The qi of the lungs is our first line of defense. When this system isn’t functioning at tip top shape.

“Wind” is attributed to the cause of many ailments and disease in Tradition Chinese Medicine theory, including the common cold, asthma, hay fever, and other external causative as well as internally manifested conditions. The lungs play a vital role in protecting the body from Wind pathogens.

Lastly, in TCM when one system is affected it will affect the performance of others, thus more than one system will go out of whack. This may affect other qi’s, such as your metabolism qi (spleen qi). So while the lungs maybe the first to be affected, they are not the only one’s affected and an acupuncturist will treat the body as a whole.

Asthma, Acupuncture, and Research

Acupuncture For Asthma

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine examining 46 patients broken into three groups, all showing improvement. 50% with Albuterol, 45% with a placebo inhaler, and 47% with sham acupuncture3. The study also concluded that Albuterol “provided no incremental benefit” as self-reported by the patient. I see it as why use a chemical when you can use something natural and get the same benefits? And more?

A systematic review of acupuncture cupping reported that cupping therapy may have an effect on symptoms of cough and asthma and suggested that more research be conducted on this therapy3.

Herbal therapy has also been shown to help with lowering the hypersensitivity of the immune system by reducing a specific kind of antibody call Immunoglobulin E, or IgE for short4 (I will get into Immunoglobulins in future posts so don’t forget to check back!). A Chinese and Japanese formula called Xiao qing long tang (Shoseiryuto in Japanese) was used in the study, and is typically used in colds and congested fluids within the body due to the lung qi flow being impaired.

Asthma is a complicated issue and requires utilizing the best therapies and daily habits available to live a healthier life. You can learn more about holistic therapies from an acupuncturist in your town.

This is only intended for general information and not a intended to be a medical diagnosis or replace medical treatment. Please see your primary healthcare provider for any related symptoms

Sources and References

1. Asthma. 2011. PubMEd. Retrieved May 16, 2012 from
2.H. Yu, Ph.D., L. M. Wier, M.P.H., A Elixhauser, Ph.D. Hospital Stays for Children, 2009. 2011. HEALTHCARE COST AND UTILIZATION PROJECT. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
3. Wechsler ME, Kelley JM, Boyd IO, Dutile S, Marigowda G, Kirsch I, Israel E, Kaptchuk TJ..  Active albuterol or placebo, sham acupuncture, or no intervention in asthma. N Engl J Med. 2011 Jul 14;365(2):119-26.

4. Lu YY, Liu LG. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Xue Bao. Treatment of cough and asthma with blood-letting puncturing and cupping: a report of 3 cases. 2004 Jul;2(4):244, 251. Article in Chinese.
5.Shimada T, Kondoh M, Motonaga C, Kitamura Y, Cheng L, Shi H, Enomoto T, Tsuruta D, Ishii M, Kobayashi H. Enhancement of anti-allergic effects mediated by the Kampo medicine Shoseiryuto (Xiao-Qing-Long-Tang in Chinese) with lysed Enterococcus faecalis FK-23 in mice. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol. 2010 Mar;28(1):59-66.
– WebMD. 2011. Immunoglobulins. Retrieved May 16, 2012 from