Acupuncture, Herbs and Nutrients for Asthma

by Barbara and John G. Connor, M.Ac., L.Ac.

John and I thought we would write a little today about asthma and how acupuncture and 31 different herbs and nutrients can help in treating it.  Asthma, as you know, is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways, characterized by reversible airflow obstruction and hyperresponsiveness attributed to inflammation. Precipitating factors for asthma include allergens to pollens, mold, mildew, dust mites, animal dander, air pollution, smoke, etc.

Acupuncture for Asthma

Acupuncture stimulation of GV 14, bilateral BL 12 and BL 13 can down-regulate bronchial asthma-induced increase of TGF-[, expression in the lung tissue in asthma rats, which may contribute to its effect in improving airway remodeling. (Li et al 2014)

Shao’s five needling therapy” [Feishu (BL 13), Dazhui (GV 14), Fengmen (BL 12)] achieves the significant efficacy on asthma at acute attack stage. It significantly relieves the symptoms and physical signs of the patients and improves lung functions. The effect is better than that of theophylline sustained release tablet. (Shao et al 2013)

Acupuncture – Although the effect was not sustained beyond the treatment period, the study demonstrated that acupuncture had an effect on asthma in preschool children for the duration of the treatment course as assessed by subjective parameters and use of medication. (Karison & Bennicke 2013)

Acupuncture at Yuji (LU 10) acts on asthma relieving for the acute attack of bronchial asthma. It achieves the immediate effect quickly and the efficacy is the best in 30 min of needle retaining, which is equal to salbutamol aerosol. Five hundred and seventy-seven cases were randomized into two groups, an acupuncture group (289 cases) and an inhalation group (288 cases). (Han J 2012)

Acupuncture has regulatory effects on mucosal and cellular immunity in patients with allergic asthma and may be an adjunctive therapy for allergic asthma. (Yang et al 2013)

Herbs and Nutrients for Asthma

Antioxidants – Reactive oxygen species (ROS) produced by inflammatory cells in the lung play a key role in the pathogenesis as well as amplification of inflammation in asthmatic airways. Strategies aimed to boost the endogenous antioxidants either through dietary or pharmacological intervention to redress oxidant-antioxidant imbalance in asthma is the current area of research in many laboratories throughout the world. (Nadeem et al 2014)

Antioxidants such as glutathione, vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, uric acid, thioredoxin, superoxide dismutases, catalase, and glutathione peroxidases Several studies have shown that reactive oxygen species (ROS) play a key role in initiation as well as amplification of inflammation in asthmatic airways. Therefore, the supplementation of antioxidants to boost the endogenous antioxidants or scavenge excessive ROS production could be utilized to dampen/prevent the inflammatory response in asthma by restoring oxidant-antioxidant balance. (Nadeem et al 2008

Antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E –  Dietary studies suggest relations between oxidative stress, bronchial inflammation, development of asthmatic symptoms, and reduction of cellular functions. (Riccioni et al 2007)

Astragalin (kaempferol-3-O-glucoside), a newly found flavonoid from leaves of persimmon and green tea seeds, and its heptaacetate are known to have anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. Astragalin inhibits airway eotaxin-1 induction and epithelial apoptosis through modulating oxidative stress-responsive MAPK signaling. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) can have detrimental effects on airway cells and tissues and hence oxidative stress contributes to the initiation and deterioration of inflammatory airway disorders such as asthma. (Cho et al 2014)

Astragalus extract – Taken together, our current study demonstrated a potential therapeutic value of astragalus extract in the treatment of asthma and it may act by inhibiting the expression of the NF-κB pathway. (Yang et al 2013)

Black cumin (Nigella sativa) – is used in colic, cough, asthma, and bronchitis. Thymoquinone is known to be an active phytochemical constituent in seeds of Nigella sativa. The tracheal and airway relaxant effect of TQ in this study, together with its reported antiinflammatory actions, indicates its benefit in asthma therapy. (Ghayur et al 2012)

Boswellia extracts and boswellic acids exert positive effects in such chronic inflammatory diseases as rheumatoid arthritis, bronchial asthma, osteoarthritis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. (Ammon et al 2010)

Butterbur – This study suggests the Petasites hybridus extract Petadolex is an effective and safe therapy for the treatment of asthma. (Danesch UC 2004)

Chrysin – administration significantly inhibited the total inflammatory cell and eosinophil counts in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) and total immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels in serum. These data suggest that chrysin exhibits anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties and provides new insights into the immunopharmacological role of chrysin in terms of its effects in a murine model of asthma. (Du et al 2012)

Cordyceps sinensis extract significantly inhibits airway inflammation, airway hyperresponsiveness, and the infiltration of eosinophils in the airway of rats and may be related to the modulation of T helper (Th)1 and Th2 cells functions. Furthermore, we found Cordyceps sinensis extract could decrease extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 signaling pathway to suppress activity of nuclear factor-κB in lung cells and cultured airway smooth muscle cells. (Chiou & Lin 2012)

Emodin – The anti-inflammatory effects of emodin have been exhibited in various in vitro as well as in vivo models of inflammation including pancreatitis, arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis and glomerulonephritis. Emodin is a pleiotropic molecule capable of interacting with several major molecular targets including NF-κB, casein kinase II, HER2/neu, HIF-1α, AKT/mTOR, STAT3, CXCR4, topoisomerase II, p53, p21, and androgen receptors which are involved in inflammation and cancer. (Shrimali et al 2013)

Fisetin – a flavonoid, exerts anti-asthma activity associated with reduction of Th2 responses and signaling suppression of NF-κB and downstream chemokines. (Cho et al 2014)

Fish Oil – has beneficial effects on allergen-induced airway inflammation and hyperreactivity in mice.  Studies from our laboratory demonstrated that fish oil intake directly diminished cytokine production through effects on transcription factors that control inflammatory responses, such as nuclear factor kappa B (NFκB) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-γ. (Bargut et al 2013)

Fish oil – Clinical trials have demonstrated that fish oil intake reduces biomarkers and improves lung function in asthmatic children. Similar effects were observed in adults, with diminished 2-series prostaglandin, 4-series leukotriene, interleukin-1β and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α concentrations, thus reducing the necessity for bronchodilators.  (Bargut et al 2013) 

Ganoderma lucidum (Ling-Zhi), Sophora flavescens (Ku-Shen) and Glycyrrhiza uralensis (Gan-Cao) – Extensive preclinical, animal, and human studies have demonstrated that antiasthma simplified herbal medicine intervention (ASHMI), an extract of 3 plants Ganoderma lucidum (Ling-Zhi), Sophora flavescens (Ku-Shen) and Glycyrrhiza uralensis (Gan-Cao), reduces lung inflammation, airway remodeling, and airway smooth muscle hyperresponsiveness. (Townsend & Yim 2012) 

Ginger – Together with β-agonists, 6-gingerol, 8-gingerol, or 6-shogaol may augment existing asthma therapy, resulting in relief of symptoms through complementary intracellular pathways. (Townsend et al 2014)

Ginkgo Biloba Extract (GBE) – could significantly decrease the infiltration of inflammatory cells such as eosinophils and lymphocytes in the asthmatic airway and relieve the airway inflammation. GBE may decrease the activation of the PKCalpha in the inflammatory cells and thereby decrease the IL-5 level in induced sputum. GBE may be used as a complement to the glucocorticosteroid therapy for asthma. (Tang et al 2007)

Glutathione (GSH) – plays a major role in allergic airway responses through a variety of mechanism which include direct scavenging of oxidative species, being a reducing equivalent and regulation of cellular signaling through redox sensitive mechanisms.  These data suggest that acute depletion of glutathione is associated with alteration of airway responses through an increase in nitrosative stress in allergic airways of mice. (Nadeem et al 2014)

Glycine – directly relaxes acetylcholine-induced contraction in guinea pig tracheal rings and glycine directly relaxes neurokinin A-induced contraction in guinea pig tracheal rings. Airway smooth muscle (ASM) contraction is an important component of the pathophysiology of asthma. Glycine receptor chloride GlyR Cl(-) channels are expressed on ASM and regulate smooth muscle force and offer a novel target for therapeutic relaxation of ASM. (Yim et al 2011) 

Grape seed proanthocyanidin  – effectively suppressed inflammation in both acute and chronic mouse models of asthma, suggesting a potential role of GSPE as a therapeutic agent for asthma. (Lee et al 2012)  

Grape seed proanthocyanidin extract (GSPE) – decreases the progression of airway inflammation and hyperresponsiveness by downregulating the iNOS expression, promising to have a potential in the treatment of allergic asthma. (Zhou et al 2011) 

Honokiol – These results indicate that symptoms and pathology of asthma can be alleviated even in the presence of increased Th2 cytokines and that neurotransmitter agonists such as honokiol have promise as a novel class of anti-inflammatory agents in the treatment of chronic asthma. (Munroe et al 2010) 

Honokiol – These results indicate that symptoms and pathology of asthma can be alleviated even in the presence of increased Th2 cytokines and that neurotransmitter agonists such as honokiol have promise as a novel class of anti-inflammatory agents in the treatment of chronic asthma. (Munroe et al 2010)

Horehound (Marubium vulgare) and wild cherry (Prunus serotina) have been traditionally used for the treatment of inflammatory-related symptoms such as cold, fever, and sore throat. M. vulgare is also used for respiratory problems such as asthma and cough. (Yamaguchi et al 2006)

Kaempferol – Our recent study has demonstrated that kaempferol attenuates eosinophil infiltration and airway inflammation in allergic asthma through disturbing nuclear factor (NF)-κB signaling. (Cho et al 2014)

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza uralensis) – Chronic treatment with 7, 4′-DHF (a Glycyrrhiza uralensis flavonoid) in a murine model of allergic asthma not only significantly reduced eosinophilic pulmonary inflammation, serum IgE levels, IL-4 and IL-13 levels, but also increased IFN-γ production in lung cell cultures in response to antigen stimulation. (Yang et al 2013)

Ligustrazine (an alkaloid isolated from the rhizome of Chuanxiong (Ligusticum chuanxiong Hort) inhibits ovalbumin (OVA) induced airway inflammation by modulating key master switches GATA-3 and T-bet that result in reversing the Th2 cytokine patterns in asthma. (Xiong et al 2007)

Paeonol – the main active component isolated from Moutan Cortex (Mu Dan Pi), possesses extensive pharmacological activities such as anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, and immunoregulatory effects. Paeonol administration significantly inhibited the total inflammatory cell and eosinophil count in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid. hese data suggest that paeonol exhibits anti-inflammatory activity in allergic mice and may possess new therapeutic potential for the treatment of allergic bronchial asthma. (Du et al 2010)

Panax ginseng (PG)- restored the expression of EMBP, Muc5ac, CD40, and CD40L, as well as the mRNA and protein levels of interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-4, IL-5, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α. In addition, PG inhibited the numbers of goblet cells and further small G proteins and MAP kinases in bronchoalveolar lavage cells and lung tissues increased in ovalbumin-induced allergic asthma in mice. These results suggest that PG may be used as a therapeutic agent in asthma, based on reductions of various allergic responses. (Kim & Yang 2011)

Propolis – Treatment with Scaptotrigona aff postica propolis reduced the pathology associated with murine asthma due an inhibition of inflammatory cells migration to the alveolar space and the systemic progression of the allergic inflammation. These results were similar to those obtained with dexamethasone. (de Farias et al 2014)

Pterostilbene – This study has two novel findings: it is not only the first to demonstrate inflammatory cytokines, which are produced by the bronchial epithelium after exposure to benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) and contribute to airway remodeling by increasing human bronchial smooth muscle cells (BSMC) proliferation and migration, but also the first to reveal that pterostilbene, a constituent of grapes and berries, reverses BaP-mediated airway remodeling.  Moreover, pterostilbene is more potent than resveratrol in suppressing BaP-mediated airway remodeling. This study suggests that pterostilbene is capable of preventing BaP-associated asthma. (Kuo et al 2011)

Quercetin is a naturally derived PDE4-selective inhibitor found in fruits, vegetables, and tea. We hypothesized that quercetin relaxes airway smooth muscle via cAMP-mediated pathways and augments β-agonist relaxation. Nebulization of quercetin (100 μM) in an in vivo model of airway responsiveness significantly attenuated methacholine-induced increases in airway resistance. These novel data show that the natural PDE4-selective inhibitor quercetin may provide therapeutic relief of asthma symptoms and decrease reliance on short-acting β-agonists. (Townsend & Emala 2013) 

Resveratrol  – This study was carried out to investigate the effects of resveratrol on cigarette smoke (CS)-induced lung injury. Resveratrol treatment decreased CS-induced lung inflammation. Resveratrol restored the activities of superoxide dismutase, GSH peroxidase, and catalase in CS-treated mice. Our results collectively indicate that resveratrol attenuates CS-induced lung oxidative injury, which involves decreased NF-κB activity and the elevated HO-1 expression and activity. (Liu et al 2014) 

Resveratrol – Airway inflammation has been shown to be suppressed by resveratrol in an acute mouse model of allergic airways disease, producing similar effects to glucocorticoids (dexamethasone). Overall, resveratrol has potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative functions and, therefore, may be useful in the treatment of airway diseases such as asthma. (Royce et al 2011)  

Schizandrin – Our results collectively show that schizandrin exerts profound inhibitory effects on accumulation of eosinophils into the airways and reduces the levels of IL-4, IL-5, IFN-γ, and TNF-α in BALF. Additionally, schizandrin suppresses the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in a dose-dependent manner, and inhibits goblet cell hyperplasia and inflammatory cell infiltration in lung tissue. Thus, schizandrin has anti-asthmatic effects, which seem to be partially mediated by reduction of oxidative stress and airway inflammation, in a murine allergic asthma model. These results indicate that schizandrin may be an effective novel therapeutic agent for the treatment of allergic asthma. (Lee et al 2010)

Vitamin D – lowers CRP and IL-6 (both markers of inflammation) (Cannell & Jacob 2004) Vitamin D could be beneficial as an adjunct therapy in the treatment of allergic asthma. (Agrawal et al 2013)

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Compassionate Acupuncture and Healing Arts, providing craniosacral acupuncture, herbal and nutritional medicine in Durham, North Carolina. Phone number 919-309-7753.

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2 Responses to Acupuncture, Herbs and Nutrients for Asthma

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