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Bronchial asthma is a common paroxysmal and allergic pulmonary disease. Asthma attacks are usually seasonal. It mostly occurs when, with elevated bronchi allergic reaction, allergens, or other pathogenic factors cause bronchial spasm, mucosal edema, polyblennia, mucosal ciliary dysfunction, etc. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the disease falls into the categories of "Xiao" (wheezing) syndromes or "Chuan" (panting) syndromes.


The primary pathogenic factor of asthma is the retention of phlegm-fluid in the interior. Under normal conditions, asthma attacks may not occur. But they can be induced by exopathic factors, improper diet, lack of care after an illness, upset emotions, fatigue, etc.

Asthma attacks occur when a number of things happen: when exogenous pathogenic factors invade the human body and impair the lung's purifying and descending functions; when improper diet impairs the lung-qi; and when pathogens from other visceral diseases attack the lung. The kidney is the source of qi and it cooperates with the lung to regulate the exhalation and inhalation of qi. In case of a deficiency in kidney essence, the kidney dysfunctions in accepting qi, and the inhaled air will not be distributed to the kidney. As a result, the normal functions of yin and yang are disrupted, and the reversed flow of qi attacks the lung, leading to asthma. Hence, deficiencies of the lung, spleen, and kidney are the root cause, and pathological wind, cold, dampness, phlegm, and stagnation are only the symptoms of asthma. (1)

Primary Treatments with Chinese Medicinal Herbs

Gu Ben Ke Chuan Wan

Ingredients: Ren Shen (Ginseng), Chuan Bei Mu (Chuan Fritillaria), Wu Wei Zi (Schizandra), Xi Xin (Wild Ginger), Bai Jie Zi (White Mustard Seed), etc.

Clinical Application:
The formula is used to treat cough, gasping and wheezing associated with bronchitis, bronchial asthma, pulmonary emhysema, and pulmonary heart diseases. One study followed up on 330 patients who took this formula and reported a total effective rate of 92.7%. (2)

Chu, et al. used Gu Ben Ke Chuan Wan to prevent and treat chronic bronchitis. The formula consisted of Huang Qi (Astragalus Root), Bai Zhu (White Atractylodes), Fu Ling (Hoelen), Chen Pi (Citrus Peel), Jiang Ban Xia (Pinellia processed w/ginger), Bu Gu Zhi (Psoralea), Fang Feng (Siler), Zi He Che (Placenta), and Gan Cao (Licorice). These herbs were processed into pills to be taken 10g each administration, 3 administrations per day. Of the 139 cases of deficiency-cold type asthma patients, 53.2% significantly improved; of the 16 cases of phlegm-damp type asthma patients, 50% significantly improved; and of the 30 cases of phlegm-heat type asthma patients 43.3% significantly improved. And of the subgroups of mild, moderate, and severe cases, the percentages of those who had significantly improved were 65.5%, 66.6% and 54.7%, respectively. (3)

Other Treatments with Chinese Medicinal Herbs

Huo Xiang Zheng Qi

Yu, et al. used Huo Xiang Zheng Qi Powder to treat 38 cases of cold-type asthma. The ingredients of the powder were: Huo Xiang (Agastache), Hu Po (Amber), Bai Zhu (White Atractylodes), Jie Gen (Platycodon Root), Ban Xia (Pinellia), Bai Zhi (Angelica), Fu Ling (Hoelen), Da Fu Pi (Areca Peel), Chen Pi (Citrus Peel), Gan Jiang (dried Ginger), and Gan Cao (Licorice). Ten days of treatment constituted a treatment unit. After the treatment, 19 cases fully recovered, 17 cases improved, and 2 cases with no response. The total effective rate was 94.7%. (4)

Ping Chuan Tang

Yu used Ping Chuan Tang to treat 42 cases of severe bronchial asthma. This formula contained Zhe Bei Mu (Fritillary Bulb), Di Long (Earthworm), Xuan Shen (Scrophularia), Lu Gen (Phragmites), Ban Lan Gen (Isatis Root), Ma Huang (Ma Huang), Huang Qin (Astragalus Root), Bai Qian (Cynanchum), Chen Pi (Citrus Peel), and Gan Cao (Licorice). Adjustments were made according to the patients' particular symptoms. The formula was taken one dose per day for mild cases and 2 doses for severe cases. During the treatment, any cortical hormones and bronchodilators were avoided. The results: of the 42 cases treated, 36 cases significantly improved, 4 cases improved, and 2 cases with no response. The total effective rate was 95.2%. (5)

Gan Mei Tang

Li used Gan Mei Tang to treat 20 cases of cough variant asthma in children. The formula consisted of Wu Mei (Mume), Gan Cao (Licorice), Bai Qian (Cynanchum), Wu Wei Zi (Schizandra), Chen Pi (Citrus Peel), and Ban Xia (Pinellia). One unit of treatment called for 7 days of continuous treatment. After 3 units of treatment, 5 cases significantly improved, and the other 15 cases improved. The total effective rate was 100%. Follow-up visits in the ensuing six months observed no recurrences. (6)

Xiao Qing Long Tang

Li used modified Xiao Qing Long Tang to treat 80 cases of asthma in children. Xiao Qing Long Tang was made up of Ma Huang (Ma-Huang), Gui Zhi (Cinnamon Twig), Fa Ban Xia (soaked Pinellia), Gan Jiang (dried Ginger), Bai Shao (White Peony Root), Huang Qin (Scutellaria), Xi Xin (Wild Ginger), Wu Wei Zi (Schizandra), Gan Cao (Licorice), and Jin Qiao Mai (Golden Buckwheat Rhizome). After 3-7 days of treatment, 74 of the 80 patients significantly improved. (7)

Huang Long Tang

Song, et al. treated 63 mild and moderate asthma cases with Huang Long Tang aerosol inhalant. The formula consisted of Ma Huang (Ma Huang), Di Long (Earthworm), Jiang Can (Silkworm), and Zhi Gan Cao (processed Licorice). The treatment achieved a total effective rate of 85.72%, and a PEF (peak expiration flow) improvement rate of 84.13%. (8)

Other Treatments

Mou, et al. treated 150 cases of bronchial asthma with a combination of surgical therapy and Chinese medicinal herbs. The surgical part of the treatment called for the tissues of the "Xiao Chuan" area (located between the second and third intermetacarpal bones part on the palm side, about 1cm from the metacarpophalangeal articulation) to be cut, while the herbal treatment called for the administration of a formula called Zhi Xiao Tang. The results: 50 cases fully recovered, 70 cases significantly improved, 20 cases improved, and the remaining 10 cases with no response. The total effective rate of 93.3%. (9)

Meng, et al. treated 30 cases of asthma by scraping the following acupoints: Zhongfu (LU 1), Tiantu (RN 22), Yutang (RN 18), and Shanzhong (RN 17) of the Ren channel, and Feishu (BL 13), Xinshu (BL 15), Dingchuan (EX-B 1), Qichuan (EX-LE 12), Zhishi (BL 52), Fengmen (BL 12), etc of the Urinary Bladder Meridian. The results: 24 improved, 5 significantly improved, and one case with no response. (10)

Zhu, et al. treated 470 cases of asthma with a combination of a self-prepared herbal extract, cupping, and a desensitization therapy, and reported that 93.2% of the cases improved (61.7% of the total cases treated improved significantly). (11)

Acupunture & Acupressure

Acupuncture Therapy
Hu, et al. reported a total effective rate of 81.97% in treating 61 cases of bronchial asthma with acupuncture. The acupoints treated included the following: Dazhui (D 14), Dingchuan (EX-B 1), Fengmen (B12), Feishu (B13), Zusanli (S36), Sanyinjiao (SP 6), Kongzhui (L 6), etc. Measurements were taken before and after the treatment on T-lymphocyte subgroup, serum IL-4 and IgE, and the results indicated that the treatment could raise the sagged CD+ |~8| value (P


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  2. Yao Shu Jin. Shaanxi Journal of TCM. 1986;7(3):109.
  3. Chu Yan Sheng, et al. Shandong Journal of TCM. 1993;12(5):21-22.
  4. Xu Chuan Xing, et al. Journal of New TCM. 1999;31(1):31-32.
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