Different herbal essential oils have various mechanisms of action, allowing them to treat different symptoms of an asthma attack.
Asthma, a disease that can be very uncomfortable to experience, is very common - especially in polluted areas. In fact, 1 in 12 people in the United States suffer from asthma as of 2011, a number that has likely increased since. Asthma is characterized by obstructed airways, wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. There are many essential oils that can help prevent your chances of having an attack, as well as ones that can treat someone in the midst of one. Below are safe remedies to assist you or your loved ones through each stage.
1. Eucalyptus: Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is a key component to asthma attacks and asthma in general. People with asthma frequently have inflamed bronchial tubes. Although it sometimes goes unnoticed, when faced with allergens or environmental pollutants, the symptoms can suddenly worsen and set off an asthma attack.
Australian eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) oil is great for taming bronchial inflammation, although it should not be used during an attack. Studies have shown that eucalyptus reduces the release of hormones responsible for inflammation (cytokines), and as an antibacterial, and can also help eliminate an infection that may have triggered the attack. A safe and effective way to incorporate eucalyptus oil in between attacks is to keep a cloth saturated in the oil near your bed at night, or to take a steamy, relaxing bath with 10 - 15 drops of the essential oil.
2. Ginger: Decongest
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a renowned herbal remedy for cases of nausea and indigestion thanks to its capacity to block histamine, a body hormone that is linked to allergic reactions and causes body-wide symptoms, like vertigo, nasal congestion, and skin rashes.
During asthma attacks, in addition of the inflammation of the bronchial tubes, there is an excess of mucus produced in the airways. This can further block the airways and make it very difficult to breathe. However, the anti-histaminic action of ginger can prevent this congestion. Many people have found that drinking ginger tisanes while inhaling its fumes can control stuffy noses and prevent asthma attacks from getting serious, working wonders for themselves or for their kids.
3. Lobelia: Breathe Deeply
Lobelia (Lobelia inflata), also known as "Indian Tobacco," is a North American native known mostly for its pale blue flowers and its traditional use as a detoxifier, since it is known to cause severe vomiting if consumed in extremely large quantities - although this is no longer recommended as a detox method. However, when consumed by the cupful, lobelia flower tea has proven to be a very effective way to relieve asthma and to restore a normal pace of breathing.
The active compound in Indian Tobacco is lobeline, an alkaloid that is known to stimulate the neurotransmitters in charge of regulating respiratory function. In addition, the steam of lobelia has mild expectorant and relaxant properties. The combination of both effects can help thwart an incoming asthma attack if lobelia tea is administrated as soon as the first signs appear.
4. Lavender: Relax
Bronchial spasms are yet another troubling symptom of asthma. These spasms can be stimulated by many different factors that are uncontrollable - such as temperature - as well as factors that can be controlled, such as certain prescription drugs. Spasms are often accompanied by uncontrollable coughing paired with reduced oxygen flow to the lungs.
Lavender (Lavandula officinalis) essential oil, which is a relaxant, greatly lessens the severity, frequency, and duration of these spasms. In addition, it can calm the anxiety that can worsen the asthma attack. Combining 10 drops of lavender oil with five of jojoba oil produces a good mix that can be rubbed into the chest for deep relaxation.
When choosing essential oils, make sure to find 100% pure essential oils, as some have additives that will not assist your asthma symptoms. When used correctly and regularly, your breath can flow more freely through your body.
Centers for Disease Control. (2011). Asthma in the US. Retrieved January 14, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/asthma/
KidsHealth. (n.d.). Asthma Basics. Retrieved January 14, 2014, from http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/lungs/asthma_basics.html
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Partners Asthma Center. (2010). What is Meant by "Inflammation" in Asthma? Retrieved January 14, 2014, from http://www.asthma.partners.org/newfiles/Inflammation.html
Sadlon, A.E. & Lamson, D.W. (2010). Immune-modifying and antimicrobial effects of Eucalyptus oil and simple inhalation devices. Alternative medicine review, 15(1), 33-47. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20359267
University of Maryland Medical Center. (2011). Lobelia inflata. Retrieved May 13th, 2014 from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/lobelia