Asthma. And lobelia.


Date: Thu, 10 Aug 1995 08:25:23 +1100
From: Hoschke Andrew AH <hoschke.andrew.ah.BHP.COM.AU>
Subject: Asthma

I have a friend, I know you've heard that before but its true. Anyway I have friend who has asthma, ever since we moved to this city, she has been having fairly mild, but consistent attacks and requires Ventalin. At the moment she is trying to wean herself off Ventalin and is using another vaporiser, that is meant to help reduce the frequency of the attacks. Unfortunately I can't remember the drug she's using.

Would anyone be able to give me some information on herbs, diet, exercise, etc. That may also help her. We have huge amounts of catnip and cat mint growing in our garden, would these help. The cats don't like them and we want to use them for something.

From: C Oinonen Ehren <TOIVO.AOL.COM>

I have asthma, too. I think, if they're trying to decrease the frequency of your friend's attacks that she's probably on some form of Cromolyn Sodium, 'cause that's what they've got me on, an inhaler called Intal. I can understand her wish to get off ventolin. I still use it occasionally, and it can be kinda harsh, make you feel nervous and shakey and make your heart race.

The way I understand it, the best thing to do is to avoid having attacks, remove allergens and other "triggers" from your surroundings in the first place. An attack does more than cut off your air, it can cause a build-up of pressure inside your lungs that can harm the alveoli (sp?) the little air sacks in your lungs. So it is better to avoid the attack than simply treat the symptoms. Not always possible to avoid the triggers. Things like stress and cigarette smoke (two common ones) kinda jump out at you when you least expect it.

I don't know of any herbs that can really take the place of cromolyn in that preventative role, although if anyone has suggestions, post them to the board, I'd love to try them, and I'm sure I'm not the only asthmatic posting. Attacks have two components (and again, I'm just speaking from experience and a little reading, not from medical background, correct me, you experts, if I'm wrong) the first is the bronchio-spasm, where the bronchi, the tubes that lead to the lungs, actually constrict. They think they're protecting you from harm, but an asthmatic's bronchi are supersensitive, they constrict more frequently and to a greater degree than other people's. One herb I've tried that can relax/open the old tubes is ephedra/ma huang (sp?) /mormon tea. It is the herbal that psuedoephedrine hydrochloride is based off of, that is so common in over the counter decongestants and primatene. It is better than primatene, because it is so much easier to control the dosage. When I was using it I would just make a cup of breathe easy (Traditional Medicinals, Sebastopol, CA 95472) and take sips every so often until I felt better. Problem is, this is pretty harsh stuff, and hard on the heart, and just as bad as ventolin as far as the nervous/jittery feeling if you drink too much. Its also not a preventative, and shouldn't be used too regularly, but if you aren't on health insurance (and I wasn't) it is better than sitting there wheezing, and better than primatene and less expensive. I don't know of any others that are good for the spasm, but would be interested in hearing of them.

The other part of the one-two punch is the mucus. In asthmatics it is much thicker than in other people, and in combination with the spasm can really block off your air. Most drugs they give you are for the spasm, not for the mucus, and so this is where most of my energy/research goes. I don't like over the counter OR prescription decongestants (or antihistamines), they have a host of bad side effects. I use mullien, spearmint, peppermint, and eucalyptus (lots and lots of eucalyptus) to help loosten up and clear the mucus. I have recently added fenugreek to the mix, as I hear this is also good for clearing mucus.

The problem is that during an attack you can brute force suck air into your lungs easier than you can expell it, and so you end up trying to pull air into your lungs, and there's no room for it, but you keep trying anyway. It is the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced. I would do anything to aviod an attack. One thing that helps sometimes is to just sit there and blow as hard as you can (a hard thing to do when all you want to do is inhale) but it can help alleviate some pressure. Besides, when I forget my inhaler I usually have also forgotten my herbs.

Some things I have had suggested to me but I don't know anything about are: something called "Speedwell" (I don't know the latin name and can't find it in my books), Hyssop, Coltsfoot (I think that one might be mucus), Elecampane, Myrrh Gum, Pleurisy, Yerba Santa and Wild Cherry (Bark, I think).

Jethro Kloss recommends that asthmatics eat as many fresh cherries as they can get ahold of. I have recently started buying canned cherry juice regularly-haven't noticed anything yet, but I'm giving it time. The above I've only noticed suggested, I don't know anything about saftey or effectiveness yet. Anyone reading this who knows the latin names, or any info on the above, please post--it would really help me out. Also books that have been helpful to others, supplements, etc. Anything is usefull...

From: Puanani DeLara <puanani.MICF.NIST.GOV>

Hello everyone.

My Companion who has asthma, had an attack recently.

He started to panic when he remembered that he hadn't filled his inhaler. So I tried something that once was taught to me long ago (and this will sound nuts to those of you with asthma.) I rolled a cigarette made from Mullein leaf and had my friend take two small puffs (no it was not easy for him especially since he thought I was nuts) within about 15 seconds the attack stopped.

I have used Mullien in teas to ease flu like congestions in the lungs and I was once told that in an emergency it couuld be used for asthma attacks, only no more then three small puffs because it can relax the lungs too much and may even harm you. Tea made from the leaf works well for clearing that tight feeling in the chest when breathing hurts or has become to shallow. I don't know if the effects are the same if too much tea is drunk as I have never gone beyond the point of when I obtained relief which is usally after ½ teacup.I do not know the latin name of the plant but it grows wild here and I will try to describe it. The plant has fuzzy leaves at the base and then a long stalk grows up through the middle which will produce yellow flowers at the top (kindof reminds me of a candle) the yellow flowers smell sweet and are sticky. The stalk with the flower head was once used as a torch in old times when it was dipped in fat or other substance and lit.


From: Karen Mason <karen.GATE.NET>

Your friend may want to try Lobelia (pan pien lien) It has no know side effects and is a relaxant. It is helps remove obstruction from any part of the body. It helps remove congestion within the body especially the blood vessels. Lobelia is also helpful for bronchial spasms. It may clear up allergies, asthma, bronchitis, headaches and spasms.


> Your friend may want to try Lobelia (pan pien lien) It has no know side

I would like to add that Lobelia is contraindicated in pregnancy. Overdose can produce severe adverse effects including nausea and vomiting, profuse diaphoresis, paresis, trachycardia, hypotension and coma; fatalities have occured.

Source: British Herbal Compendium Vol 1 1992.

Sharon L


> I would be interested in details of lobelia fatalities. There seems to be some difference of opinion pertaining to the toxicity of Lobelia.

In my last post I listed the British Herbal Compendium Vol 1 as as my source of information - the British Herbal Compendium lists it source as the "Martindale The Extra Pharmacopoeia" I have looked up this source for you - It states that a 48 year old women with bronchitis and asthma took 2 inhalations of orciprenaline sulphate and inhaled for 5-10 minutes the smoke from ignited compound Lobelia powder (containing lobelia and stramonium). She collapsed and 5-10 minutes later was pale and slightly cyanosed, the skin was moist, and pupils dilated, the bladder was voided, and heart and breath sounds absent. Attempts at cardiac and respiratory resuscitation were unsuccessful. The women had used the lobelia reparation for 20 years without any ill-effects.


From: christopher hedley <christopher.GN.APC.ORG>

Sharon's note is well taken, however the symptoms mentioned in Martindales are more consistant with Datura stramonium poisoning, than with Lobelia. Note that she had also taken orciprenaline, which can cause arrythmias and tachycardia...being only slightly more subtle than adrenaline. It would seem that the woman was suffering from heart failure, common enough with chronic bronchitis and the mixture overstrained her weakened heart.

Lobelia is generally safe to use as a tea or tincture in small doses, since people will vomit long before poisonous doses are reached. There can be a problem with methods of taking it which by-pass the stomach, such as suppositories, but most herbalists regard it as a generally safe herb. It was used much more often in the past and older herbals sometimes recommend doses that would be poorley tolerated these days. My advice is to use it only with the guidance of someone who knows the herb well!

A Few Remarks....

C Oinonen Ehren's advice is good, its especially helpful to get advice from other sufferers. Asthma is really a subject for professional help but there are many helpful common sense measures.

Deal with the causes, stress and/or allergies. Take lung 'tonics' to keep them healthy and clear and use herbs such as Ephedra = Ma Hung as little as possible.

Breathing exercises are the best preventative measure. I know of one person who cured her asthma by taking up swimming - using a crawl stroke done properly, not the breast stroke trying to keep your head out of the water, which just adds to tension. Luckily she wasn't allergic to the swimming bath additives.

From: christopher hedley <christopher.GN.APC.ORG>
Subject: asthma & swimming pools

>What is it about the chemicals in the pool that cause a flare up of asthma? Both of my boys get asthma especially bad when they go swimming.

Chlorine and the newer disinfectants that are added to swimming pools are strong irritants. With severe asthma the irritation is enough to set off an attack, in the same way as tobacco smoke. In milder cases, or for people with a relativly small number of allergies, you might be able to de-sensitize. The simplest way is to buy the appropriate chemical in homeopathic potency, from your local homeopathic pharmacy or friendly local homeopath. [sorry about the non-herbal input here, but it is the simplest method].

'Speedwell' could be a number of herbs, most likely Veronica spp.

Elecampane root = Inula helenium, Mullein leaves or flowers = Verbascum thaspus, Coltsfoot leaves or flowers = Tussilago farfara and Thyme herb = thymus spp. are my favourite long term, strenghtening herbal teas. Hyssop herb = hyssopus off. can be too drying, especially if the asthma is mostly stress triggered.

Garlic chopped up in honey, 2 or 3 teaspoons daily is excellent if the asthma is always associated with coughs or bronchitis. It is also helpful for allergies.

If there is a large stress component try regular use of relaxing nervines such as Valerian root decoction = valeriana off.

I find the best way to deal with an acute attack is to make up an emulsion of Lobelia and Thyme and rub it into the sufferer's back with nice, smooth, circular movements but, again, it is best to find professional guidance, at least at first.

From: jonathan treasure <jtreasure.JONNO.DEMON.CO.UK>

just to add to the Lobelia debate - the herb can be used to literally arrest acute asthma attacks dead in their tracks however this is achieved by TOPICAL application, in an ointment, together with Capsicum to facilitate rapid cutaneous absorption. The ointment is rubbed over the chest and back. This is not especially relevant to the chronic airway obstruction of asthma caused by mucosal hyperactivty and muscular thickening. Lobelia is a schedule 3 poison in the uk, and is to be treated with respect, but scare stories about fatalaties are more reminiscent of the anti-Thomsonian politics of an earlier time. Little known apparently is the fact that of its 2 principal alkaloids, lobeline and isolobeline, the latter is hydrolysed and inactivated in the gut - which is why topical application is more efficacious - rectal suppositories can also be used to bypass the digestion process, but this is obviously not a route for acute asthmatic spasm! Finally - despite being potentially dangerous - there is a built in safety mechanism in that physiologic doses of the herb cause an acute emesis - ie you throw up, and hence eliminate the the offending dose of lobelia (along with the entire contents of the stomach). Some individuals are super sensitive in this respect and instances of vomiting in response to drop doses of lobelia have been reported.