Asthma is a condition related to airways and the lungs.
In this disease, the airways or upper respiratory tract narrow down making it difficult to breathe.
This is also called bronchial asthma.
Asthma presents with the following symptoms:
- Wheezing or whistling while breathing out
- Sudden attacks with shortness of breath
- Tightness in chest
- Breathlessness during exercise or slight exertion
- Coughing or urge to cough
These symptoms generally aggravate during the night; lack of sleep causes fatigue in asthmatic patients. Asthma can occur at any age. The causative factors include:
- Genetic inheritance
- Allergic disorders like hay fever or eczema
- Exposure to allergens like cigarette smoke, dust, pollen
- Low birth weight
Asthma is classified as:
- Allergic asthma: Exposure to trigger factors like smoke, allergens, dust, fur, cold air, perfume triggers asthma attacks.
- Non-allergic asthma: It is triggered by factors inside the body such as bacterial or viral infection, consumption of painkillers, physical or emotional stress.
Individuals suffering from asthma have an immune system that is ready to overreact.
On exposure to certain triggers the mucous membrane, lining the airways, tends to get inflamed and initiates an intense reaction.
The mucous membranes are red and swollen and the membrane starts secreting thick mucus.
Also, the muscles around the airways begin to tighten. Together these factors cause the airways to constrict leading to shortness of breath and asthma attack.
Two types of medications are prescribed: long-acting controller medications and short-acting reliever medications. Controller medications are used to daily to control inflammation of the airway. Short-acting reliever medications are used in case of sudden attacks.
Asthma is a chronic condition, but onset and prevalence differs in every individual. Those who have symptoms as children and teenagers generally don’t have symptoms as adults. However chronic asthma can be managed.
How Does Turmeric Benefit in Asthma?
Turmeric finds its use in asthma primarily due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-asthmatic property. Curcumin and other bioactive compounds present in turmeric can help relieve the inflammation and reduce the mucus secretions in the airways.
1. It has anti-asthmatic property
Leukotriene is an inflammatory chemical produced by immune cells in case of allergic or inflammatory response.
A clinical trial was conducted where individuals with bronchial asthma received capsules containing Boswellia serrata, turmeric root, and licorice root extract.
These compounds were chosen as natural leukotriene inhibitors, anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants. They received either treatment capsules or placebo 3 times a day for 4 weeks.
A significant decrease in enzymes causing oxidative stress and leukotriene was observed in the treatment group compared to the placebo group.
Abidi et. al conducted a clinical trial to study the efficacy of curcumin as add-on therapy in bronchial asthma. 77 patients enrolled in the study.
One group received standard therapy while other group received standard therapy and 500mg of curcumin twice a day for 30 days.
Curcumin treatment showed improvement in airway obstruction evidenced by improved breathing capacity.
No side effects were reported and researchers concluded that curcumin treatment is effective as an add-on therapy for bronchial asthma.
Nasal curcumin drops demonstrate anti-asthmatic potential by reducing constriction of the airways and inflammation. Even oral curcumin is found to inhibit the constriction of airways in asthma.
A study reports that curcumin’s anti-asthmatic property at low doses is better than disodium cromoglycate, a standard drug used in asthma treatment.
What does this mean?
Clinical trials show that curcumin is an effective add- on therapy in bronchial asthma. Curcumin nasal drops show better anti-asthmatic potential than standard anti-asthma drug, disodium cromoglycate.
2. It reduces inflammation
Curcumin, the bioactive ingredient of turmeric has strong anti-inflammatory properties which it mediates by :
- Reducing the production of inflammatory chemicals
- Preventing migration of immune cells to the site of inflammation
- Inhibiting the activity of proteins like Tumor necrosis factor-alpha and Nuclear factor kappa B that mediate inflammatory reactions
Animal study shows that curcumin treatment reduces inflammation of thickening of mucosal lining in the airways in asthma.
Research demonstrates that a particular pathway named Notch-GATA signaling pathway contributes to airway inflammation in asthma.
Curcumin prevents and reduces the inflammation in asthma by inhibiting the activity of this pathway and suppressing the activity of nuclear factor kappa B- the master protein that regulates inflammation.
These findings are confirmed by another study where inhibition of nuclear factor kappa B led to a reduced accumulation of immune cells and inflammatory cells in asthmatic lung tissue.
Another mechanism by which curcumin attenuates airway inflammation is by balancing the activity of immune cells called T helper cells and preventing hypersensitive reactions in the airways.
Curcumin manipulates other biochemical targets involved in inflammation in order to reduce airway inflammation in asthma. Curcumin prevents thickening of airway lining by preventing the proliferation of smooth muscle cells located in the passage.
What does this mean?
Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory activity can reduce bronchial inflammation in asthma.
3. It is an excellent antioxidant
In asthma, the inflammation in the airways leads to increased production of nitric oxide. FeNO exhalation gives a measure of the extent of inflammation in the airways in asthma.
Curcumin’s antioxidant nature is found to be beneficial in the treatment of asthma.
A clinical trial was conducted wherein children suffering from asthma were treated with a nutritional supplement along with standard asthma treatment.
This supplement contained antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents and one of them was curcumin. A fall in exhaled FeNO levels was observed in the treated group which indicated a reduction in inflammation.
Turmeric and pepper extracts are proposed to be viable alternative anti-asthmatic agents as they serve as antioxidants and scavenge nitric oxide that causes inflammation.
What does this mean?
Curcumin’s antioxidant nature helps in scavenging nitric oxide that mediates inflammation and oxidative damage in asthma.
4. It has anti-allergic property
Subhasini et. al have reported that curcumin, when administered as nasal drops, reduces allergen induced airway inflammation, ameliorates constriction of airways and reduces mucus production.
Further findings reveal that curcumin prevents accumulation of inflammatory cells in the airways, prevents sloughing off the mucosal lining of the airway, prevents thickening of smooth muscle cells in the airway and reduces mucus secretion in chronic asthma.
In an animal model, curcumin is found to ameliorate allergic asthma.
However, a human study reports that 1000mg of curcumin taken twice daily leads to no improvement in allergic asthma.
What does this mean?
Curcumin’s anti-allergic property reduces allergen induced asthma and ameliorates mucus production and constriction of airways in allergic asthma.
5. It has anti-microbial property
Curcumin has a broad spectrum anti-microbial activity- it acts against bacteria, virus, and fungi. Topical curcumin is found to effective in inhibiting the growth of bacteria involved in upper respiratory tract infection.
Both black pepper extract and turmeric extract are found to have an anti-bacterial effect of various bacterial strains that cause upper respiratory tract infection in comparison to standard antibiotics.
Researchers suggest that these anti-asthmatic plants can reduce infections that cause asthma attacks.
Oral fungal infection is a side effect of standard asthma treatment. Animal study shows that curcumin treatment can relieve oral Candida infection equipotent as steroidal medications. Curcumin also potentiates the action of steroids against oral candidasis.
What does this mean?
Curcumin’s anti-microbial property is as effective as antibiotics and steroids in reducing respiratory bacterial infections that could initiate asthma attack.
6. It can modulate immune responses
Curcumin has an immunomodulatory property: it can alter immune responses.
It can reduce the activity of immune cells, reduce production of inflammatory chemicals and even can stimulate immune responses in case of infections.
Curcumin exerts immunomodulatory action in asthma by inhibiting release of histamine by mast cells. Mast cells participate in allergic reactions and aggravate allergy by releasing histamine.
In the animal model of allergic asthma, curcumin is found exert immunomodulatory effect and reduce damage to the airways better than steroid medication, dexamethasone.
Allergic reactions occur when immune cells show an overactive immune response.
T helper cells are type of immune cells that participate in an allergic reaction and secrete inflammatory chemicals as well as other biological molecules that produce allergic symptoms like redness, swelling, itching etc.
In an animal model of allergy, turmeric was found to exert anti-allergic property by maintaining a balance of T helper cells, suppressing immune reactions and reducing production of inflammatory chemicals and antibodies.
Curcumin is found to reduce allergic reactions upon exposure to allergens.
What does this mean?
Asthma can occur as a result of hypersensitive reactions of the immune system. Curcumin has immunomodulating activity (ability to regulate immune responses) similar to that of steroidal medications which can aid in treatment of asthma.
7. It attenuates COPD
Curcumin, by its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant property, finds its use in various lung diseases like lung fibrosis, lung injury by radiation, chemotherapy and toxicants, acute lung injury, allergic asthma, and even chronic obstructive pulmonary distress syndrome.
Both COPD and asthma are characterised by airway obstruction and can present similar symptoms like breathlessness.
Turmeric serves to be therapeutic in COPD as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-bacterial agent. (Read Turmeric for COPD)
Histone deacetylase is an enzyme that mediates the anti-inflammatory action of steroids. Its function is impaired in COPD due to which individuals suffering from COPD develop steroid resistance.
Research shows that curcumin treatment can reverse steroid resistance in COPD and asthma.
Turmeric oil is found to relieve sputum and cough in asthma.
What does this mean?
Turmeric is effective in treating various respiratory or lung related disorders. It can relieve cough and sputum occurring in asthma. Asthma like symptoms could occur in chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). Turmeric is effective as an add-on therapy in COPD and can also reverse steroidal resistance n asthma and COPD.
How to use Turmeric for Asthma?
Turmeric can be used to treat symptoms of asthma in various ways.
- Relieving congestion of bronchi: To relieve blocked bronchi turmeric has to be taken with salt mixed in hot water. Licking one teaspoon of turmeric along with ½ tsp of honey also offers relief from the congestion of bronchi.
- Eliminate phlegm: Mix turmeric powder, banana ash and barley powder in equal proportions along with honey. Have this paste four to five times in a day to get rid of phlegm.
- Relieve irritation of bronchioles: Mix turmeric powder, ghee and black pepper powder to make a paste. Massage the chest and throat region using the paste to reduce irritation of the bronchioles.
- Burn turmeric till red hot and inhale the smoke. The smoke serves as a strong expectorant.
- Breathing problem commonly observed in asthma patients can be relieved by taking turmeric that is partially roasted and later ground using hot water.
- Boil a small piece of turmeric in milk. Now, sweeten the milk with jaggery and have it to obtain relief from asthma.
- Intake of 1/4tsp of turmeric along with a small glass of hot water helps prevent asthma attacks.
Turmeric treatment for Asthmatic Bouts
Asthmatic bouts are a difficult period, especially if they occur very frequently. Turmeric can be effectively used for the same.
A book by K H Krishnamurty, a well-known writer on natural cure and herbal remedies. He suggests the following use of turmeric for Asthmatic bouts:
- Take 3 gms of turmeric powder and mix it with powder of 7 grains of black pepper. Mix this with pure mustard oil. The patient should lick this paste in the morning.
- Grind ~110 grams of Calotropis (also known as milkweed) and ~55 grams of turmeric. Use approx. Add 110 grams of any bitter oil in the mixture and then cook it till watery portion vanishes and only oil remains. Bring down the vessel and then let it cool. Strain the oil using a clean cloth and store the oil. This all has to applied to back, chest, belly and front throat through sprinkling it and through fomentation also.
Both of the above have to be carried for a week and monitor the condition. Several dietary precautions also need to be taken along with the treatment so to avoid any digestion related stress. Patients should:
- Not eat excessively fried and spicy food
- Should avoid consuming food such as jaggery, curd, black gram etc.
- Should avoid eating stale food
- Eat as much as green leafy vegetables, rice, wheat, etc. – basically very light meal
Note: In case of an asthma attack, please consult your doctor asap.
Selecting and storing of turmeric
If you suffer frequently from upper respiratory tract infections then it is highly recommended to store turmeric at home. To retain the medicinal value of the herb and to prevent mold infestations it has to be stored appropriately.
Consider purchasing turmeric from herbal stores renowned for offering genuine herbs.
As mistaken by many colors of turmeric is not an indicator for quality of the herb.
If genuine turmeric powder cannot be found in the local stores then make turmeric powder from fresh roots by boiling, drying and grinding the dried roots.
If you can get organic turmeric, that will be best. Here are some tips to choose good quality turmeric powder.
Store turmeric powder in sealed tins and place them in dry, dark and cool place. Store the fresh root in the refrigerator.
Turmeric supplements should be avoided in case of pregnancy and lactation.
Since turmeric is known to mildly increase bleeding risk, it is advisable to discontinue supplements 2 weeks prior to surgery.
Avoid turmeric supplements if you suffer from gallbladder issues.
Turmeric supplements could have possible drug interactions with diabetes medication, blood thinning medications, stomach acid-lowering medicines, and certain antidepressants.
Please consult a doctor before taking turmeric supplements to ascertain right dose.
Turmeric’s anti-asthmatic, anti-inflammatory properties and its efficacy in treating lung disorders makes it an effective complementary therapy for managing asthma.
Research suggests that curcumin nasal drops can be a potential anti-asthmatic agent in the near future as data from animal studies suggests that it performs better than steroids and anti-asthmatic drugs.