Today, asthma affects more than 12 million people in the United States; there is growing speculation that the number is on the rise, due to the ever-increasing levels of toxins in our environment. These toxins include exhaust fumes from cars, chemicals found in cleaning products and tobacco smoke.

      Asthma can also be triggered by allergens, such as mold spores, pollen, food additives, dust and animal dander. Heredity and age predispose people to the condition, but fear or stress can cause an abrupt attack in anyone. If you have asthma, medical care is vital. However, natural remedies can offer some relief from asthma attacks; they can even provide some measure of prevention.

      Essential oils are well suited to reducing and soothing bronchial spasms. Since they easily vaporize, essential oils can reach even the most fine bronchial tissues and relieve inflammation there. Certain essential oils are considered antimicrobial, as well, and will benefit those who suffer from asthma caused by an underlying infection. These include fennel, chamomile, thyme, basil and eucalyptus. Eucalyptus essential oil, in particular, eases congestion due to mucus.

What You Can Do
     The symptoms of asthma are similar to those of other diseases including emphysema and bronchitis; so it is important to have a medical checkup. If asthma is diagnosed, follow these guidelines to reduce the risk of occurrence: Eat a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates to provide the necessary anti-inflammatory nutrients; learn to cope with stress, anxiety and anger - these emotions may induce an attack; and take herbal and nutritional supplements to boost your immune system, in particular vitamins B6, B12, and C.

Smoking is off-limits
     The wide range of toxins contained in most cigarettes collect in the bronchial tubes and irritate the sensitive bronchial mucosa. Smoke from cigarettes is also inflammatory. If you are prone to asthma attacks, do not smoke, and avoid smoke-filled environments.

Essential fatty acids
     Essential fatty acids, among their many other beneficial effects, have been known to reduce asthmatic inflammation. Supplement your diet with such excellent sources of essential fatty acids as borage, flaxseed or cod-liver oils. Take ½ tbsp. once a day.

Cures from your kitchen

      Enjoy a bowl of chicken soup. Your asthma is kicking in. You can feel your chest tightening. You start to wheeze. Mucus seems to clog your lungs. Wouldn't it be comforting to find a bit of relief in something as natural and satisfying as mom's homemade chicken soup?
      You know that expectorants can ease the after-effects of an asthma attack and soothe your cough. That's because these products help thin and loosen the phlegm in your chest. Scientists have now proven that hot liquids, especially chicken soup, also help break up congestion and nasal mucus.
      Inhaling the warm vapor definitely helps, but that apparently is not the only benefit. Chicken soup seems to have some unique characteristic that works either through its scent or its taste to thin the phlegm in your chest and head. Mom always knew that old-fashioned chicken soup was more than just old-fashioned.

      Feast on cold-water fish. From the cold oceans beneath the northern lights comes help for asthma sufferers. A study of Eskimo, Japanese, and Dutch populations links a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, or fish oil, to low instances of asthma.
      Small amounts of fish oil over a long period of time seem to give the best results. This strategy makes it easier for the average person to work it into their normal diet. The best natural sources are mackerel, salmon, striped bass, lake trout, herring, lake whitefish, anchovy, bluefish, and halibut. If you'd like to try fish oil supplements, check with your doctor first.

      Pour yourself a cup of coffee. You still have your morning coffee or daily soda in spite of all the bad press on caffeine. Well, now you can feel better about it if you have asthma. Scientists report that caffiene can actually help some asthma sufferers by relaxing and expanding the air passages in the lungs. But don't overdo it. Too much caffiene can increase your blood pressure and heart rate and cause insomnia. A moderate amount, especially during an asthma attack, may feel like a breath of fresh air.

Medicinal Tea. For bronchial tubes that are often obstructed with mucus, the following tea blend loosens the mucus and facillitates expectoration:

      Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 tbsp. of the blend and steep for 10 min., then strain. This tea may be consumed liberally, by the cupful during acute asthma flare-ups. Drink 2-3 cups a day as a preventive measure during a cold or exposure to an allergen.

Clear the way for easier breathing

      Researchers have discovered that people with asthma have lower than normal levels of several important nutrients. In several studies, when the asthma sufferers took supplements of these nutrients, their symptoms improved. Doctors are still exploring exactly why this is so, but they do know that a careful balance of nutrients keeps the body's systems working in harmony. When you don't have enough of any single nutrient, it can affect every process.

      Breathe easier with vitamin C. A test group of asthmatics took supplements of 1 to 2 grams of vitamin C, a natural antihistamine. In the majority of cases, breathing symptoms improved.
      Try to get as much vitamin C as possible from natural sources like citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, broccoli, brussel sprouts and sweet red peppers.
      Before taking large doses of any supplement, check with your doctor. Too much vitamin C in your body can cause diarrhea and other side effects.

      Lower your risk with E. Low levels of vitamin E may put you at a higher risk of developing asthma, while getting more E may offer some protection. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, which means it protects your cells from damage by free radicals. Some healthy food sources are baked sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, and fortified cereals.
      If you're watching your fat intake, you may want to take a supplement, since many foods high in vitamin E are also high in fat. Although vitamin E is relatively safe, large doses - over 400 international units (IU) - taken over a prolonged period of time may cause blurred vision, diarrhea, dizziness, headaches, nausea, or unusual fatigue.

      Consider selenium. Several studies show that asthmatics tend to have low levels of selenium, a mineral that functions much like vitamin E in the body. When a test group of asthmatics took 100 micrograms (mcg) of sodium selenite, a selenium supplement, their breathing abilities improved.
      You can add selenium to your diet naturally. Good sources include liver, kidney, and seafood. If you want to try supplements, talk it over with your doctor. Too much selenium can be toxic.

      Open airways with magnesium. A diet rich in magnesium may help your lungs and airways fight the muscle spasms of asthma attacks. Magnesium is credited with having an antispasmodic effect on muscles, in particular, the muscles of the bronchial passages. In fact, one form of the mineral, magnesium sulfate, has been used by doctors to help asthma sufferers breathe easier.
     Supplementing your diet with 500 mg. of magnesium daily can reduce the occurrences of asthma, however, its easier to get the magnesium you need from natural food sources, since this spreads its absorption throughout the day. Eat nuts, legumes, soybeans, seafood, and dark green vegetables to be sure you're getting the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for magnesium - 280 to 350 mg.

      The healing power of ginkgo. You have probably heard of ginkgo helping just about every ailment known to man. While that may not be quite true, it certainly seems to have many healing qualities. One is its ability to prevent bronchospasms, a sudden narrowing of the main air passages from the windpipe to the lungs. If you have asthma, a bronchospasm feels like a tightening or squeezing in your chest that makes it difficult to breathe.
      Ginkgo biloba extract, or GBE, is sold as a food supplement. While no serious side effects have been reported, some people taking ginkgo experience headaches or digestive problems.

How to head off attacks

      Most asthma attacks are triggered by allergens. With a little foresight, you can keep most of these allergens under control.

      Know what foods to avoid. If you have a food allergy, you may not have asthma, but if you have asthma, you could have a food allergy. Confused? It's not surprising. What this really menas is that if you have asthma, you could have an allergic reaction to certain foods, which would then bring on an asthma attack.
      The most common allergic triggers are shellfish, soy, wheat, nuts, eggs, fish, chocolate, and milk. Other foods could also cause a reaction. That's why it's important to notice what you eat nad how your body responds.

      Go easy on processed foods. Much of the food you eat is processed. This means that flavorings, preservatives, sweeteners, conditioners, and artificial colors are added to make the products look or taste better and last longer on the shelf. Amazingly, very few people react to the more than 2,000 FDA approved additives that are routinely added to food. But there are exceptions.

      When you're grocery shopping, make sure you read food labels. When you dine out, ask your waiter to find out if the restaurant uses any of these additives.

      Iron out your asthma. Iron is essential to life. It's found in hemoglobin, the part of your blood that carries oxygen throughout your body. Without oxygen, your body dies. But, while too little iron can cause problems like anemia, researchers now think too much iron may cause asthma. If you take an iron supplement, make sure you don't take in more than the RDA. The RDA for adults over 50 is 10 mg a day. This is one case where more is definitely not better.

      Break this startling link to asthma. You probably never thought suffering from heartburn could make it hard to breathe, but doctors have discovered an amazing link between gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and asthma. Studies show that up to 80% of asthma sufferers also have GERD, a condition where stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, causing heartburn.
      If your breathing problems didn't start until you were an adult and there's no history of asthma in your family, heartburn could be causing your symptoms. Other signs are wheezing or coughing at night or after exercise or meals.
      If you treat your reflux disorder, you may find asthma relief at the same time. Talk it over with your doctor and follow his/her advice.

Confidentiality Statement: (for anyone who does not respect copyright and/or is confused regarding this issue) The information, data and schematics embodied in the document are confidential and proprietary, being exclusively owned by Ellen J. Lord (aka Purpleflame or Firefly). This document is being supplied on understanding that it and its contents shall not be used, reproduced, or disclosed to others except as specifically permitted with the prior written consent of Ellen J. Lord. The recipient of this document, by its retention and use, agrees to protect the same from loss, theft, or unauthorized use.

      All information provided in this article is the result of research using (but not limited to) the following books and guides: Herbs for Health and Healing, Rodale; Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Scott Cunningham; Magical Herbalism, Scott Cunningham; The Complete Guide to Natural Healing, International Masters Publishers; Earthway, Mary Summer Rain; Teach Yourself Herbs, Susie White; Natural Beauty from the Garden, Janice Cox; Nature's Prescriptions, Editors of FC&A Medical Publishing, and The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies, Joe Graedon and Theresa Graedon, Ph.D