What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease. In Ayurveda, asthma is known as Swasa Roga. Once you get asthma it may take a long time before you get rid of it. In some extreme cases, asthma even lasts for the life time. Interestingly, asthma is the most common disease among children. There is not a single universally agreeable definition exits for asthma because asthma is a condition in which a number of mutually related symptoms co-exists. In general, inflammation and constriction of the airways result in difficult breathing and increased sensitivity towards any substance that may inhale are the common characteristics of asthma.
However, Ayurvedic system of medicine makes clear distinction about different types of Asthma. Ayurveda is of the opinion that when the three humors - the vata, pitta, and kapha - of the body are in balance then the body is healthy. Any deviation for such a balance may lead to diseases. Based on the predominance of these humors, Ayurveda defines three types of asthma.
1. Vata Type
In cases of vata type asthma, dry cough and wheezing are the main symptoms. Asthma attacks occur during the early morning and early evening. Other symptoms include thirst, dry cough and skin, and constipation. Psychologically, the patient may show symptoms of anxiety and ask for warm drinks.
2. Pitta Type
Dry cough, breathing with a whizzling or rattling sound, and yellow phlegm are the common symptoms of pitta type asthma. Asthma attacks occur usually at night and at noon. Some patients develop fevers and sweating. Psychological symptoms include irritability and the need for cool air.
3. Kapha Type
Breathing with whizzling sound and coughs with white and abundant phlegm are the symptoms of kapha type asthma. Most of the attacks occur at the morning and evening.
According to Bhagavan Dash who wrote 'Handbook of Ayurveda' there exist five types of Asthma. According to him, asthma originates in the lungs, passes through the channels of rasas, and then ultimately reaches the lungs.
1. Maha Swasa (Great Asthma)
In cases of Great Asthma, the patient experiences pain and discomfort while breathing. He would not feel satisfied with deep breathing however hard he may try. Chances are that the patient may lose consciousness at times. Movement of eyes could be noted from side to side. The patient would not be able to close the mouth and would not be able to speak. There exists obstructions in the passage of urine and stool. This is a dangerous condition.
2. Urdhava Swasa
In this condition, the patient would be able to exhale perfectly; however, he would not be able to inhale effectively. This results in reduced supply of oxygen to various body parts including vital organs such as brain and heart. At times, the patient may experience increased pain in the chest. Headaches are also associated with Urdhava swasa.
3. Chinna Swasa
One of the remarkable symptoms of the chinna swasa is the excruciating pain in the chest. The respiration is broken that at times suddenly stops. Abdominal distention results due to accumulation of the gas.
4. Tamaka Swasa or Allergic Asthma
The route of movement of vata within the body is usually downwards. However, in cases of allergic asthma, it takes up the opposite route and makes the head and neck stiff. Kapha also get aggravated and results in runny nose and clouded face. As a result, obstruction of the airways occur and breathing with whizzing sound results. Sometimes the patient gets excruciating pain in the chest and head. Dry cough with minimal phlegm is another sign of allergic asthma. The patient may develop sore throat which then prevents him from sleeping. The patient may have a desire for hot drinks and cold conditions may aggravate his condition. If pitta imbalance is involved in allergic asthma, burning sensation, fainting, and indigestion may result.
5. Ksudra Swasa
It's easily cured and results from suppression of natural urges and unctuous food.
In ayurvedic tradition, practitioners less blame the causative agents like pollens, dust, etc. Ayurveda work hard to bring the balance back to the body so that the pollens, dust, etc. that may cause asthma once in you have no effect on your body. Once the system is back to normal balance you would be able to live a life just like any other. Once the balance is back, you would be able to go out and smell the earth and flowers and feel the drizzling of rain water. Note that not everyone gets asthma from pollens, dust, etc. So it is not essentially the pollens that cause asthma but your body imbalances are the culprit.