Dr (TCM) Attilio D'Alberto Accupuncture Book Chinese Herbal Medicine Acupoints Doll
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Acupuncture for asthma

On this page

  1. Overview
  2. Symptoms
  3. Causes
  4. Treatment
  5. Facesheet

1. Overview

Asthma is described as an inflammatory disease characterised by airway hyper-responsiveness and episodic periods of bronchospasm.

2. Symptoms

People with asthma will experience asthma symptoms such as rapid breathing, shortness of breath and anxiety.

There are two types of asthma attacks: extrinsic (immunologic) and intrinsic (autonomic).

Between 100 and 150 million people around the globe, roughly the equivalent of the population of the Russian Federation, suffer from asthma and this number is rising.

Causes of asthma

There are a number of causes of asthma within traditional Chinese medicine, which have been known for thousands of years.

Things that can affect the lungs or weaken the digestive system lead to the formation of phlegm, which obstruct the airways of asthmatic patients:

  • Sudden changes in weather
  • Inhalation of pollens, smoke dust and other irritations such as bleach fumes
  • Weak lung function
  • Improper diet: excessive intake of greasy food, dairy, sweets, sea food, red meat, nuts, etc
  • Emotions: sudden, drastic changes in emotional states
  • Stress and overwork
  • Frequent and repetitive cases of cold or flu
  • Excessive intake of cold and raw food
  • Long-term illnesses

Treatment of asthma

Alternative therapies such as acupuncture can help to tackle the various causes of asthma, for example stress and emotional upset, a weak digestive system that leads to the formation of phlegm and the regulation of the immune system.

From a biomedicine viewpoint, randomised clinical trials using sham acupuncture have shown evidence to support that acupuncture is an effective treatment for asthma and is able to significantly improve symptoms by:

  1. Regulate the mucosal and cellular immunity (Yang 2013, Carneiro 2010, Joos 2000)
  2. Reduce bronchial immune-mediated inflammation, particularly through the balance between T helper 1 and 2 cells and their associated cytokines (Carneiro 2010; Carneiro 2005, Jeong 2002)
  3. Reduce inflammation by promoting the release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kavoussi 2007, Zijlstra 2003)
  4. Regulate the expression of surfactant proteins, that help to reduce airways resistance biophysically and also modulate the immune response (Yan 2010)
  5. Inhibit structural changes in the airways, thereby reducing airway resistance (Wang 2012)
  6. Regulate the expression of genes and proteins that control the airways inflammatory response (Mo 2012, Xu 2012, Yin 2009)
  7. Act on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the 'analytical' brain, which is responsible for anxiety and worry (Hui 2010).

When treating asthma, the asthmatic should make dietary changes to exclude dairy and gluten to reduce the amount of phlegm build up that can obstruct their airways. As a member of the British Acupuncture Council, I can advise which foods to avoid.

Pregnant women

Research has shown the use of cleaning sprays, air fresheners and solvents during pregnancy may increase the risk of wheezing and infections in children. Whilst other research has shown that newborns need certain bacteria to help their respiratory systems and prevent the development of asthma. These four types of bacteria are Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella, and Rothia (Flvr). If they are not present for the first 100 days of the baby's life, they are at higher risk of developing asthma at the age of three.

The inhalation of cleaning products maybe a factor in the lack of these four vital types of bacteria. I recommend that you should avoid contact with all cleaning products. If you have to use them, then use ones that are less harsh, i.e. eco friendly and wear gloves and a facemask or ask someone else to do the cleaning.

For people with chronic asthma, Chinese herbal medicine is often a better form of treatment than acupuncture alone.


Download my asthma factsheet.


Yang YQ et al. Considerations for use of acupuncture as supplemental therapy for patients with allergic asthma. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2013 Jun;44(3):254-61
Mo L et al. Effects of acupoint injection of autoblood on expression of pulmonary transcription factor GATA 3 and T-bet proteins and genes in asthma rats. Zhen Ci Yan Jiu. 2012 Oct;37(5):357-62.
Carneiro ER et al. Electroacupuncture promotes a decrease in inflammatory response associated with Th1/Th2 cytokines, nitric oxide and leukotriene B4 modulation in experimental asthma. Cytokine. 2010 Jun;50(3):335-40.
Joos S et al. Immunomodulatory effects of acupuncture in the treatment of allergic asthma: a randomized controlled study. J Altern Compliment Med 2000; 6(6): 519-25.
Zijlstra FJ et al. Anti-inflammatory actions of acupuncture. Mediators Inflamm 2003; 12(2):59-69.
Carneiro ER et al. Effect of electroacupuncture on bronchial asthma induced by ovalbumin in rats. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2005; 11(1): 127-34.
Kavoussi B, Ross BE. The neuroimmune basis of anti-inflammatory acupuncture. Integr Cancer Ther 2007; 6: 251-7.
Yin LM et al. Use of serial analysis of gene expression to reveal the specific regulation of gene expression profile in asthmatic rats treated by acupuncture. Journal of Biomedical Science 2009; 16(1): 46.
Hui KK et al. Acupuncture, the limbic Studies have shown that acupuncture stimulation, when system, and the anticorrelated networks of the brain. Auton Neurosci. 2010; 157(1-2): 81-90.
Wang Y et al. Influence of acupuncture on expression of T-type calcium channel protein in airway smooth. A randomised controlled animal study that looked at the antiremodelling effect of acupuncture on asthma and the role of Ttype calcium channel protein in airway smooth muscle cell in muscle cell in airway remodeling rats with asthma]. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2012 Jun;32(6):534-40.
Xu YD et al. Proteomic analysis reveals the deregulation of inflammation-related proteins in acupuncture-treated rats with asthma onset. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:850512.
Jeong HJ et al. Regulatory effect of cytokine production in asthma patients by SOOJI CHIM (Koryo Hand Acupuncture Therapy). Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology 2002; 24(2): 265-4.