Asthma, also known as shvasa roga, is a breathing condition that is divided into five categories as per Ayurveda. The five types of shvasa rogas include maha shvasa (serious asthma), urdhva shvasa (the patient cannot inhale properly and looks upward while taking a breath), chinna shvasa (broken breathing pattern; sometimes breathing suddenly stops), tamaka shvasa (allergic asthma) and kshudra shvasa (minor type of asthma). Asthma occurs mainly due to vitiation of kapha dosha. The first symptom experienced in all the types of asthma is breathing problems.

The most commonly prescribed treatments for asthma are vamana karma (medical emesis), virechana karma (purgation therapy), swedana (sudation or sweat therapy), nasya karma (snuffing therapy) and basti karma (enema). These treatments purify the body by removing ama (toxins). Herbs that are used for the treatment of asthma are pippali (long pepper), madhu (honey), rasonam (garlic), hingu (asafoetida), shunthi (dried ginger), vasa (Malabar nut), kantakari (Choti katheri) and haritaki (chebulic myrobalan). Some of the commonly prescribed medicines for managing asthma are shvasakuthara rasa and vyaghri haritaki.

  1. Ayurvedic view of asthma
  2. Ayurvedic treatment for asthma
  3. Ayurvedic herbs and medicines for asthma
  4. Dietary and lifestyle changes for asthma as per ayurveda
  5. How effective are ayurvedic medicines and treatments for asthma
  6. Side effects and risks of ayurvedic medicine and treatments for asthma
  7. Takeaway
Doctors for Ayurvedic medicine, treatment and remedies for Asthma

As per Ayurveda, asthma originates in stomach and passes via the channels carrying rasa dhatu, finally taking root in lungs. The five different types of asthma exhibit different symptoms, which are used to differentiate them.

  • Maha shvasa: It is a life-threatening situation wherein a person experiences pain and discomfort while breathing. Such individuals have air hunger that is not satisfied by deep breathing. This is followed by loss of consciousness with movements of the eyes from side to side. The individual is unable to close their mouth or speak in such a situation. Urine and stool may be obstructed.
  • Urdhva shvasa: This type of asthma may also be life-threatening if neglected. In urdhava shvasa, the individual can exhale but cannot inhale properly. This leads to a lack of oxygen to the heart and brain. The individual looks upward, with eyes rolling while gasping for breath. Pain in the chest and the head is experienced.
  • Chinna shvasa: It is the type of asthma individuals experience broken respiration. Respiration may suddenly stop, leading to extreme pain in the chest. The individual also experiences a distended abdomen caused by the accumulation of gas.
  • Tamaka shvasa: In tamaka shvasa, vata goes up instead of going down, making the head and the neck stiff.  It also leads to the aggravation of kapha. This ultimately results in rhinitis, which begins with an attack of cold and then obstructs respiration. Extreme pain in the head and chest, which often leads to a loss of consciousness, is observed in individuals with tamaka shvasa. This condition is relieved once phlegm is thrown out. A dry cough, sore throat and difficulty in sleeping on the back are the common symptoms. Sometimes, pitta is also involved along with vata and kapha. Involvement of pitta leads to a burning sensation, loss of consciousness and indigestion. Tamaka shvasa is aggravated by cold things like cold breeze and water.
  • Kshudra shvasa: It is a minor type of asthma, which can be easily cured. It occurs due to the suppression of natural urges and consumption of unctuous food.
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  • Vamana karma
    • The main aim of vamana karma is to bring the excess kapha back into stomach from the lungs and throw it out of the body.
    • Vomiting is induced using various herbs, and the excess kapha and toxins are removed from the body. Mucus is removed from naadis (channels) and chest, thus relieving the obstruction in breathing.
    • Vamana helps in relieving cough, treating asthma and managing difficulty in breathing.
    • Vamana is not recommended in individuals with weakness, abdominal tumours, high blood pressure and heart problems, those who have had enema therapy, and pregnant women.
    • Two types of herbs are used for vamana – herbs that induce vomiting such as salt water and liquorice and herbs that enhance the effects of the vomiting-inducing herbs such as neem, pippali, rock salt and amalaki (Indian gooseberry).
  • Virechana karma
    • Similar to vamana karma, the main aim of virechana karma is to bring the excess kapha from lungs back into stomach and throw it out of the body.
    • It is also an excellent method to treat various conditions like abdominal tumours and helps in removing toxins from body.
    • To identify the exact purgation therapy that can be applied to treat the condition, the individual is asked questions regarding their stool habits. Those with soft stools need mild virechana and herbs used are honey, cinnamon and ghee. Those with hard stools require stronger purgatives like triphala, rhubarb, senna and castor oil. Purgation therapy also varies depending on the dosha dominance.
    • It is not commonly recommended for vata disorders but is useful in kapha and pitta disorders. It is also not used in the weak, very young, old and debilitated individuals.
  • Swedana
    • The induction of sweating, which can be either thermal or non-thermal, is known as swedana. According to Acharya Charaka, swedana helps in relieving heaviness, cold and stiffness, loosens kapha from body and helps in throwing it out.
    • It should not be used in individuals with burns, dehydration, insomnia, cardiac diseases and bleeding disorders.
  • Nasya karma
    • Drops of medicated oil are instilled in the nasal passage (considered to be the path to the brain and consciousness), which clears a blocked nose and lubricates the nasal passage, thus easing breathing.
    • The oils used in nasya karma are a combination of various herbs that help in clearing the nasal passage and sinuses.
  • Basti karma
    • Basti is an enema that aids in cleaning the accumulated toxins from tridoshasvata, pitta and kapha, thus clearing out the excessive kapha, reducing inflammation, and easing the breathing process.
    • The decoction or oil for basti is infused with the properties of various medicinal herbs and unlike the enemas of modern days, it is prepared fresh just before use.
    • This therapy is generally given for a period of 8 to 30 days, and the duration of the therapy may vary based on the condition of the individual.

Ayurvedic Herbs for Asthma

  • Pippali
    • Pippali is commonly used for treating digestive, respiratory and reproductive diseases.
    • One of the many uses of pippali is as an expectorant that helps in removing mucus out of the body. This activity makes it useful in kapha diseases.
    • It is useful in bronchitis, asthma and other kapha disorders and aids in the removal of toxins from the body.
    • Pippali should be used with caution as it causes a rise in pitta.
  • Madhu
    • Madhu (honey) has many constituents like carbohydrates, volatile oil, vitamins, and minerals.
    • It is useful in improving the quality of sleep in children by treating nighttime cough. It is an instant energiser, antiseptic and is used as an antibacterial in many cough formulations.
    • Honey is appropriate for use in all age groups.
  • Rasonam
    • Rasonam penetrates deep into the tissues and produces many therapeutically beneficial effects.
    • It rejuvenates the body and is useful in many vata and kapha disorders.
    • It improves bowel movements and helps in the management of asthma, cough and chronic nasal catarrh.
  • Hingu
    • Hing is considered as the best spice for vata disease. It helps in relieving cough, asthma, headache, and abdominal distension, pain, gas, and cramps.
    • It is contraindicated in diseases predominantly caused by pitta as it aggravates pitta dosha.
  • Shunthi
    • Dried ginger is a wonder drug with numerous healing properties. In asthmatic condition, it acts as a pain killer and expectorant.  it helps in the removal of kapha, thus treating the condition.
    • Shunthi is useful in reducing the level of vata, pitta and kapha depending on which herb is used along with it. It reduces vata when used with rock salt, reduces pitta with rock candy and reduces kapha when used with honey.
    • Dried ginger aggravates pitta when used alone; thus, it should be used with caution in pitta predominance.
  • Vasa
    • Vasa is one of the main herbs used for respiratory conditions. It has expectorant and anti-spasmodic properties. It can dilate the bronchi and is thus helpful in treating asthma, cough and bronchitis.
    • Vasa is mainly useful in kapha disorders and is given as an infusion, extract, decoction, poultice or powder.
  • Kantakari
    • Kantakari acts as an expectorant and is found to be very effective in respiratory disorders like asthma.
    • It is used in combination with many other herbs to treat various conditions such as a chronic cough, asthma, sore throat, tuberculosis and fever.
    • It is safe and effective in a wide range of population including children.
  • Haritaki
    • Haritaki acts as a rejuvenator and is useful in the treatment of many health problems like asthma, cough, hoarse voice, abdominal distension, gas and sore throat.
    • It has to be used with caution in pregnant women, and in people with severe exhaustion and dehydration.

Ayurvedic Medicines for Asthma

  • Shvasakuthara rasa
    • Shvasakuthara rasa is a herbomineral formulation that consists of aconite, long pepper, black pepper, ginger and detoxified, pure minerals like mercury, sulphur, borax and arsenic disulphide.
    • It is well known for its activity in the treatment of asthma and allergic conditions.
  • Vyaghri haritaki
    • Vyaghri haritaki contains many ingredients including kantakari, haritaki, trikatu (three acrids), chaturjata (a mixture of 4 spices), madhu (honey), and purana guda (old jaggery). All these ingredients are known for their role as an expectorant and in the treatment of cough.
    • The ingredients present in this formulation are useful in the management and treatment of respiratory disorders, and this formulation has been used since ancient times in the treatment of cough and asthma.

As treatments vary according to numerous factors, and an individual’s prakriti (constitution), consult a qualified Ayurvedic doctor to get the appropriate medications and treatments for your specific complaints.

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  • Include wheat, old rice, green gram, horse gram, barley and snake gourd in your diet.
  • Perform respiratory exercises, yoga and pranayama on a regular basis.
  • Use garlic, ginger, turmeric and pepper in your food.
  • Use honey, lukewarm water and goat milk to get rid of asthma.
  • Sleeping during the day as suggested by the Ayurvedic physician can also be useful in the management of asthma.


  • Avoid eating heavy meals and foods like black gram, fish, fried food and mustard leaves.
  • Avoid cold and humid atmosphere.
  • Avoid cold water, sweets, curd and stored food items.
  • Do not over-exercise.
  • Do not expose yourself to a polluted environment with smoke, dust or fumes.
  • Do not suppress natural urges.

A research study was performed for a period of two months to compare the efficacy of vasa haritaki avaleha and shvasahara leha in the management of bronchial asthma. Participants who had bronchial asthma and exhibited symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, cough and chest pain were included in the study and divided into two groups. One group was treated with shvasahara leha 5 g twice a day and the other group was treated with vasa haritaki avaleha 5 g twice a day. Clinical features of the participants were evaluated during the study and after the completion of the study. The results of this study indicated that vasa haritaki avaleha provided better relief than shvasahara leha in the management of bronchial asthma.

Another comparative six weeks study was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of bharangyadi avaleha and vasa avaleha in the management of bronchial asthma with reference to childhood asthma. The clinical condition of the children in the age group of 2 to 10 years was evaluated before, during and after the treatment. Although improvement in the clinical conditions was significantly present with both the treatments, the overall effect of the therapy was found to be better in the group treated with vasa avaleha than the group treated with bharangyadi avaleha.

The side effects and risks of the above-mentioned medicines vary depending on the clinical conditions, e.g., the involvement of particular doshas in the disease. Herbs like pippali and hingu have to be taken with caution in individuals with pitta dominance. Some herbs like haritaki need excess precautionary measures in pregnant women.

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Asthma can be fatal if not treated appropriately. It can also hamper the quality of life. Ayurveda treats all types of asthma using various herbs and herbal combinations along with some simple treatment procedures that help your body get rid of toxins. These herbs are effective in a wide range of population, and the right use of these medicines can help improve the overall quality of life.

Dr Prashant Kumar

Dr Prashant Kumar

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Dr Rudra Gosai

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  1. Vaidya Bhagwan Dash. Handbook of Ayurveda .Concept Publishing Company (1987) : Delhi, India.
  2. Ministry of AYUSH, Govt. of India. Zeeq-un- Nafas Sho’abi (Bronchial Asthma). [Internet]
  3. Lakshmi Chandra Mishra. Scientific Basis for Ayurvedic Therapies . International Ayurvedic Medical Journal, 2004.
  4. Prof. G.S. Lavekar. Classical Ayurvedic Prescriptions for Common Diseases . Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha. Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.
  5. Prof. G.S. Lavekar. A Practical Handbook of Panchakarma Procedures. Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha. Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.
  6. Deepshikha. Vyaghri Haritaki: A Drug Overview. International Journal of Applied Ayurved Research, Volume 2 Issue 4 Nov-Dec 2015.
  7. Suresh Janadri et al. Preparation and characterization of mercury-based traditional herbomineral formulation: Shwas kuthar rasa. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2015 Oct-Dec; 6(4): 268–272, PMID: 26834426.
  8. Manisha Sharma, Alankruta R Dave, VD Shukla. A comparative study of Shvasahara Leha and Vasa Haritaki Avaleha in the management of Tamaka Shvasa (Bronchial Asthma). An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda, Volume : 3 2 Issue : 4, 2011.
  9. Salim D Gohel, IP Anand, KS Patel. A comparative study on efficacy of Bharangyadi Avaleha and Vasa Avaleha in the management of Tamaka Shwasa with reference to childhood asthma . Volume : 32 Issue : 1, 2011.
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