Children with asthma found to respond better to TCM treatments than conventional bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory drugs

Parents of children with asthma can breathe a sigh of relief once they hear about a potential alternative to conventional bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory drugs. According to a 2017 study, pediatric asthma patients experience improved control after taking traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatment.

Children are particularly vulnerable to asthma. The last few years have witnessed increasing numbers of pediatric asthma cases on a global scale.

TCM experts like Professor Shi Yumin have studied the causes and manners of development of this common chronic respiratory disease. They devised a series of empirical prescriptions to alleviate asthma using herbal remedies.

The therapeutic principles established for acute attacks include relief from asthma and coughing, phlegm expulsion, and the suppression of coughing. For asthma cases in clinical remission, TCM experts recommended toning the kidneys and stimulating the spleen.

Armed with these empirical prescriptions, a group of Chinese researchers undertook a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to compare the clinical effects of TCM on pediatric asthma with that of conventional salbutamol and montelukast. (Related: Reduce the severity of these common medical emergencies with 8 acupressure treatments while help arrives.)

TCM uses herbal medicines

In the experiment, one group of pediatric asthma patients were treated with empirical prescriptions derived from TCM. The first treatment used Shegan (rhizomes from blackberry lilies) in response to an acute exacerbation, and it was adjusted as needed during follow-up visits.

In addition to the Shegan mixture, the prescription for patients who had chronic persistent asthma added a kidney tonic mixture made from Huangqi, the dried root of Mongolian milkvetch. Meanwhile, patients in clinical remission were treated with just the Huangqi tonic.

Additional symptoms such as nasal congestion, sneezing, hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), and dry feces were treated with complementary herbs.

The other group of patients received conventional treatments. Salbutamol sulfate (a bronchial relaxant) was administered over the course of seven days for acute asthma attacks.

Patients in clinical remission received montelukast sodium (allergy receptor blockers that prevented swelling) every night for three months. Patients with chronic persistent asthma were treated with both drugs.

If acute bacterial infection and severe wheezing ensued, patients were given oral antibiotics or anti-allergic agents via nebulizers.

TCM treatment for pediatric asthma

According to the study, TCM treatment can control asthma attacks, improve the health of child patients, and reduce the risk of respiratory infections.

Noting the use of montelukast to stop asthma attacks, researchers cited the findings of an Israeli study that reported anti-inflammatory drugs didn’t protect healthy children from upper respiratory tract infections (URI). This led them to believe that TCM treatment was a step above leukast agents because it successfully reduced URI incidences.

The study produced four findings. The first is that TCM can control asthma attacks, given how a larger number of patients in the TCM group reported successful control than those in the SM group.

Next, asthma symptom control (SC) scores did not greatly differ between the two groups. Therefore, it can be concluded that TCM treatment can control asthma symptoms as effectively as salbutamol sulfate and montelukast sodium.

Furthermore, more patients in the TCM group reported improved physiques such as reduced sweating and better-looking tongues. This is traced to the TCM-based empirical prescriptions adding complementary herbs for additional symptoms.

Last but not least, patients in the TCM group required fewer antibiotic and nebulizer treatments than the SM group since they experienced fewer asthma attacks.

Study limitations included the lack of patients with severe asthma and potential biases from the family environment and the parents’ educational level.

Overall, the researchers concluded that empirical TCM prescriptions are an effective means of pediatric asthma treatment that can outperform standard salbutamol and montelukast treatment.

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