A study by researchers from New York and China found a combination of three l- \Chinese herbal extracts to be an effective alternative to conventional asthma medicines. This combination of herbs-dubbed the Anti-Asthma Herbal Medicine Intervention, or ASHMl-included ling zhi (Ganoderma lucidum), ku shen (Radix sophorae flavescentis) and gan cao (Radix glycyrrhizae uralensis). In the US, these herbs are known as reishi, sophora root and licorice, respectively.

The four-week study focused on 91 people with moderate-to-severe asthma. Forty-six people were assigned to receive 12 ASHMI capsules per day (made of 20 g of ling zhi, 9 g of ku shen and 3 g of gan cao). Patients in this active treatment group also received placebo tablets similar in appearance to prednisone, an oral, man-made corticosteroid commonly used for suppressing inflammation caused by asthma. Patients in the control group received 20 mg of prednisone daily plus placebo herb capsules. Researchers measured lung function, inflammatory markers and side effects.

The effectiveness of prednisone on lung function was "slightly but significantly greater" tinan that provided by the herbs. However the ASHMI had a beneficial effect on immune cell activity, while the immune cells of the people on prednisone were suppressed. Patients receiving ASHMI capsules also were less likely to have gastric discomfort than those receiving prednisone. The prednisone patients showed significant weight gain after four weeks of treatment as well.

My view: The study demonstrates that Chinese herbal therapy is effective (even if nor quite as effective as prednisone) and less likely to cause side effects. Herbal therapy combined with good nutrition and supplements, such as magnesium, fish oil, vitamin C and the amino acid N-acetylcysteine, should be the first choice for people with asthma.

Caution: If you take prednisone, do not stop taking it without checking with your doctor.

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