The complementary or alternative remedies to various medical disorders, including allergy and asthma, are becoming increasingly popular. Dr. Song is very much interested in any approaches that are helpful to patients since he is aware of the limitation of the traditional medicine. He may be familiar with some of these techniques and is happy to discuss them. However, he is of the view that these remedies should be evaluated on the same scientific basis as the traditional remedies. Probably the best way to study these approaches is by DBPC(double-blind placebo control) method. For example, a herb extract of interest (treatment) and sugar (control) are put in the identical capsules and are given to patients. Doctors and patients do not know which are which. After completion of treatment, the codes are broken and the clinical results are evaluated.
The following summary table is extracted from the Journal of Allergy and Immunology (10/2000).
Herbs, phytochemicals*, botanical
CTM, Kanpo, Jamu
Magnesium, selenium, omega-3-fatty acids, antioxidants, teas
Fruit and vegetable diets
Breathing technique, yoga, Chinese exercise (e.g, qi gong, tai chi)
Shiatsu, reflexology, etc
Classical, electroacupuncture, acupressure, moxibustion
* Chemicals produced by plants.
Chinese herbal therapy
The typical herbal prescription may contain 10 to 16 herbs, which are boiled and used as a soup. Although some ingredients including ma huang(ephedra) are shown to be therapeutic for asthma and hay fever, none of these herbs are as efficacious as currently used western drugs.
Classical homeopathy uses single herbs diluted to the point the final prescribed solution may be totally free of any physical remnants of the original drug. A more recent form, termed isopathy, use dilution of allergens or drugs that provoke symptoms. Some studies have shown the efficacy of homeopathic treatment by DBPC studies. It is a mystery how it works since the homeopathic concentration may be so dilute that it may not contain any molecules of the drugs or allergens.
Physical manipulations including yoga, breathing exercises, postures, and Chinese QiGong practices may be a helpful adjunctive therapy for asthma.
Prayer, biofeedback, transcendental meditation, and related practices help improve autonomic imbalance in diseases such as asthma.
At present, acupuncture is one of the most popular alternative therapies for asthma in the United States. Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles into the skin at specified locations to regulate the flow of energy (Chi). Acupuncture has the appeal offered by a nearly risk-free, relatively low-cost, nonpharmacologic form of treatment.
Of the 6 double-blind studies for the acupuncture treatment of asthma, 4 were negative, whereas 6 of the 7 single-blinded studies were positive. Although efficacy of acupuncture has not been convincingly demonstrated, the use of acupuncture as a complementary or adjunctive therapy need to be explored. Dr. Song has been interested in this area for some time and has had some experience in the use of acupuncture for various conditions, including a headache and backache.