From the past to the present
Physicians in ancient Greece used the word asthma to describe breathlessness or gasping. They believed that asthma was derived from internal imbalances, which could be restored by healthy diet, plant and animal remedies, or lifestyle changes.
Asthma is derived from the Greek word panos, meaning panting.
Chinese healers understood that xiao-chiran, or "wheezy breathing," was a sign of imbalance in the life force they called qi. They restored qi by means of herbs, acupuncture, massage, diet, and exercise.
The Hindu philosophers connected the soul and breath as part of the mind, body, and spirit connection. Yoga uses control of breathing to enhance meditation. Indian physicians taught these breathing techniques to help manage asthma.
Maimonides was a renowned 12th-century rabbi and physician who practiced in the court of the sultan of Egypt. He recommended to one of the royal princes with asthma that he eat, drink, and sleep less. He also advised that he engage in less sexual activity, avoid the polluted city environment, and eat a specific remedy...chicken soup.
The balance of the "four humors," which was derived from the Greco-Roman
times, influenced European medicine until the middle of the 18th century.
In a healthy person, the four humors, or bodily
By the 1800s, aided by the invention of the stethoscope, physicians began to recognize asthma as a specific disease. However, patients still requested the traditional treatments of the day, such as bloodletting, herbs, and smoking tobacco. These methods were used for a variety of conditions, including asthma. Of the many remedies that were advertised for asthma throughout the 19th century, none were particularly helpful.
As early as 1892, the famous Canadian-American physician Sir William Osler suggested that inflammation played an important role in asthma.
Bronchial dilators first appeared in the 1930s and were improved in the 1950s. Shortly thereafter, corticosteroid drugs that treated inflammation appeared and have become the mainstay of therapy used today.