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Asthma is an eminently controllable illness. Indeed, for most sufferers, control is so effective that it amounts to a virtual cure. But asthma is not curable in the same way as, say, a bacterial pneumonia; it never entirely goes away.

Asthma is well documented in the ancient Ayurvedic texts. In Sanskrit, asthma is known as svasa roga. Svasa means “breathing in and out, ” and roga means “ disease.” According to the ancient Ayurvedic text, the Charak Samhita, there are five types of asthma: maha svasa, urdhva svasa, chinna svasa, tamaka svasa and ksudra svasa. Among these five types first three are not curable. 'Tamak-shwas is controllable and is difficult to cure. The last one is curable.  

In the 17th chapter of the Charak Samhita, there is a detailed description of svasa and its five varieties. Included is an elaborate explanation of the etiological factors, pathogenesis, prodromal symptoms, and clinical manifestations as well as treatment of svasa. According to the Charaka Samhita, “There are several deadly diseases which can kill a patient. But none of these is as deadly as asthma and hiccup that can kill a patient instantaneously ”   The Charak Samhita goes on to describe the origin of svasa, “ Both of these diseases originate at the site of Pitta, (in the stomach) and are caused by  the simultaneous aggravation of Kapha and vayu. They adversely affect the cardiac region and all the tissue elements.”   Kledaka Kapha accumulates and moves to the lungs. Kapha is cold, heavy, slimy and unctuous in nature and Vata has dry, cold rough and mobile qualities. In the lungs, the two intermix and the mucous in the lungs becomes sticky and thick, adhering to the walls of the bronchi, causing narrowing of the bronchial tubes, leading to breathlessness or an asthmatic attack. The Charak Samhita notes, “ If vata predominantly associated with Kapha obstructs the channels of circulation, and circulates all over the body, then being obstructed (in the circulatory course), this aggravated vayu causes svasa.”   The text describes retrograde vata, “ moving in reverse pervades the channels of vital breath, afflicts the neck and head and stimulates phlegm to cause rhinitis.”  

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