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Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways characterized by variable airflow obstruction and airway hyper-responsiveness, and the presence of symptoms (more than one of wheeze, breathlessness, chest tightness, and cough) (British Thoracic Society 2012). 

In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being.

Can acupuncture help asthma?

There are many published studies investigating the mechanisms by which acupuncture treatment may have an effect on asthma, showing that it may help relieve asthma by:

  • having regulatory effects on mucosal and cellular immunity in patients with allergic asthma, as shown, for example, by changes in levels of immunoglobulins, eosinophils, T-lymphocytes and cytokines.

  • reducing bronchial immune-mediated inflammation, particularly through the balance between T helper 1 and 2 cells and their associated cytokines. Reducing inflammation in general by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors.

  • regulating expression of surfactant proteins, that help to reduce airways resistance biophysically and also modulate the immune response.

  • inhibiting structural changes in the airways, and hence reducing airways resistance, possibly by inhibiting T-type calcium channel protein in airway smooth muscle cells.

  • regulating the expression of genes and proteins that control the airways inflammatory response.

  • acting on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain, which is responsible for anxiety and worry.

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