TCM Food Therapy for Asthma

[TCM Food Therapy]

By Helen H. Hu, OMD

Asthma is a disease of diffused airway inflammation caused by a variety of triggering stimuli, resulting in partially or completely reversible bronchi constriction. Symptoms and signs include dyspepsia, chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing. The diagnosis is based on the individual’s medical history, physical examination, and pulmonary function tests. Treatment involves controlling the triggering factors and drug therapy, most commonly with inhaled β2-adrenergic receptor agonists and inhaled corticosteroids.

The prevalence of asthma now affects an estimated 4-7% of the worldwide population. More than 20 million people in the US are affected. Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood, affecting more than 6 million children.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is believed that asthma is due to three main organ deficiencies, either from birth, and/or from a lifestyle that has a negative impact on the lungs, spleen, and kidneys, together with external pathogen invasion. Some cases, especially asthma that occurs at a very young age, are due to a family history of asthma in which there is more kidney organ weakness (that tends to trigger childhood asthma).

In some cases, there is more of a digestion system problem at a young age, with the tendency to have ear infections, upper respiratory infection, and asthma. These children tend to have spleen and lung deficiencies with asthma. The food therapy focus is different according to the case. Especially for those with a family history of asthma, there should be an emphasis on active preventative measures and the strengthening of the kidney organs after asthma remission. During the remission period, food therapy is one of the best remedies, along with acupuncture and an herbal formula, depending on the severity and frequency of the asthma attacks.

There are four patterns of asthma according to TCM diagnostic patterns.  These are cold type, hot type, lung and spleen Qi deficiency type, and kidney deficiency types of asthma.

If there is actually an asthma attack, besides traditional bio-medicine intervention, I recommend that it be identified as a cold type or hot type of asthma attack. Then one should integrate the appropriate food therapy to assist the healing process.

During remission, try to consult a TCM doctor to determine which organ is deficient, and to apply Chinese food therapy and other preventive therapies.

Here are some samples, as a reference, for food therapy for cold and hot types of asthma, as well as for different organ deficiencies:

I. Cold Type of Asthma

This type of asthma presents with shortness of breath, more thin or watery mucus, no blood or pus-like discharge, and no feeling of thirst or desire to drink. The face looks dusty and there is a feeling of fullness of the chest.

Food therapy:

Ginger Rice Soup:

Fresh ginger: 9 grams Cut into very small pieces.

Apricot kernel:  6

Sweet rice: 50 grams

Cook sweet rice and apricot kernels together in water at low temperature; when the rice is very soft, the soup is done. Add ginger to the boiling soup before serving.
Take as breakfast and part of dinner.

Green Onion Rice Soup:

Fresh Green Onion: 15 – only use white part of green onion cut into 3 cm long pieces

Spring rice: 50 grams

Fermented soy bean (black color): 10 grams

Salt: a little.

Cook rice with water first to make soup; when the soup is done, the rice becomes soft. Then add green onion, fermented soy beans and salt and then cook for another 20-30 minutes.

Serve: once day at dinner


Soothing Asthma Powder

Bone from octopus: 500 grams

Wash bone clean and then bake it dry and then grind it into a powder.

Organic brown sugar: 1000 grams

Mix the octopus powder and brown sugar together.

Adult:  take 20 grams with warm water, three times a day for 2 weeks.
(Young children should take 1/3 to 1/2 of adult dosage.


II.  Hot Type of Asthma

This type of asthma manifests with wheezing and rasping breath, coughing up with a thick, yellow, hard-to-cough-up mucus,  anxiety, sweating, red facial complexion, a bitter taste in the mouth, dry mouth and feeling thirsty.

With this type of asthma, one should seek medical care when the asthma attacks. Treatment along with food therapy will be of greater benefit for recovery and assist in faster healing.

Food therapy:

Tofu Turnip Juice

Fresh turnip: 500 grams  juice it

Fresh soft tofu: 500 grams cut into small pieces

Light molasses: 100 grams

Juice the fresh turnip, then, add fresh tofu and molasses into the juice. Bring it to a boil. Take the juice in two parts, drinking twice a day for one day.


Green Tea Egg

Green tea: 15 grams

Chicken egg: 2

Cook green tea leaves with the eggs in water until the eggs are done, then peel the eggs and put them back into the tea to continue cooking until the tea water is almost evaporated.

Eat the eggs.


Sang Ye Peanuts (one serving)

Sang ye: mulberry leaves; 15 grams (if fresh, 45 grams)

Raw peanuts without the shell: 15 grams

White rock sugar: 15 grams

Cook everything together in water, until the peanuts are done.

Serve: eat the peanuts only, once a day.


Single herbal tea:

Kuan dong hua (Coltsfoot Flower) or Kuan dong ye (leaves): one teaspoon –Boil in one cup of water for 30 minutes. Add a little honey to taste.

Niu xin cao: (Cyathula Officinalis):  mix one teaspoon with one cup of boiling water for 10 minutes.  Drink as tea with honey.


III.  Asthma with Lung and Spleen Deficiency

The following recipes are food therapy treatment for harmonizing or strengthening the organs during asthma remission time. This is Traditional Chinese food therapy to strengthen and harmonize the lung and spleen organs, with or without an herbal formula.

White Fungus Mushroom Soup

White fungus mushroom: soak in warm water for 30 minutes, then tear it into small pieces

Rock sugar: 60 grams

Chicken egg: one (egg white only)

First, cook the mushroom and sugar in water until the mushroom is soft, then filter the mushroom out while the soup is still boiling. Gradually add the egg white into the soup, stirring the soup at the same time. Then serve.


Walnut Apricot Soup ( one serving)

Walnut: 5 grams

Apricot kernel: 5 grams

Honey 30 grams

Put everything in a bowel and steam it until the nuts are cooked well. Take it out from the steamer; add fresh ginger juice: 20 drops. Then eat the nuts and drink the soup.

Intake: once every other day, 5-7 times.


Walnut Duck

One whole fresh duck

White sugar: 120 grams

White rock sugar: 120 grams

Honey: 120 grams

Walnuts 120 grams

Put all ingredients into the duck’s stomach. Boil it in water until fully cooked.

Serve:as a dish.  Eat two ducks as one course of treatment.


Eight Treasure Chicken: (4 servings)

One old hen chicken: about 500 grams

Sweet rice: 60 grams soak until soft in water

Lotus seed:  20 grams  soak until soft in water

Chicken pea: 75 grams soak until soft in water

Cox seed: 30 grams soak until soft in water

Shitake mushroom: 20 grams soak until soft in water, then cut into small pieces

Ham: 30 grams cut into small pieces

Salt, ginger, other spices, as desired.

Put all ingredients into the chicken’s stomach and sew it up. Boil it in water until fully cooked (it is best to steam the whole chicken until the meat is done).

Serve: as dish


IV.  Asthma with Kidney Deficiency

People with kidney deficiency and asthma tend to have inhalation difficulties  (besides of shortness of breath) exaggerated by movement, more weakness in both knees and the lower back, ear tinnitus, pale complexion, and a feeling of coldness. Some people might have red cheeks, and anxiety, with a warm feeling, and sweating.

Walnut Duck Soup:

One whole duck;

Walnut: 200 grams

Water chestnut: 150 grams cut into small pieces

Ginger, salt, cooking wine

Cook everything together until the meat is well-done.

Serve: as dish


Pumpkin Date:

Fresh pumpkin: 500 grams peeled

Chinese red date: 15-20 (without kernel)

Boil together and mash it, like mashed potato

Serve: once a day as a side dish


Cordyceps  Duck Soup

One old duck

Cordyceps: 3 grams

Put the Cordyceps into the duck stomach; add ginger, salt, and cooking wine in a slow- cooking pot until the meat is well-done.

Serve: drink the soup and eat the meat


Tea: Ginseng and walnut tea

Ginseng: 6 grams (cut into thin slices)

Walnut: three whole nuts

Boil in water; after boiling, cook at lower temperature for an hour. Drink it as tea.  It can be taken for long time.


[Dr. Helen Hu, originally from Beijing China, has studied Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) since the age of 12. A Cardiologist and practitioner of integrated medicine for nine years before immigrating to the United States, Dr. Hu passed the “U.S. Licensing Medical Exam” (USLME) in 1997 while simultaneously obtaining her Oriental Medical Degree (OMD) in the US.   Dr. Hu currently directs and manages a successful TCM practice in San Diego. She lectures locally on Acupuncture and the benefits of combining Eastern / Western styles of Medicine.  Dr. Hu has been practicing Tai Ji and Qi Gong over 25 years, and she teaches these ancient Chinese arts Saturday mornings on Shelter Island in San Diego as a gift to the community and to help promote well being and longevity. or ]




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