ASTHMA was treated by “a spoonful of NETTLE-juice mixt with clarified Honey, every night and morning”. Domestic medicine agrees on nettle’s efficacy in chest complaints, from coughs to tuberculosis, but COMFREY root tea, taken for a variety of ailments, is not so well known. An infusion of ELECAMPANE roots has been used for asthma, as well as for coughs and whooping cough. Cockayne quotes a Saxon leechdom “ad pectoris dolorem” in which elecampane played its part along with many other herbs. Mulled ELDER berry wine is good for asthma. Another recipe is to make a conserve of HONEYSUCKLE flowers, beaten up with three times their weight of honey; a tablespoonful dose is to be taken night and morning, to relieve the condition.
An Irish remedy was to use GORSE flowers. They would be packed tightly in a crock, and brown sugar put on top. The crock would be covered, and put in a saucepan to stew slowly. Also from an Irish source, sufferers were advised to drink of a potion of GROUND IVY (or dandelion), with a prayer said over it before drinking. Watercress too was used in Ireland for the complaint, and so was SEA HOLLY, or DANDELION tea, while a tea made from OX-EYE DAISY was used in Scotland, and so was PENNYROYAL tea. HOLY THISTLE was another Irish source of an asthma treatment. HORSERADISH was used in Russian folk medicine — half a pound of fresh root, grated, mixed with the juice of two or three lemons. The dose would be half a teaspoonful twice a day. Another Russian remedy used GINGER. The recipe given is a pound of ginger grated, put in a quart bottle, which was filled with alcohol. This was kept warm for two weeks, shaken occasionally, until the infusion was the colour of weak tea. Then it was strained, and the sediment allowed to settle. Then the clear liquid was poured into another bottle, and the infusion taken twice a day. A root decoction of ROSE-BAY WILLOWHERB has been used too. BILBERRY tea (up to ten cups a day, very hot) was a Russian remedy for asthma. RIBWORT PLANTAIN leaf tea is used for bronchitis and asthma, and a tincture of LARKSPUR seeds has also been used, as has syrup made from the roots of BLACK BRYONY. The leaf decoction of CHILE PEPPER is used as a treatment for asthma in Trinidad, and the root and bark of LESSER EVENING PRIMROSE have in recent times been used for asthma and whooping cough.
The best known treatment has been the smoking of dried COLTSFOOT, which is still an ingredient in all herbal tobaccos, as it is also in Chinese medicine, for asthma, and even for lung cancer. There was, too, an Irish usage that involved boiling the fresh leaves in milk, and then eating the lot. Another Irish remedy was smoking the dried leaves of MULLEIN for asthma and bronchitis. Similarly, a cigarette used to be made from THORN-APPLE leaves and smoked to ease the condition, or it may have been treated with the infusion. Another mixture smoked has INDIAN TOBACCO (Lobelia inflata) as its base. The leaves and flowers of Thorn-apple are mixed in to make “asthma powders”, which can be bought as such. A little nitre is included to make it burn, and the smoke is inhaled. The mixture is often made up into cigarettes, for convenience. In Ghana, the leaves of NEVER-DIE (Kalanchoe crenata), either boiled or macerated in water, are used as a sedative for asthma sufferers.