Asthma is a condition in which the tubes carrying air in and out of the lungs go into spasm and cause distress and great difficulty with breathing.

For many years, inhalers containing bronchodilator medicines such as salbutamol have saved many lives.

For more severe cases, steroids such as beclamethasone, fluticasone and predisolone, in the form of inhalers or tablets, have also been life savers.

When used judiciously, in low doses and for short periods, these do not cause any problems. However, when steroids need to be used on a long-term basis or in high doses they can cause serious side effects -

particularly in children.

Recent reports from the Medicines Control Agency and the Committee On Safety Of Medicines have raised concerns over high doses of steroids being given to children as they can cause adrenal suppression.

The adrenal gland is is a endocrine gland which releases your own steroids. These are vital for maintaining many functions in the body - in particular, adapting the body to cope with various stresses.

Severe adrenal suppression is rare but some early signs and symptoms in children or adults using high doses of steroids have been listed as: Loss of appetite, stomach pain, weight loss, tiredness, headaches, sick feeling, low blood sugar and, sometimes, fits.

Water retention, high blood pressure, weight gain, diabetes, hormonal problems and osteoporosis are other well-recognised, long-term effects of prolonged steroid usage.

In India and China, herbal medicines have been used to treat asthma and other illnesses by highly-qualified doctors for centuries.

Safety of any medicine is paramount and, as Charak wrote 3,000 years ago, in his text book of ayurvedic medicine: "Any medicine that causes side effects is poison." On this solid principle, he and other ayurvedic physicians formulated safe and effective herbal and mineral treatments for various diseases.

Herbal formulations such as chyavanprash have been used to treat tuberculosis, asthma, bronchitis and other chest infections for 4,000 years. Extensive clinical experience and clinical trials in India have proved their healing effects on the lungs.

The main ingredients are: Long pepper, turmeric (curcumin root extract), adhatoda vesica, embelica offcinalis and solanum xanthocarpum. All have been rigorously evaluated by modern international biochemical methods and proven to have powerful natural, anti-allergic, antiseptic and immunity-boosting action.

I have been treating my patients with a combination of modern and ayurvedic medicine for the past ten years and reducing the use of steroids, particularly in children. Other than the occasional case of mild, loose motion, I have not come across a single side effect.

Dr Milind Jani works as a conventional and
holistic GP and Dr Asmita Jani as Ayurvedic Consultant from 3 Eaton Gardens, Hove.

Call them on: 01273 777448 or email: