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Can Herbs Fight Asthma?


4 Star


Can Herbs Fight Asthma?

Our Review Summary

The story addressed most of our criteria. The few flaws (cost, availability, novelty) could be fixed easily.


Why This Matters

Another tool to help control asthma would be attractive.  This story was appropriately cautious in its evaluation of the research report.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No discussion of the cost of kampo, nor of any comparison with current asthma medications.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story reported:

Symptoms completely disappeared in 94% of patients taking kampo herbs after an average of 16 days, Shimoide says.

In contrast, about three-fourths of those taking standard asthma medications still had daily wheeze and other symptoms.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


The story explained:

The study did not look at possible side effects of kampo herbs. But a major problem facing kampo medicine is herbal product quality. There have been cases in which poisonous plants found their way into the herbal mix, resulting in kidney damage, for example.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


The story ended with these comments about the evidence:

Asked to comment on the findings, Peter Creticos, MD, of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, tells WebMD: “This is a fascinating observation. We now need further study.”

One of the big problems with this preliminary work is that people knew if they were taking the herbs, Creticos says. If people are given a drug or an herb that they think will help fight their disease, up to 40% will report they were indeed helped, Creticos explains.

Also, don’t try this at home, he cautions. Until there is further study looking at the safety of the herbal formula, people should only take the herbs as part of a clinical trial, Creticos says.

Still, the AAAAI does think there is evidence for herbal therapy having an anti-inflammatory effect that would fight asthma’s underlying cause and is supporting research in the field, says William Silvers, MD, former head of the group’s committee on complementary and alternative medicine.

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the “peer review” process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No disease mongering at play.  The story reported:

The number of people in the U.S. with asthma is growing. One in 12 people had asthma in 2009, compared with 1 in 14 in 2001, according to the CDC.

There is no cure, but most people can control their symptoms, reduce the severity of their disease, and prevent asthma attacks by avoiding asthma triggers and correctly using prescribed medicines, such as steroid inhalers, the CDC says.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


One independent expert was quoted, adding important cautious perspective.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The story was based on a comparison of kampo herbs and standard drug treatment.  The story also mentioned that asthma can usually be controlled by avoiding asthma triggers and correctly using prescribed medications.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story didn’t discuss the availability or use of the kampo herbs in the US.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

At the end, the story stated that the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology “does think there is evidence for herbal therapy having an anti-inflammatory effect that would fight asthma’s underlying cause and is supporting research in the field.”

But that evidence wasn’t discussed, and there was no discussion of what that supported research is.

So the true novelty of this work was not clear in the story.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


It does not appear that the story relied on a news release.

Total Score: 7 of 10 Satisfactory

Comments (1)

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Carlos Cheng

March 7, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Asthma can be treated by Herbs. Unfortunately, the ying and yang has to be manage first by touching the pulse. This pulse are to be identified by a special herbalist. To prove how effective the herbs works. My son who was 2 years old has been coughing for 30 days and night. Theophyline was given by the pediatrician, it just get the cough subsides for 4 hours. I took him to an herb doctor in Chinatown San Franscisco (unfortunately he passed away in 1998). Just one pack of his herbal prescription, my son’s coughing miraculously stop. The herbal medicine needs to be adjusted properly based on the pulse monitoring on the wrist by an experience herbalist to work. The yin and yang of the body must be observe and a cocktail of herbs to shows the synergistic effect of the combines herb will work (depends on the degree of yin or yang).
Just one single herb will not be effective.