Managing Asthma: Foods to Avoid and Self-Help Acupoints for Middle-of-the-Night Attacks

Asthma can be frightening but there are remedies that can alleviate symptoms when we need them most.
Managing Asthma: Foods to Avoid and Self-Help Acupoints for Middle-of-the-Night Attacks
When experiencing an asthma attack, acupressure points can be used for self-help. (Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock)
Naiwen Hu
Years ago, my elderly neighbor occasionally made loud wheezing sounds in the morning and at night that sounded downright frightening. After studying traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), I learned that his condition was known as asthma or shortness of breath caused by inflammation and mucous and often triggered by external conditions such as coldness and chill.
In Western medicine, asthma is considered a clinical syndrome characterized by an abnormally increased airway responsiveness to various stimuli, leading to symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing.
TCM has a broader definition for shortness of breath. If a barky cough accompanies shortness of breath, it is referred to as "chuanhou (croup)," and if it makes a wheezing sound, it is categorized as "xiaochuan" (asthma).

Avoid Overconsumption of Cold Water in Summer

During hot summer days, some people feel thirsty and drink excessive amounts of ice-cold water or even pour cold water over their heads to cool down, which can feel refreshing. However, this practice can be risky because it can induce symptoms of asthma.

Over thirty years ago, a mother brought her child to me for treatment. The child had severe asthma, struggling to breathe, shoulders rising with each inhale, and using considerable effort to push up the abdomen during inhalation.

At the time, I had just become a doctor and didn't know much about these symptoms. So, I turned to medical books and found a passage in the Treatise on Cold Damage that stated, "After sweating, drinking excessive cold water will induce breathing difficulties; even pouring water will cause breathing difficulties."

Based on this description, I asked the child, "Do you often drink cold water rapidly, making "gulugulu" sound, like a cow drinking?"

The child replied, "Yes!"

I explained, "That's the reason!"

I prescribed Ephedra Decoction with almonds, gypsum, and licorice. After taking just two doses, the child completely recovered, and the mother was overjoyed.

Avoid Cold-Natured Foods

Traditional Chinese medicine has found that most foods have either "cold" or "hot" properties and categorizes most common foods into three types, "cold," "hot," "warm," or "neutral" in nature.
Individuals with asthma should avoid ice-cold and cold-natured foods such as ice water, bananas, oranges, and certain meats. During episodes of coughing or asthma, it's particularly important to steer clear of cold-natured fruits like bell fruit, watermelon, mango, pineapple, and cantaloupe. Otherwise, these cold-natured foods can further constrict the airways, and one will very likely continue to wheeze non-stop.

Steaming pear with a little bit of rock sugar, Fritillaria, and almond is a good dietary remedy for people with asthma. It's not only delicious but also effective in treating asthma and coughing.

Steaming yellow- or green-skinned pear with a bit of honey is also effective in treating asthma. A concoction of lily bulbs, Tremella fungus, red dates, and lotus seeds, known as the red dates soup can help change the constitution of those prone to asthma and coughing.

According to TCM theory, food and medicine share the same origin. Many foods can be used as medicines. Consuming cold-natured foods provides a cooling effect on the body, while hot-natured foods warm it up. Therefore, one can balance his or her body through cold- and hot-natured foods, thus achieving the effect of preventing and treating diseases.

Press 2 Acupoints for Midnight Asthma Attacks

In TCM, the body has a network of meridians, which are pathways for the flow of energy and are responsible for distributing qi (energy) and blood throughout the body. They are the basic substances that make up the human body and maintain its life activities.

There are twelve main meridians, separately associated with the twelve internal organs. The twenty-four hours in each day are divided into twelve two-hour segments, called "Shichen." During each Shichen, the qi and blood on the corresponding meridians will be particularly vigorous, and the organs corresponding to the meridians will also be more active. Certain points on the meridians have special effects called acupoints—in the corresponding Shichen, you can treat the diseases of the corresponding internal organs through acupuncture, massage, and other stimulation of the corresponding acupoints.

During a middle-of-the-night asthma attack, you can press acupoints as self-help when you can't immediately see a doctor.


Between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., lung energy is at its peak. Pressing on the acupoint Chize (LU 5) can improve asthma symptoms.

Between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., lung energy is at its peak. Pressing on the acupoint Chize (LU 5) can improve asthma symptoms. LU 5 is located in the inner elbow crease along the thumb line.


Between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., lung energy starts descending. Pressing on the Taiyuan(LU-9) acupoint can tonify lung energy and benefit the heart.

Between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., lung energy starts descending. Pressing on the Taiyuan (LU-9) acupoint can tonify lung energy and benefit the heart. LU 9 is located at the intersection of the thumb and wrist horizontal crease lines.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatments for Asthma

In treating asthma using Chinese medicine, the lungs are the proper treatment, which means that whenever we cough or have asthma symptoms, it is all related to the lungs.

According to Chinese medicine theory, the lungs and the spleen are closely related, so if the lungs are weak, the spleen can be tonified to treat the lungs. If you want to tonify both the spleen and the lungs, there is a good prescription called "Four Gentlemen's Soup for Panting," which contains the expensive herb agarwood, as well as costusroot, fructus amomi, tangerine peel, and angelica among others.

Chinese medicine practitioners also use Minor Green Dragon Decoction to treat asthma. In the Treatise on Cold Damage, it is said that the Decoction, with the removal of ephedra and the addition of almonds, can cure asthma. I have often used the Minor Green Dragon Decoction to cure asthma in my clinical practice. However, if you want to use it yourself, don't dispense it yourself you must ask your doctor to make the diagnosis and then prescribe the medication for you.
Note: Some of the herbs mentioned above may sound unfamiliar, but many can be found in health food stores and Asian grocery stores.
Because everyone’s constitution is unique, individual's treatment methods are also different. Please consult a professional physician for specific treatment plans.
Naiwen Hu is a traditional Chinese medicine physician at the Shanghai Tong Te Tang in Taipei, Taiwan, and a professor at the Nine Star University of Health Sciences in Sunnyvale, California. He also worked as a researcher of life science at the Standford Research Institute. In his over 20 years of practice, he has treated more than 140,000 patients. He was known for successfully curing the fifth melanoma patient in the world by using traditional Chinese medicine. Hu currently hosts a YouTube health program that has over 700,000 subscribers. He is also known for his popular road show on health and wellness held in various cities in Australia and North America.
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