Asthma history

Long ago in ancient China, the first case of a mysterious shortness of breath was recorded. In modern life, we realize this “shortness of breath” as a lung disease known as asthma. The history of asthma spans all the way back to the ancient civilizations of China and Rome, and researches along the way have incorporated many different experiments, observations, and trials to create the knowledge of asthma that we have today. This disease battled with the human race for centuries upon centuries, and through much trial and error scientists and researchers have developed effective treatments for this meddlesome disease.

This respiratory disorder has affected lives and can be traced back to China, 2600 BC. The first recorded association to asthma was uncovered from 2600 BC in China. The ancient records described the condition to be a state of breathlessness and “noisy breathing” (“History of Asthma”). Unfortunately, that is all mentioned about asthma until 1792 BC. In 1792 BC, The Babylonian “Code of Hammurabi” gave a vague description of the respiratory disorder: “a man’s lungs panting with his work” (“History of Asthma”).

Later, Hippocrates, the Greek allergist, dubbed the “noisy breathing” in the Greek publication Corpus Hippocraticum as asthma, meaning “wind” or “to blow”. He was the first person to relate environmental conditions to asthmatic conditions, earning him the title of the first allergist. In the last act of ancient asthma knowledge, Alexander the Great and his Mongolian army created a treatment that relaxed and suppressed asthma symptoms by smoking a herb known as stramonium or “Jimson weed”.

This breakthrough in respiratory medication concluded asthma’s role in the BC ages, but led to many new discoveries in the AD ages, or the common ages (“Asthma History”). The new age brought along many new remedies for asthma and asthma symptoms, and a plethora of them would be considered absurd. Some of these peculiar prescriptions were invented by the Roman doctor, Pliny the Elder. Although he created the link from allergies to asthma through pollen, his remedies could be thought of as obscene.

To cure asthma, Pliny the Elder recommended drinking the blood of wild horses and eating exactly 21 millipedes soaked in honey to end an asthma attack! Although some of his remedies are a bit outrageous, he did author the use of an age old asthma treatment using the plant-extract “ephedra” (“History of Asthma”). Along with Pliny the Elder’s odd solutions, the ancient Greek physician Galen treated asthma with owl’s blood mixed with wine! Now, fast-forward to 1135 AD with Moses Maimonides.

While in Egypt, Maimonides wrote Treatise of Asthma for Prince Al-Afdal, one of his royal patients. In this publication Maimodes investigated the symptoms of the asthmatic prince. He noticed that the prince’s symptoms worsened in the wet months with violent coughing fits and gasps for air. In the dry season, the symptoms were mild among all the asthma victims in Egypt. Maimodes also recommended a nice dosage of sleep and chicken soup to help fend off the asthma woes (“Asthma History”)! Fast-forward a couple of centuries into the 1500’s.

During this time, tobacco and similar plant-extracted drugs were used to help control the dangerous symptoms of asthma. Tobacco was a common remedy in North America and Europe while plants containing ephedra were used to treat asthma in Central America. Following in these early footsteps, humongous steps in the treatment of asthma were made during the 20th century (“History of Asthma”). In the early 20th century, many physicians mistakenly assumed that asthma was a psychological problem-the wheezing from a child was seen as a “suppressed cry for their mother” (“Asthma History”)!

Therefore, instead of receiving proper treatment, patients were treated for depression! Later in the 1950’s and 1960’s, many scientists discovered the true source of the inflammatory disease. Following this new information, rather under-developed forms of pills, inhalants, and injections were available to treat asthma. Since many of these medications were extremely basic and feeble, organizations were formed to enhance the treatment and remedies associated with asthma.

One of the most notable asthma research organizations of the 20th century was the creation of the Allergy and Asthma Medical Group and Research center in 1969. Since then, many advances in the diagnosis, therapy, and knowledge have occurred. The research group enhanced many therapeutic devices to be more effective and less dangerous, such as the bronchodilator medications used in inhalers to reduce bronchi inflammation.

Along with all this, treatments for asthma are still being improved as scientists become closer and closer to curing the disease once and for all (“History of Asthma”). All in all, the treatment of asthma has had many twists and (sometimes odd! ) turns throughout history. From ancient China to modern society, asthma has been affecting lives for millenniums. Due to many dedicated scientists and researchers, the effects of asthma are slowly becoming eradicated from the lives of those afflicted. Finally, today, this “mysterious shortness of breath” has become less and less of a mystery and more of a piece of history.

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