This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
This is characterized by difficult breathing, occurring in paroxysms, accompanied by a wheezing sound, a great desire for fresh air, and unattended by fever or organic disease of the lungs or heart. It is evidently caused by an irritable condition of the cerebro-spinal system or medulla-oblongata, which deranges the nervous influence through the cervical and pneumogastric nerves. It is also called Phthinic. The attack generally comes on suddenly, but in some cases for a few days before the onset there is loss of appetite, flatulence, belching of wind, languor, chilliness, and drowsiness. The attack generally occurs at night, when the nervous system is at its lowest ebb. At first a sense of tightness, with a feeling of constriction about the chest, is felt, which intensifies into a fearful struggle for breath. The patient assumes various postures to facilitate in emptying and filling the lungs, and the feeling that he must have fresh air, induces him to rush to the window and put his head far out to catch the stirring breeze. The hands and feet are cold, the expression haggard and anxious, the body wet with perspiration, and the pulse irregular. The paroxysms usually last for some hours, when breathing becomes more easy. If the symptoms subside without expectoration it is called dry asthma, but when any phlegm is raised it is known as humoral asthma. The paroxysms may recur every night, remitting gradually in severity, before a final subsidence takes place. The very troublesome complaint, which seems to combine the peculiarities of asthma and coryza, occurring in some persons during hay-making, or even later, is called hay asthma. This complaint is often a distressing one.
TREATMENT. -- During the paroxysm the inhalation of vapor of hot water, or that arising from a decoction of anti-spasmodic herbs, such as conium, belladonna, etc., lessens the severity of the spasm. The following preparation is a very good remedy: Ethereal Tincture of Lobelia 3ij: Tincture of assafoetida, 3i; laudanum, 3ss; fluid extract of stillingia, 3ij; simple syrup, 3iv; mix, and take a tablespoonful every two hours. Electro-magnetism, smoking stramonium leaves, inhaling the smoke from burning paper, dipped in a solution of saltpetre, are all beneficial. The anti-spasmodics, especially cherry-laurel water, should be taken to prevent the occurrence of frequent attacks. In hay asthma, changes of locality will often save the patient from an attack. The tincture of lobelia is a very good remedy. Quinine and nux vomica carefully administered are good remedies. Chloride of lime placed in a saucer in the sleeping-room often gives relief. My "Acacian Balsam" internally, and the "Herbal Ointment" rubbed externally on the chest, and up and down the spine, have cured many cases. Many interesting cases have come under my notice and treatment, but space forbids any allusion to them. By special treatment I think every case can be cured.