Tuesday, December 27, 2011

500 A.D. Asthma in Ancient Japan

Fuiwara no teika ( (1162-1241)
If you lived with asthma in ancient Korea and Japan your asthma may have been recognized, yet treatment would have been mainly supportive.  It wasn't until the 6th century A.D. that Chinese medical ideals -- mainly in the form of the Nei Ching -- spread to these nations.

Chinese medicine was referred to as canpo in Japan, and asthma-like symptoms were referred to as zensoku as early as 700 A.D.  (1)

The most famous asthmatic in Ancient Japan was Fujiwara no Teika who is considered one of the most famous poets in Japanese history.  Legend has it that his poems became well read due to his cordial relationship with the Emporor Go-Toba (1180-1239).

Japanese children learned early that there were 404 different kinds of illnesses, and they learned of the various herbal formulas used as remedies, most of them indigenous to the region.  One interesting remedy for asthma was by eating a potion containing earthworms dried under the sun, cooled and then boiled.

Most asthma remedies were similar to what was recommended by Traditional Chinese Medicine.  So prior to the 6th century Japanese asthmatics would have been recognized although there wasn't much anyone could do other than offer support.

Yet if you were afflicted with breathing difficulties in the 6th century you would have had available to you many of the same treatments available to Chinese asthmatics, including Ma Huang, a very efficient bronchodilator.

Click here for more asthma history.

  1. Jackson, Mark, "Asthma: A biography," 2006, New York, page...

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