Asthma is the result of inflammation of the airways that subsequently leads to bronchoconstriction and airway hyper-responsiveness. Several studies have reported that acupuncture treatment has an immunomodulatory effect (via inflammatory cells and cytokines) in asthma. Previous research dealing with asthma and acupuncture has indicated that acupuncture down-regulates the expression of pro-inflammatory proteins and up-regulates the expression of anti-inflammatory proteins.

Glucocorticoids are potent anti-inflammatory steroid hormones that are mainly produced endogenously in the adrenal cortex and have been shown to provide protection against the pathological process of airway inflammation that occurs in asthma. Inhaled exogenous glucocorticoids are one of the major drug classes used in human asthma treatment and have been shown to regulate leukocyte trafficking and inhibit the synthesis and release of inflammatory cytokines. However, the role of glucocorticoids in the efficacy of acupuncture in asthma is still unclear.

Previous clinical studies have indicated that acupuncture reduced the degree and frequency of asthma exacerbations and regulated mucous and cellular immunity in asthmatic patients without changing the concentration of serum cortisol; this implies that glucocorticoid activity may not in fact be a key contributor to the effect of acupuncture on asthma with respect to alleviating the symptoms and modulating the immune system.

Dr. Sarah Kalivoda
Mountain View Animal Hospital & Holistic Pet Care
Reno, Nevada