The History Of Asthma Medicine

Asthma is a very old disease and it’s therapy too has a very rich tradition in medical folklore. Popular mythical remedies have included massaging tomato paste on the chest,  taping pennies to the forehead, eating chicken livers or medical herbs. Today however there are well proven consistent medical treatment. However these modern medicines for asthma are in turn based several important medical discoveries in the first half of the 20th century.

In 1900’s adrenaline, a natural hormone of our adrenal gland, was found to relieve symptoms of acute asthma and breathing difficulty.  And adrenaline is still used as the first choice of many doctors for the treatment of an acute allergic reaction and  asthma.  In 1920 the oral drug ephedrine was introduced and it was a blockbuster drug of those times and is the first legitimate medicine in asthma therapy. Ephedrine was however known to Chinese for more than four thousand years. These Chinese medicine men s found that those who had wheezing and breathing difficulty experienced relief after inhaling the burning leaves of a Chinese herb called MaHuang




The active portion of the plant Ma huang was named ephedrine. It’s botanical name, Ephredus vul-gariss. Ephedrine is a very powerful bronchodilator that belongs to the adrenaline group of drugs. However it was not widely used due to various side effects. Many other remedies like morphine injection, stramonium smoke etc. were used even by registered doctors to heal asthma.. In 1938 a new drug called theophyl-Jine was introduced and it brought some hope. In 1946 major breakthrough occurred when the cortisone drugs were used to control severe asthma. From 1950 to 1970 doctors relied on adrenaline-like drugs, theophylline, and cortisone drugs to treat asthma. But doctors were not aware how these drugs brought relief to asthma.


Drug companies did more aggressive research and launched many new breakthrough drugs in 1970s. The beta agonist drugs, the longer-acting theophylline drugs compound cromolyn and the cortisone aerosols were launched. These new medicines brought great relief to asthmatics.


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