Understanding Asthma

The History of Asthma

Asthma is anything but a recent discovery. Its history spans not decades but centuries, and like many other diseases that still do not have a cure, it has gone through different periods of research and treatment techniques, many of which were proven to be the wrong track to take. It's a healthy thing to look at the history of any disease, as it provides all of us with some perspective of how far science has come in recent years and how much closer we all are to what we all want – a cure to asthma.

Earliest History

The history of asthma traces back to ancient times. In the late 19th Century, historians found early 'prescriptions' written in hieroglyphics meant to treat a mysterious breathing disease in ancient Egypt. It's also been discovered that the ancient Chinese also had 'remedies' for what must have been asthma given the symptoms described, and their most prominent treatment involved breathing fumes of herbs that contained what's today known as a crude form of ephedrine as these herbs were heated on a brick.


There was also evidence discovered that the ancient Greeks had at least briefly studied asthma under Hippocrates in the 4th Century B.C. In fact, the word 'asthma' is Greek in origin. It was first referred to in the ancient text of the Iliad, and different Greek doctors continued to study the disease over time.

Middle History

As Europe began to emerge as a society in the Middle Ages, several countries began to look at asthma in hopes of finding a cure. According to the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, Jean Baptiste Van Helmont, a Belgium physician during the 16th century, wrote that asthma originated in the pipes of the lungs. In the 17th century, Bernardino Ramazzini, an Italian physician, noted a connection between asthma and organic dust. From there, asthma was largely overlooked in terms of study during the 19th Century.

Modern History

Clearly, society as a whole has come a long way in just the past few decades. During the late 20th Century, medicine advanced to the point where hundreds of studies have been done, potential genetic causes have been identified, a long list of asthma attack triggers has been obtained and innumerable management strategies have been devised to help people avoid a high number of attacks.

As you see, the work and fight against asthma has been happening for as long as we've recorded history. However, only a few of those thousands of years can show significant progress, and these are the most recent years. At this rate, perhaps we'll all see the day where a cure is found and asthma is eradicated.