Herbal and naturopathic advice for an athlete.
Article Type: Case study
Subject: Athletes (Health aspects)
Asthma (Care and treatment)
Naturopathy (Methods)
Author: Stannard, Gill
Pub Date: 03/22/2011
Publication: Name: Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism Publisher: National Herbalists Association of Australia Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 National Herbalists Association of Australia ISSN: 1033-8330
Issue: Date: Spring, 2011 Source Volume: 23 Source Issue: 1
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Australia Geographic Code: 8AUST Australia
Accession Number: 254971772
Full Text: Nineteen year old university student semi professional athlete plagued by recurrent respiratory infections and atopic allergies including eczema and asthma which had been impacting negatively on his performance.


I have been fortunate to work with a number of amateur and professional athletes over the years. Despite having no personal sporting background, naturopathic common sense dictates that performance in all area improves with the correct fuel and improved wellbeing. The following client is a good example.

R was a 19 yo university student and semi professional basketball player who presented at my clinic earlier in 2010. He had been referred to me through his coach via a recommendation at a local sports medicine centre. At 6'8" with a lanky build, R's choice of sport is well suited to his body, however he was plagued by recurrent respiratory infections as well as atopic allergies including eczema and asthma, which were impacting negatively on his performance.

R's history included a number of hospitalisations from early childhood for severe asthma attacks as well as anaphylactic reactions to peanuts and brazil nuts. He used two inhalers, Simbacort[R] (twice a day) and Airomir[R] (as an acute 4-5 times a day). He also had itchy red eczema lesions on his elbows and wrists. He was taking an over the counter antihistamine at night to relieve the intense itching caused by his eczema. R had experienced one episode of giardia at 9 years of age and had several fractures to his nose and ribs from playing sports.

His family history was unremarkable, including the lack of allergies in any of his first degree relatives.

The most striking features of R's health were an almost constant cold (in distinctive episodes rather than a low level allergic rhinitis) and his asthma that was not responding as well as would be expected to his medication. His breathing difficulties often interrupted his eight hours' sleep. He presented as a shy young man, diligent in his studies, who "doesn't go out much" and loves his sport.

R's diet offered a lot of room for improvement. Breakfast consisted of Weet-bix, milk and vegemite on toast. Lunch was often instant noodles, take away junk food at university or ham, cheese, tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches. His evening meals at home with his family were run of the mill red meat or chicken with three vegetables. R drank milk on a daily basis and 3 x 600 mL bottles of Coke a week. He was well hydrated with water and rarely drank tea, coffee or alcohol.

With a heavy academic load and basketball season approaching, the aim was to reduce his colds and allergies to provide the energy necessary to study on top of two training sessions and a weekly basketball game.


The initial treatment plan was focused on improving his diet: doubling his fruit and vegetable intake, adding seeds (but still avoiding nuts due to the allergy risk) and soaked oats in rice milk for breakfast. He agreed to cut out dairy products and reduce the Coke to no more than once a week.

I prescribed chickweed gel for his eczema and the following fluid extract:

Over the next couple of consultations R averaged one cold per month, despite this his asthma was much improved and he was using less of his acute medication. He was compliant with the dietary changes. I prescribed acute doses of Echinacea with his colds, which did not aggravate his asthma. I also suggested he take vitamin C (1000 mg) and cod liver oil (2000 mg) daily to improve immune function.

Within two months he described his eczema as being the best it had ever been, although he still relied on antihistamines at night. At three months, despite the fact he had five assignments due and basketball season was in full swing he had had no respiratory infections for over five weeks. His asthma was greatly reduced and he was down to one puff of his preventer a day and rarely used his acute inhaler. His lung capacity had noticeably increased and he was spending more minutes on court than ever.

One simple suggestion I had made for food prior to training was eating one or two boiled eggs. He found this useful and described them as his energy pill.

I am continuing to work with R through the rest of the season. His coach and family have noticed a huge change in his health and energy. He also mentioned his family had adopted his diet and everyone felt better for it.

Comment: While there may be room to work further with sports related nutritional supplements, I believe there is a huge benefit in starting with the basics. Making sure his energy needs were met by a better quality diet included some sacrifices on his part--the Coke and the two minute noodles were replaced by more energy and nutrient rich foods. R was very compliant with this which is not always the case with teenagers. Unusual for his age was his lack of socialising and rarely touching alcohol.

Obviously respiratory infections and asthma potentially compromise performance in athletes. For chronic asthma to be so greatly reduced in less than three months of treatment undoubtedly has had a positive impact on his lung capacity and fitness. We have discussed Buteyko technique as a possible adjunct therapy when he has more time to look into it.

I have had the pleasure of working with a variety of sportspeople and in every case dietary changes, as well as working with their constitutional strengths and weaknesses has improved their performance markedly. One problem being that Olympic and Commonwealth games participants having to stop all herbal treatment once they have officially been accepted onto the team.

I understand the premise of the ban to avoid unintentional doping which can be a real issue considering TCM products in particular have had a chequered history with the unlabeled inclusion of steroids and other drugs. I hope in the future that ruling will change.

NHAA Materia Medica Survey

Phase 2 of the NHAA Materia Medica survey is ready and open for comment

Phase 2 utilises the responses from phase 1 which ran last year and is a tool for populating the compulsory Materia Medica list of the NHAA Course Accreditation System (CAS).

We encourage all NHAA members to take part in this survey. Depending on your Materia Medica knowledge it is estimated this may take 30-40 minutes to complete. The survey can be completed in sectins and will be saved for re-entry as often as needed before submitting. To access the survey long in to www.nhaa.org.au as a member and click on the link on the left hand side of the home page. Alternatively copy this address into your browser http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DKFJRXN

The NHAA Examiners hope you take this opportunity to contribute to the future herbal medicine curriculum in Australia


Gill Stannard MNHAA

Inula helenium                  30 mL
Scutellaria baicalensis         40 mL
Hyssopus off.                   25 mL
ad aq. in form of Nervatona[R]   5 mL

                               100 mL
Dose 7 mL twice daily.
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