Older than the dinosaurs, as wide as the world
Fossilized specimens of pollen granules have been found predating dinosaurs and alongside Neanderthals.
And, sinus and asthma symptoms and treatments are documented throughout history and across the globe. People just didn’t know exactly how to treat the symptoms, or exactly what was causing them.
For example, over 5,000 years ago, the Chinese used the berries of the horse tail plant, ma huang (Ephedra distachya), to relieve congestion and decrease mucous production associated with “plant fever” – a condition affecting people during the fall.
In Egypt, the “Papyrus Ebers,” written around 1650 B.C., recommended over 20 treatments for cough or difficulty breathing, including honey, dates, juniper and beer.
Although Homer’s “Iliad” describes the loud noise of breathing in battle as “asthma,” Aretaeus of Cappadocia of the second century A.D. is credited with the first clinical description more consistent with modern understanding of this condition. He wrote of those who suffered that:
“They open the mouth since no house is sufficient for their respiration, they breathily standing, as if desiring to draw in all the air which they possibly can inhale… the neck swells with the inflation of the breath, the precordia (chest wall) retracted, the pulse becomes small and dense,” and if the symptoms persist, the patient “may produce suffocation after the form of epilepsy.”
By the time Columbus landed, indigenous populations in Central and South American were utilizing ipecacuanha, a root found in Brazil with expectorant and emetic properties and balsam, which is still used in some cold remedies today. Coca and tobacco leaves, used medicinally by the Incas, were later exported to Europe for additional experimentation for the treatment of rhinitis and asthma.
Aside from the “plant fever” described in China, the first written description of seasonal respiratory symptoms is credited to Rhazes, a Persian scholar, around 900 A.D. He described the nasal congestion that coincided with the blooming of roses, termed “rose fever.”