The goal of alternative treatments for asthma is to bolster the body’s ability to protect itself from asthma triggers and to strengthen the lungs and immune and hormonal systems. As with many alternative treatments for any condition, opinions are often mixed as to the efficacy of some treatment methods. Research is often minimal in comparison to traditional medicine treatments.
However, many people have had success in using alternative treatments in the management of many conditions, including asthma. Before trying any asthma alternative treatments, you should always check with your doctor to be sure that the methods are safe and right for you or your child.
A number of over-the-counter herbs and dietary supplements have been shown to relieve asthma symptoms. However, much of the research is ongoing or still inconclusive. Always consult a doctor before trying any alternative treatments to find if they are safe for you or your child. Here are a few herbs and supplements that some patients find helpful:
- Ginkgo extract has been shown to reduce inflammation.
- Lobelia (Indian tobacco) was used by Native Americans to treat respiratory disorders, including asthma.
- Other natural herbs that have been used to treat asthma include mullein, boswellia (Indian frankincense), dried ivy, and butterbur.
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) can reduce inflammation and alleviate asthma symptoms.
- Coffee and tea can both be useful in treating asthma symptoms. Caffeine is a natural (mild) bronchodilator. Tea contains minute amounts of theophylline, one of the major prescription drugs for asthma.
Studies have shown that emotional stress can exacerbate asthma symptoms and trigger asthma attacks. For some asthma sufferers, muscular relaxation therapy can improve lung function. Biofeedback uses monitors to reveal physiological changes to patients and helps them to control their bodies by understanding how they respond physically to different stimuli. Evidence on the efficacy of biofeedback is minimal.
A key aspect of yoga practice is the science of proper, controlled breathing, called pranayama. Pranayama includes deep breathing exercises. This facet of yoga may help asthma sufferers by teaching them to expand the lungs, promote deep breathing, and reduce stress. Other breathing techniques, like the Buteyko breathing technique and the Papworth method, can be similarly effective in reducing asthma symptoms.
This technique, used in traditional Chinese medicine, involves placing very thin needles in strategic points on the body. It’s sometimes used to ease the symptoms of asthma, but there is minimal scientific evidence to support its efficacy.