Complementary and Alternative Treatments for Asthma
Complementary and Alternative Treatments for Asthma
You may be familiar with the shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness,
and coughing of asthma. Today, over 17 million Americans suffer from this
chronic illness in which the airways become inflamed, making it difficult to get
air in and out. The airways may be further restricted when an irritant, or
trigger, causes bronchial spasms to occur. Asthma symptoms are often worse
during sleep and may be intensified by emotion.
Asthma may be triggered by exposure to airborne allergens (such as mold) and
pollutants (such as tobacco smoke), food allergies, and respiratory infections.
People more likely to get asthma include those with a family history of
allergies or asthma, those of African- and Hispanic-American race, and those of
low socioeconomic status. Even things like changes in humidity or temperature
and behaviors that affect breathing (such as exercising or laughing) can bring
on an asthma attack.
Treatment focuses first on determining and then avoiding environmental
triggers. Conventional therapies aim at preventing and controlling symptoms with
anti-inflammatory drugs, bronchodilators, and antibiotics when asthma is the
result of a bacterial infection. Listed here are the numerous complementary and
alternative therapies that may be beneficial as well.
Nutrition (Note: Lower doses are for children.)
Consider eliminating food allergens from the diet. Common food
allergens include milk, eggs, fish, peanuts, food colorings, and additives. Talk
to your doctor about determining food sensitivities through an elimination trial
or a food allergy test.
Reduce foods in the diet that may contribute to inflammation,
including saturated fats (meats, especially poultry, and dairy), refined foods,
Increase intake of fresh vegetables, whole grains, legumes, onions,
Vitamin C (250 to 1,000 mg two to four times a day) taken one hour
before exposure to an allergen may reduce reactions. This also applies to
Vitamin B6 (50 to 200 mg/day) may improve symptoms,
particularly in children.
Magnesium (200 mg two to three times a day) relaxes air passages in
Hydrochloric acid supplementation may be helpful. Deficiency of this
nutrient appears to be connected to increased food sensitivities.
N-acetyl cysteine (50 to 200 mg twice a day) and selenium (50 to 200
mcg/day) protect lung tissue from damage.
Green tea (Camellia sinensis) is a powerful antioxidant and
contains theophylline, which may ease asthma symptoms. Drink 1 to 2 cups/day. If
you are already taking a medication that contains theophylline, be sure to speak
to your physician prior to adding green tea to your diet.
For long-term lung support, combine equal parts of the following herbs
in a tea and drink 3 to 4 cups/day: Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra),
coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), wild cherry bark (Prunus serotina),
elecampane (Inula helenium), plantain (Plantago major), and
skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia). Do not take licorice if you have high
blood pressure. Prolonged use of coltsfoot can damage the liver; look for a
"pyrrolizidine alkaloid-free" label.
Essential oils that may be helpful include elecampane, frankincense,
lavender, mint, and sage. Add 4 to 6 drops in a bath, atomizer, or humidifier.
Some of the most common homeopathic remedies for asthma are listed here.
Usually the dose is 12X to 30C every one to four hours until symptoms improve.
For acute situations, 3 to 5 pellets of a 12X to 30C remedy every one to four
hours until acute symptoms resolve is generally recommended. Be sure to consult
an experienced homeopath for the correct remedy and potency for your individual
Arsenicum album for asthma with restlessness, anxiety, and
Ipecac for asthma with a constantly constricted chest
accompanied by incessant coughing, which may lead to vomiting.
Pulsatilla for asthma with pressure in the chest.
Sambucus for acute nighttime asthma.
Asthma symptoms typically worsen with stress and anxiety. Mind-body
techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, meditation, tai chi, yoga, and
stress management may help reduce frequency, duration, and severity of symptoms.
Therapeutic massage may also help reduce stress and therefore asthma symptoms.
Studies have shown biofeedback, hypnotherapy, and manual manipulation to be
helpful. Acupuncture may also reduce the frequency and intensity of asthma
Integrative Medicine Access: Professional Reference to Conditions, Herbs
& Supplements. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications;
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guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information
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regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications
before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed