Are there natural remedies for asthma?
Asthma causes the air passages to become inflamed and narrow, making breathing difficult and causing wheezing and shortness of breath. Medical treatments are often prescription-only.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of 2021, 8% of adults and 6.5% of children in the United States has an asthma diagnosis. Alongside medical treatment, some natural home remedies can help you manage symptoms.
Recent studies suggest that breathing exercises could help with hyperventilation symptoms and lung function for people with asthma. Breathing exercises can include:
- Diaphragmatic breathing: This technique helps you breathe from your diaphragm rather than your chest. It can strengthen the diaphragm, slow your breathing, and help decrease your body’s need for oxygen.
- Buteyko breathing: This may help if you experience hyperventilation with asthma. It aims to help you slow your breathing and deepen your breaths.
- Papworth technique: This technique teaches you not only to slow down and deepen your breathing but how to ease stress and prevent further breathing difficulties.
It is important to note that sometimes, essential oils can trigger asthma symptoms, so take care to notice any potential triggers.
Some essential oils may reduce symptoms of asthma as they have anti-inflammatory properties. Research suggests that oxidative stress, which arises when inflammation is prominent, may lessen with ethanol extracts of essential oils.
An older 2014 study in mice found that lavender oil dulled allergic airway inflammation.
Eucalyptus oil is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory oil. A 2020 study suggests it helps asthma symptoms by alleviating sinusitis and preventing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
You can inhale essential oils through a diffuser, but you can also purchase diluted oils to apply to your skin. If you dilute the essential oil at home with a carrier oil, like sweet almond or vegetable, it is important to follow dilution guidelines.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate essential oils, so it’s best to research products with third-party certificates verifying ingredients, quantities, and cultivation methods for safety. There should also be an expiry date because oils can become less potent over time.
Some additional safety guidelines include:
- Effects of the sun: Some essential oils, when diluted and applied to your skin, can increase the effects of the sun and cause sunburn.
- Ingestion: You should never ingest essential oils.
- Patch test: Some essential oils are unsuitable for use or application on the skin, even when diluted. It is important to carry out a patch test to check how your skin will react before a full application.
Garlic is a popular cooking ingredient known for its anti-inflammatory properties.
According to a 2022 review, garlic helps with vasodilation and has antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-fibrotic properties, which help the body’s inflammatory response to asthma.
Omega-3 oils most commonly come from fish, flaxseed, and seaweed. According to a 2019 study, the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 oils can work as an adjunct therapy in asthma as they may lead to better asthma control and a lower dosage of asthma medication.
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Multiple studies claim yoga can reduce stress, which in turn may help alleviate asthma symptoms, including hyperventilation.
Yoga also uses breathing techniques aimed at slowing down and deepening the breath and strengthening the diaphragm — all of which can help lung function.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that has relatively few side effects. It’s a generally painless procedure in which a trained practitioner places very fine needles at acupressure points to help energy flow around the body and cure ailments.
According to a 2020 article, acupuncture can enhance the immune system and relieve phlegm. It can also inhibit allergic reactions that may trigger asthma symptoms. Additionally, it can improve airflow and help with symptoms such as chest pain.
You can contact your state’s health licensing board to ensure your acupuncturist is registered and holds the required qualifications to practice.
Speleotherapy involves spending short periods of time in an underground environment — often a converted cave or mine. During your time there, you may practice breathing or physical exercises. Typically, the underground environment is rich in natural salts, with salt particles entering a person’s respiratory system as they breathe.
A 2020 study found that people with asthma showed improved allergic symptoms by the end of the trial and experienced no side effects. However, more research is necessary to confirm the effects of speleotherapy on asthma.
A 2020 study found that caffeine had a protective effect on people with asthma.
Caffeine acts as a bronchodilator, which helps increase airflow to the lungs. Researchers found that drinking coffee once or twice daily may help protect people against asthmatic symptoms. The study mainly observed these effects in women.
A balanced diet
Having a higher body mass index (BMI) can worsen asthma symptoms due to increased pressure on the chest. It can also mean a reduced response to medication and higher amounts of inflammation.
Managing weight through a balanced diet may help reduce the frequency and severity of asthma symptoms.
Medication and doctor’s advice
Doctors typically prescribe different asthma medications for short- and long-term use.
Short-term medication may include a “rescue” inhaler, most commonly an albuterol (Ventolin) metered-dose inhaler (MDI). Longer-term medication may include salmeterol (Advair) or formoterol (Perforomist).
Other prescription drugs may include:
Although there are natural remedies that can help alleviate symptoms of asthma, it’s important to follow your doctor’s advice before trying them.
It is also important not to completely replace prescription medication with natural remedies and to let your doctor know about any additional medicines or treatments you decide upon.
In addition to your medical asthma management, you may consider natural remedies to help reduce symptom frequency and severity. There are a number of different options available, including breathing techniques, essential oils, and acupuncture.
However, natural remedies are not a replacement for your medical treatment plan and prescribed medication. To ensure you are getting the best care possible, it is a good idea to discuss natural remedies for asthma with your doctor or healthcare team first.
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