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What are natural remedies for asthma?

Learn how natural remedies for asthma can help control asthma symptoms.

Natural supplements can help control asthma. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Natural supplements can help control asthma.

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the respiratory system that affects roughly 20 million people in the United States, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Its symptoms are unpleasant, and a severe attack can even be life-threatening. Anyone who has asthma should seek medical treatment, but there are also natural remedies for asthma that may help reduce asthma symptoms. In order to pick the proper remedy for you, it’s important to understand exactly how asthma works and how it is usually treated. 

An asthma attack occurs when the bronchial tubes that deliver air to the lungs become inflamed. The lining of the bronchial tubes swells and the muscles that surround the tubes tighten, restricting airflow to the lungs. This leads to the wheezing and feelings of chest tightness that characterize an asthma attack. 

There are two basic types of drugs used to treat asthma:

  • Long-term control medications: These drugs usually are taken on a daily basis to treat persistent asthma. They include inhaled steroids, inhaled long-acting bronchodilators and inhaled leukotriene modifiers.
  • Quick-relief medications: These drugs stop asthma symptoms and provide quick, short-term relief during an asthma attack. They include inhaled short-term bronchodilators like albuterol and inhaled anticholinergics like Atrovent.

In addition to long-term asthma medications and quick-relief asthma medications, anti-allergy medications are sometimes used to treat asthma. This is because some people have attacks that are triggered by environmental allergens like pollen or pet dander. 

Not all asthma is treated the same way. For example, many people with mild asthma do not need the help of long-term control medications. Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and help you find the right level of treatment. 

Dietary Supplements for Asthma

Many dietary supplements have been marketed as having a beneficial effect on asthma symptoms, including omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, quercetin, lycopene, beta-carotene and coenzyme Q 10.

Herbal Remedies for Asthma

Lobelia, or Lobelia inflata, is a longstanding herbal remedy of North American origin. Lobelia acts as an expectorant, helping to remove mucus from the lungs and bronchial tubes. Lobelia also seems to have a stimulating effect on the central nervous system much like that of nicotine. However, it also can act as an emetic agent, inducing vomiting. 

An extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, or Pinus pinaster, may benefit people with asthma. This extract contains a number of bioflavonoids – plant products with antioxidant and immune-system enhancing effects. In the United States, this extract is sold under the trade name Pycnogenol. 

Flaxseed is another natural remedy. It contains important omega-3 fatty acids that may fight inflammation of the lungs associated with asthma and help improve lung function. Omega-3 fatty acids also can be taken as dietary supplements. 

Feverfew is a bush native to southeastern Europe that has been used as an herbal remedy for centuries. It has been used to treat fevers, headaches and inflammation as in the cases of arthritis and asthma. 

Ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest living species of trees, and a concentrated extract of its leaves is used as a natural remedy for an extensive list of ailments, including asthma. 

Anyone considering dietary supplements or herbal remedies should always talk to their doctor first; just because something is natural doesn't mean it is necessarily free of potentially harmful side effects.

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