Herbal remedies

Herbal remedies have been used for thousands of years to treat lung problems in Asia. Some have shown promise in research, but more studies are needed.

Traditional Chinese, Indian and Japanese medicine usually involves using blends of herbs. Taking certain herbs in combination may be more effective than taking only one herb.

Use caution with herbal remedies and always discuss the use of herbs or dietary supplements with your doctor. Consider these concerns before taking any herbal remedy:

  • Quality and dose. There are usually no quality control standards for herbal remedies. The content may vary in quality and strength. The product you buy may contain ingredients that aren't listed, or it may be contaminated. Herbal remedies imported from developing countries have a high risk of being contaminated, which can be dangerous to your health.
  • Side effects. Side effects caused by herbal remedies can range from minor to severe. It depends on the herb and dose you take. Be especially careful with herbs and supplements that contain ephedra or ephedra-like substances. These can cause dangerous spikes in blood pressure and have been linked to heart attack and stroke. Examples include ma-huang (banned in the United States) and bitter orange.
  • Drug interactions. Certain herbal remedies can interact with other medications.

These concerns don't necessarily mean trying an herbal treatment is a bad idea — you just need to be careful. Talk to your doctor before taking an herbal remedy to make sure it's safe for you.

Massage

Studies hint that massage may help children with asthma breathe easier. A recent, well-controlled trial found that children who received a gentle, 20-minute bedtime backrub by a parent had greatly improved lung function after five weeks. Massage for asthma treatment seemed to work best in younger children (ages 4-8) than in middle schoolers.

Relaxation techniques

Relaxation therapy helps lower blood pressure and slow breathing. Techniques include meditation, biofeedback, hypnosis and progressive muscle relaxation (Alexander technique). Doctors aren't sure if relaxation therapy directly helps improve asthma symptoms. However, doing them can help reduce stress, which can improve your overall health.

Consider the evidence and safety

More well-designed studies are needed before researchers can make a clear judgment about which complementary and alternative asthma therapies are likely to help. Talk to your doctor before trying any complementary or alternative asthma treatments, and don't stop prescribed medications or other medical treatment.

Aug. 23, 2017 See more In-depth