Natural Home Remedies for Asthma
Over 17 million Americans suffer from asthma, and 5.5 million of those are children (in fact, it’s the number-one source of chronic illness in kids). An asthma attack occurs when the air passages become constricted and inflamed due to some trigger. This leads to trouble breathing, chest tightness, wheezing, and/or coughing. Asthma triggers can include allergens, too much exercise, illness, or even simply stress.
It’s very important to see your doctor if you suspect you or your child has asthma. This way you can get a proper diagnosis and work out a treatment plan. This will usually include relief for short-term, acute symptoms as well as ways to control your asthma in the long term.
In addition to anti-inflammatory drugs such as inhaled steroids, there are many home remedies that may decrease the frequency of attacks or the severity of symptoms. Here are some of the most popular natural home remedies for asthma.
There are two distinct forms of asthma, allergic and non-allergic. Allergic asthma happens when the same substances that cause allergic reactions also cause asthma symptoms. Since the allergic type is the more common one, it makes sense to look at ways to reduce allergens in your environment as a home treatment method.
Airborne allergens are common in any household and can include such things as animal dander, dust mites, mold, and pollen. These are often triggers for asthmatics. If you’re not sure if airborne allergens are a problem, you can see your doctor or allergist, who can perform a skin or blood test to determine your level of sensitivity. Allergic individuals can benefit from keeping the house very clean and addressing any sources of mold (like leaky pipes or a wet basement), as well as avoiding having pets that cause issues or keeping them out of bedrooms.
Food allergies and sensitivities are a less common cause of asthmatic symptoms, but they can still be problematic. The most common triggers are eggs, wheat, dairy, peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts, and food preservatives. As with allergies to airborne substances, food allergies should be diagnosed by your doctor or allergist. You may be asked to do an elimination diet to determine which foods cause problems.
Another common allergen that can lead to or worsen asthma symptoms is cigarette smoke. If you smoke, try to quit. If people around you smoke, avoid them as much as possible, since secondhand smoke can also be problematic.
Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs
Many studies have been done on the effectiveness of certain vitamins, minerals, and herbs on controlling asthma symptoms. While there’s no hard scientific evidence to back up the case for some, these ones have been found effective in some cases:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These substances have been shown to reduce inflammation, which can help you breathe easier. You can get them from natural food sources such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna, or you can take a supplement of fish oil or flaxseed oil.
- Antioxidants: There’s evidence to suggest that people with chronic asthma don’t have enough antioxidants in their bodies. Common antioxidants that seem to be beneficial for asthma sufferers include vitamins A, C, and E, as well as bioflavonoids, quercitin, and bromelain. Whether you get these substances through the food you eat (for example, upping your fruit and vegetable intake) or by taking supplements, these may decrease asthma symptoms.
- Pycnogenol: This specific antioxidant has been shown to block certain immune-system compounds that can lead to inflammation in the air passages. It comes from the bark of evergreen trees in southern France and should be available in vitamin and herb shops.
- Magnesium: This essential mineral has been shown to have a bronchodilating effect. It’s also known that asthma sufferers tend to have lower levels of magnesium than those who don’t have the condition.
- Kampo: This term refers to traditional Japanese herbal treatment methods (and is sometimes used to refer to the combination of herbs themselves). A preliminary trial conducted in Japan showed substantial improvement in asthma symptoms after just a few weeks of treatment.
- Ginkgo biloba: The use of this traditional Chinese herb for this purpose is nothing new—people have been using it to treat asthma for centuries. It’s thought that it interferes with a substance known as a platelet activating factor (or PAF). This PAF may contribute to the processes that lead to asthma. Try starting with 60 to 200 milligrams daily.
Things to Eat and Drink
Some people prefer to get their vitamins and minerals from food and drink rather than taking supplements. Here are some foods, drinks, and spices to include in your diet frequently if you or someone in your household has asthma:
- Turmeric (shown above): The yellow spice that often is used to flavor Indian foods also happens to be a good anti-inflammatory. This means it can be helpful for asthmatics. You can use the spice in your cooking, or simply mix it with water or milk and drink it straight. If neither of those sounds appealing, turmeric capsules are available, too.
- Ginger: Did you know common ginger can reduce airway inflammation? You can eat it raw or mixed with foods or drinks. Many people around the world use ginger to treat asthma symptoms.
- Coffee: Wouldn’t it be nice if your morning cup of coffee was good for you? Well, if you’re asthmatic, it can be. Caffeine acts as a bronchodilator, so a cup of strong coffee often helps relax the airways and make breathing easier. It’s important not to overdo it, though, so don’t drink more than two or three cups of strong coffee per day.
- Honey: This sweet treat has been used to boost the immune system for many centuries, and people sometimes find that it helps reduce asthma symptoms, too. Part of this is because it helps to remove phlegm that has accumulated in the throat and therefore makes breathing easier. You can mix it with hot water and lemon or simply have a teaspoon every now and then.
This article is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your doctor for answers to your medical questions.