Asthma can be a frightening conditioning – both for the sufferer and for his parents. An acute asthma attack may make someone feel like she’s “starving for air” or “a fish out of water.” Many herbs can offer natural asthma relief, especially when coupled with lifestyle changes. Let’s look at 13 herbal options that can ease symptoms and reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.
Herbs to Provide Natural Asthma Relief
Butterbur is a traditional treatment for asthma and other lung complaints and has also proven helpful in treating hay fever, which often exacerbates asthma symptoms. The herb:
- acts as an anti-inflammatory by blocking both leukotrienes and histamine
- reduces allergic response by blocking histamine-releasing mast cells
- relaxes the smooth muscles of the bronchial tract
Naturopathic doctor Mark Stengler recommends taking standardized butterbur with 8-16 mg of petasin per dose, 3-4 times each day. (Here’s one with 11.25 mg per dose.)
The leaf of the ginkgo biloba tree is well-known as a vasodilator, which makes it useful for many conditions from dementia to cold feet. One of its components, called ginkgolides, shows promising results in studies researching its effect on asthma symptoms.
According to herbalist Dr. John R. Christopher, lobelia – also called asthma weed – may be the most effective asthma treatment herbalism has to offer. In his book, School of Natural Healing, he recounts a story of a man who had been unable to lie flat to sleep for more than 20 years because of severe asthma.
After two doses of lobelia, the man coughed up significant amounts of mucus and was able to lie down and sleep peacefully. He slept lying down in a bed every night afterward and was also able to get a job for the first time in two decades. It sounds almost miraculous!
Dr. James Balch recommends using lobelia extract during an asthma attack as well. He writes that it acts as both an expectorant and a relaxant to the bronchial muscles.
An oil made from mullein leaves is helpful in calming coughs from both the common cold and asthma. It has a powerful action in loosening bronchial congestion, which clears the bronchial tubes, thus opening the airways for free breathing.
According to Dr. Balch, people typically experience almost immediate relief when they drink the oil in tea or fruit juice. (Amazon has an alcohol-free mullein oil and a mullein tincture – depending on your preference.)
Another option is to make a tea using equal parts mullein leaves, sage, and plantain. Steep for 15 minutes, sweeten with honey, and then take one tablespoon every hour until symptoms are relieved.
Nettle leaf is full of vitamins and minerals that the body needs for healthy function. For many people, drinking 1-2 cups of nettle tea each day can provide the nutrition boost needed for proper lung function, thus reducing or even eliminating asthma symptoms. (Try this nettle tea or get some loose nettle leaves to make your own.
Pau d’arco is an herb from Central and South America that acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. Because asthma symptoms are closely related to inflammation in the bronchial passages, this anti-inflammatory action can bring relief and help reduce symptoms.
Drinking up to three cups of Pau d’Arco tea each day is helpful.
Pine Bark Extract
Known by the brand name Pycnogenol, pine bark extract has shown favorable results in numerous studies. It improves circulation, protects cells from free radical damage, and acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory.
Additionally, it lowers blood levels of leukotrienes and blocks the release of histamine, two hormone-like substances that play a major role in promoting asthma symptoms.
In one scientific study, the Ayurvedic herb boswellia was found to reduce the frequency of wheezing episodes and improve lung capacity in asthmatic patients. Study participants were given 300 milligrams of standardized boswellia, called boswellin, three times each day for six weeks. (A dosage of 150-250 milligrams three times each day should also be effective.)
According to Healing Without Medication, boswellin can be safely used alongside prescription medications, including the commonly-used Singulair and Accolate. Its action in the body is complementary to the action of these asthma medications.
While the prescription medicines cause cells to be unaffected by leukotrienes – the molecules responsible for bronchial constriction – boswellin prevents leukotrienes from being produced at all.
Look for a product that says either “boswellin” or “standardized to boswellic acids.”
Another Ayurvedic herb, called Tylophora, has proven helpful in relieving asthmatic symptoms as well. Its effect comes from its ability to increase the production of anti-inflammatory steroids in the body.
Unfortunately, taking Tylophora causes nausea – yet, interestingly, the severity of the nausea is directly proportional to the level of symptom relief.
Those who can face the nausea have good reason to hope for successful relief. In one Indian study, almost 2/3 of those who participated experienced moderate to total relief of their asthma symptoms.
The bright side is that Tylophora needs to be taken for only a week and the beneficial effects last for at least a month.
More Herbs for Natural Asthma Relief
Herbs that have an expectorant or demulcent action will be helpful in treating symptoms of asthma. An expectorant brings up the excess mucus that often contributes to breathing difficulties, while a demulcent relaxes, soothes, and protects the lung tissues. Along with easing current symptoms, demulcent herbs can help the lungs to heal and become stronger.
Consider making a tea from one or more of these herbs and enjoying a cup 2-3 times each day.
- Slippery Elm
With this arsenal of 13 herbs, natural asthma relief can be just around the corner. As with any natural treatment, these herbal teas and tinctures should be used along with a wholesome diet of fresh foods, plenty of exercise, and adequate rest.
Asthma can be a life-threatening condition. Always work with your health care provider to choose the best treatment options for your unique situation. If you or your child is having severe difficulty breathing, seek emergency medical care right away.
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Balch, Phyllis A., CNC and James F. Balch, M.D. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Avery, 2000.
Christopher, John R., Dr. School of Natural Healing. Christopher Publications, Inc., 2014.
Rister, Robert S. Healing Without Medication. Basic Health Publications, Inc., 2003.
Stengler, Mark, ND. The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies Medical Doctors Don’t Know. Prentice Hall Press, 2010.
This information has not been evaluated by the FDA and is intended only for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure disease. Always consult a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your healthcare routine.
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