Anyone suffering from asthma knows that buying medication is the largest expense related to this common respiratory disease. The CDC reports that about 1 in 13, or about 25 million Americans have asthma. And according to the American Thoracic Society, the personal costs of asthma are estimated to be over $3,000 per person annually.
Besides the costs involved, having asthma also requires that you keep track of and stock various inhalers and medicines. With that said, you might be interested in using a more natural approach to keep your symptoms in check, by taking advantage of alternative treatments or natural asthma remedies. But before you visit your whole foods store, you should make sure that the products you’re adding to your shopping basket are not only safe but also effective.
Can Natural Asthma Remedies and Treatments Actually Work?
There are many people suffering from asthma that choose to explore alternative treatments in order to better manage their symptoms.
“It’s not uncommon for patients to use alternative medicines, particularly for allergic diseases such as asthma,” says Anju Peters, MD, an associate professor and asthma specialist from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. According to her, around 40% of patients with allergic diseases test natural remedies and use them with more mainstream medications.
But what does the science say about natural asthma treatments and why are patients trying them out? Doctor Peters says that a lot of the remedies do show positive effects as anti-inflammatory in animal tests, but significant human studies have yet to be conducted. Therefore, it’s best to always air on the side of caution
Steam Baths for Asthma
Irritation in your airways and nasal congestion has been treated with warm steam baths for years, but Peters says that there’s actually no study proving the efficacy of steam when it comes to asthma symptoms. The most important thing to understand that this “is not a cure for asthma and that people should not trade their medications for it,” she explains. But even if we don’t have studies proving that a benefit definitely exists doesn’t also mean that this form of alternative asthma treatment doesn’t bring relief to some people.
As Peters adds steam baths “can alleviate a number of symptoms by bringing moisture into a patient’s airways,” and calls for caution saying that steam can be so hot that it’s dangerous, “which for some asthma patients can actually worsen symptoms.”
Herbs and Other Alternative Treatments for Asthma
A significant number of herbs have been reported to help with asthma symptoms, but Dr. Peters advises people to be cautious. The most prominent herbal asthma treatments and their potential pros and cons include:
Garlic: This pungent vegetable has been used for centuries due to its anti-tumor, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory properties that could also be useful in the fight against asthma. Unfortunately, there are no controlled or conclusive studies on how garlic interacts with asthma, according to Dr. Peters.
Ginger: A fragrant and spicy root vegetable, Ginger has many health benefits. It can help with nausea, muscle pain, indigestion, and lower blood sugar levels, according to Health Line. However, when asked about ginger, Peters says that an often-quoted study where people took oral ginger supplements didn’t prove that they improve lung function. Because of that, she says that asthmatics should be careful about using this natural remedy.
Echinacea and Licorice Root: A study examining the effects of different herbs on asthma discovered that Echinacea was in fact responsible for worsening asthma symptoms and causing significant side-effects, even if it’s usually used to treat upper respiratory infections. The same study found that licorice root was also an ineffective natural remedy for asthma despite many people using it for this very purpose. Worse yet, it also produced some side effects such as high blood pressure.
Turmeric: This is another plant that’s been studied many times, according to Peters, and shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits. Still, turmeric also interacts with histamines which and lead to inflammation, so more research is required on the subject.
Honey: There’s no shortage of cold and cough remedies that contain honey which soothes and calms a sore throat and cough. Consuming hot drinks with honey is a go-to remedy for asthma as well, but Dr. Peters points out that no research supports honey as a viable alternative asthma treatment.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Preventing and treating heart disease is why people most often try to consume enough omega-3 fatty acids with their diet. Certain studies state that omega-3s might help with inflammation in a person’s airways, but very little is known about how useful they are for asthma.
- “Asthma,” CDC,
- “Asthma costs the U.S. economy more than $80 billion per year,” Thoracic, https://www.thoracic.org/about/newsroom/press-releases/journal/2018/asthma-costs-the-us-%20economy-more-than-80-billion-per-year.php
- “Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects,” NCBI,
- “11 proven health benefits of ginger,” Healthline, Joe Leech, 4 June, 2017,