Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways of the lungs. The lining swells and the smooth muscles squeeze. This causes wheezing, coughing, and trouble breathing. Many factors may trigger an attack. Severe attacks can be fatal.
There is no cure. Standard treatments for an acute attack include rescue medicine. They quickly relax the muscles of the airway and reduce swelling. Long-term medicine and avoiding triggers can also help to reduce the number of attacks. Some natural therapies may help to better manage symptoms. They should only be used along with standard care.
May Be Effective
The following herbs may be effective in reducing symptoms of asthma:
The following therapies may be effective in reducing symptoms of asthma:
May Not Be Effective
Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.
Herbs and Supplements to Be Used With Caution
Talk to your doctor about all herbs or pills you are taking. Some may get in the way of your treatment or other health problems you may have.
A1. Gupta I, Gupta V, Parihar A, Gupta S, Lüdtke R, Safayhi H, Ammon HP. Effects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with bronchial asthma: results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, 6-week clinical study. Eur J Med Res. 1998 Nov 17;3(11):511-4.
A2. Haller CA, Benowitz NL. Adverse cardiovascular and central nervous system events associated with dietary supplements containing ephedra alkaloids. N Engl J Med. 2000;343:1833-1838
A3. Samenuk D, Link M, Homoud M K, et al. Adverse cardiovascular events temporally associated with Ma Huang, an herbal source of ephedrine. Mayo Clin Proc. 2002;77:12-16.
A4. Clark CE, Arnold E, et al. Herbal interventions for chronic asthma in adults and children: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Prim Care Respir J. 2010 Dec;19(4):307-14.
B1. Mickleborough TD, Murray RL, Ionescu AA, et al. Fish oil supplementation reduces severity of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction in elite athletes. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2003 Aug 6. [Epub ahead of print].
B2. Mihrshahi S, Peat JK, Marks GB, et al. Eighteen-month outcomes of house dust mite avoidance and dietary fatty acid modification in the Childhood Asthma Prevention Study (CAPS). J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2003;111:162-168.
B3. Pearson PJ, Lewis SA, Britton J, et al. Vitamin E supplements in asthma: a parallel group randomised placebo controlled trial. Thorax. 2004;59:652-656.
B4. Sienra-Monge JJ, Ramirez-Aguilar M, Moreno-Macias H, et al. Antioxidant supplementation and nasal inflammatory responses among young asthmatics exposed to high levels of ozone. Clin Exp Immunol. 2004;138:317-22.
B5. Mickleborough TD, Lindley MR, Ionescu AA, Fly AD. Protective effect of fish oil supplementation on exercise-induced bronchoconstriction in asthma. Chest. 2006;129;39-49.
B6. Tecklenburg SL, Mickleborough TD, Fly AD, et al. Ascorbic acid supplementation attenuates exercise-induced bronchoconstriction in patients with asthma. Respir Med. 2007 Apr 4. [Epub ahead of print]
B7. Giovannini M, Agostoni C, Riva E, et al. A randomized prospective double blind controlled trial on effects of long-term consumption of fermented milk containing Lactobacillus casei in pre-school children with allergic asthma and/or rhinitis. Pediatr Res. 2007 Jun 25. [Epub ahead of print]
B8. Chen YS, Jan RL, Lin YL, Chen HH, Wang JY. Randomized placebo-controlled trial of lactobacillus on asthmatic children with allergic rhinitis. Pediatr Pulmonol. 2010 Nov;45(11):1111-20.
B9. Smith LJ, Kalhan R, Wise RA, Sugar EA, Lima JJ, Irvin CG, Dozor AJ, Holbrook JT; American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Centers. Effect of a soy isoflavone supplement on lung function and clinical outcomes in patients with poorly controlled asthma: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2015 May 26;313(20):2033-43.
C1. Yang ZY, Zhong HB, Mao C, Yuan JQ, Huang YF, Wu XY, Gao YM, Tang JL. Yoga for asthma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Apr 27;4:CD010346.
C2. Altunç U, Pittler MH, Ernst E. Homeopathy for childhood and adolescence ailments: systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Mayo Clin Proc. 2007 Jan;82(1):69-75.
C3. Vempati R, Bijlani RL, Deepak KK. The efficacy of a comprehensive lifestyle modification programme based on yoga in the management of bronchial asthma: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Pulm Med. 2009;9:37.
C4. Chen R, Chen M, Xiong J, Chi Z, Zhang B, Tian N, Xu Z, Zhang T, Li W, Zhang W, Rong X, Wang Z, Sun G, Ge B, Yu G, Song N. Curative effect of heat-sensitive moxibustion on chronic persistent asthma: a multicenter randomized controlled trial. J Tradit Chin Med. 2013 Oct;33(5):584-91.
C5. Freitas DA, Holloway EA, Bruno SS, Chaves GS, Fregonezi GA, Mendonça KP. Breathing exercises for adults with asthma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Oct 1;(10):CD001277.
C6. Xiong J, Liu Z, Chen R, Xie D, Chi Z, Zhang B. Effectiveness and safety of heat-sensitive moxibustion on bronchial asthma: a meta-analysis of randomized control trials. J Tradit Chin Med. 2014 Aug;34(4):392-400.
C7. Lee SH, Chang GT, Zhang X, Lee H. Acupoint Herbal Patching for Asthma: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016 Jan;95(2):e2439.
Last reviewed March 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Richard Glickman-Simon, MD
Last Updated: 3/27/2019
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