Most asthmatics stick with traditional asthma medicine, or medicine approved by the FDA, recommended by the medical profession, and prescribed by physicians. However, some prefer to reach out and try non-traditional asthma treatments. Here’s all you need to know.
What are non-traditional treatments?
They are essentially a variety of options that are not well studied and not proven by science. They are therefore not approved by the FDA, not approved by the medical profession, and not prescribed by physicians. They are often referred to as alternative remedies, alternative therapies, alternative treatments, or non-conventional medicine.
What are some of the most common alternative treatments for asthma?
Keep in mind this is not a complete list. Here are some of the ones I have heard of.
- Salt Therapy. This is one of the most interesting alternative asthma remedies. There was an observation during the 18th century that people who worked in salt mines in Europe didn’t develop respiratory diseases. So, thus began a fad of sorts where people with lung diseases breathed the air inside salt caves for asthma relief. Some say it works, others not. Today, for those who can’t afford to travel to salt caves, you can actually buy salt products, such as salt lamps or salt inhalers. Sometimes this is also referred to as halotherapy.
- Natural Remedies. There is plenty of evidence that foods, drinks, and supplements that contain caffeine, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, beta carotene, omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, antioxidants, probiotics, etc. can improve both asthma and allergy control. I personally was skeptical of this until I did research for and wrote my article, “Can Your Diet Improve Your Asthma Control?” So, if you want, you can click on over and read all about how making simple changes to your diet or taking supplements can help you breathe easier. And then come back here.
- Breathing Exercises. These would include things like Yoga and Buteyko. They each teach you strategies for breathing that help you to relax and breathe easier. A 2010 study showed that those who participated in Yoga experienced a significant (66.7%) reduction in rescue inhaler usage, and experienced better asthma control overall compared to those in a control group who did not participate in Yoga. There have also been a few studies examining the benefits of Buteyko on asthma showing that those who used Buteyko breathing strategies also had a significant improvement in asthma control, with less rescue inhaler usage, compared to a control group.1-4
- Acupuncture. It involves inserting needles at various points of the body. It has been used as a traditional asthma treatment in China, and many asthmatics who have tried it say it results in improved asthma control. One study showed that 70% of those who tried acupuncture experienced improved asthma. However, the general consensus of the medical community is that studies are inconclusive and fail to show how it works, which is why it remains an alternative asthma remedy in most of the rest of the world. To say studies are inconclusive by no means verifies that it does not work, it simply means that more studies are needed to convince the medical community.5-7
- Moxibustion. It’s similar to acupuncture in Chinese traditional medicine. Although, rather than using needles, cones or cylinders are used to burn moxa, or mugwort, onto the skin. A 2011 study did show improved lung function and improvement of symptoms in those with chronic asthma. Still, further scientific studies are needed to prove to the medical community how it works, and whether or not it truly works to improve asthma control.8-9
- Chihuahua. The idea that a canine can take asthma away was born of Mexican folklore. Some say it began with the Aztecs, although this has never been confirmed. One idea is that the dog wheezes and make noises similar to asthma, so this was believed to mimic the sound of the dog absorbing asthma. Some believe having a chihuahua in the house will take the asthma away. Some believe the dog must lie on the asthmatics chest. Others believe the asthmatic must sleep with the dog, and during the night the dog will absorb away the asthma.10
- Homeopathy. It’s a system of alternative medicine started in Germany about 200 years ago. Herbs that might cause the same symptoms you aim to remedy are given in diluted amounts, and this is supposed to cure the disease. Also, small amounts of the same herbs used to treat asthma are given in diluted amounts, and this is supposed to cure the disease. Homeotherapy is available in various forms, from pellets you put under your tongue to pills you swallow. Researchers say that homeopathy is difficult to study, and studies regarding homeopathy’s effects on asthma so far offer inconclusive results.11-12
- Chiropractor. A review of studies published in 2010 showed that spinal manipulation for the treatment of asthma may benefit some asthmatics, although the results were once again inconclusive. The reviewers concluded chiropractic services may be used as an adjunct, although should not be used as an alternative to traditional asthma medicine.13
What do I make of all this?
Other than improving my diet so that I probably take in some of the natural remedies mentioned above, I have never been a fan of alternative medicines. I discussed this with my doctor once, and he said that if there was something proven to improve asthma control he would be the first to tell me about it. In the meantime, he said, I was best to stick with traditional medicine. So, that I thought was some pretty good advice from my doctor.
Will alternative remedies work for you?
First of all, I would highly recommend talking to your asthma doctor before trying alternative remedies. That said, I do have friends, and I know there are members of this community, who have benefited from alternative medicine. So, it only makes sense to keep your mind open for anything that might help you obtain ideal asthma control. Who knows, there might be something out there not yet proven by science that might help YOU live better with asthma. Just like everyone’s asthma is different, what works and what doesn’t widely varies from person to person too.
Living with a chronic condition like asthma has its own burdens and everyone dealing with these burdens has one common goal: to feel better, to live better in spite of the chronic condition. This instills in people a motivation to leave no stone unturned when it comes to treatments and remedies that could help. While it is good to know of all treatments and remedies one can avail, it is important to do your own research and team up with your doctor to make changes to any elements of your asthma management plan.
If you have experience with an alternative asthma remedy, let us know what you used and how it worked for you in the comments below.