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Complementary Medicine For Asthma

Complementary medicine is composed of non-mainstream medical practices like acupuncture, naturopathy, and yoga that fall outside the scope of conventional biomedicine. Coming from the health and wellness world, I am constantly exposed to new dietary theories, food trends, and healing claims that are considered non-mainstream.

Health as a trend

Social media has provided a huge platform for anyone to share their personal experiences and perspectives on health. This is especially true for those with careers in the health and wellness world; we now see “famous” yoga teachers, life coaches, and nutritionists. As someone who values truth and research, I take everything I read and hear with a grain of salt.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve fallen into the trap of health trends. I’ve purchased trendy “superfoods”  like cacao, goji, and maca. I thought the next best thing for my health was committing to a 3-day juice cleanse. While these things were not necessarily bad decisions (maybe just expensive…), would I have done this if no one had told me to? It is important to note that certain health trends may work great for one person’s body, but be ineffective and a waste of money for someone else.

Doing my own research on complementary medicine for asthma

An instructor for one of my nutrition courses recently told me, “Lotus root would be a great plant to incorporate into someone’s diet with asthma”. She explained that the way a lotus root is shaped replicated an air filtration system. Slices of the lotus root can be made into a tea, and this can help open up the airways of a person with asthma. Initially, I accepted this as true, but decided to do my own research after class.

I did two different internet searches for the connection between lotus root and asthma; one on regular Google search and the second on Google Scholar. The first results on the regular Google search came from health coaching blogs and holistic medicine sites. I browsed through these sites, and found claims that lotus root would do exactly what my instructor had said; clear up airways and expel mucus.

My second search was conducted through Google Scholar. What I was hoping to find was a peer-reviewed study that would confirm lotus root is indeed helpful for those with lung conditions such as asthma. Scrolling through the results, I found nothing that explicitly linked the two. I was happy to see that there were studies focused on using other plants as medicine, but also disappointed I did not find anything worth noting on lotus root.

Confirm complementary medicine with data

From my two searches, I was able to see a gap between research and the world of complementary medicine. There were many complementary medicine practitioners on the internet that praised lotus root without citing any study or data-based research.

Despite this, these complementary practitioners aren’t necessarily wrong! This just means that complementary medicine and Western medicine aren’t on the same page yet. The complementary medicine we see today has been used prior to the invention of Western medicine, and dates all the way back to 200 B.C.1

Although herbs and practices of complementary medicine were studied by scholars and practitioners of the past, there has not been enough modern clinical trials to confirm things like the lotus root and its benefits for lung ailments.

What could more research on complementary medicine for asthma provide?

There are already an increasing amount of studies being conducted on the effectiveness of complementary medicine on chronic illness and disease! There are many herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda (the ancient healing system of India) that have been used for healing for thousands of years; some are in the process of being studied in clinical trials. These complementary or more natural medicines could have the potential to be more accessible and affordable than some prescription medications.

What can you do in the meantime?

Before falling into health trend traps, do your own research! It can feel easy to trust someone if they have a large following on social media, but the truth is, you do not know the extent of their research or credentials.

Complementary medicine can work synergistically with Western medicine, so don’t be afraid to read up on some of these practices. Look for articles that include citations from clinical trials and studies. If you find a study suggesting that a complementary medicine practice may benefit your asthma, consult your doctor first! They will know if this complementary medicine could harm your existing condition and worsen your symptoms; they might even have access to research you have not seen.

Have you used complementary medicine before? How do you conduct your own research regarding health trends?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Tabish SA. Complementary and alternative healthcare: Is it evidence-based? International Journal of Health Sciences. 2008;2(1):V–IX.

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