Homeopathic Remedies and Asthma - Could They Help?
There are many effective medications available for treating asthma. But that doesn't stop those of us with asthma from wishing for a more "natural" approach. Homeopathy is a natural remedy that is often touted as being an effective treatment for asthma. But is it really? This post checks out homeopathic asthma remedies, what the research says, and possible pros and cons.
Understanding homeopathy theory
First of all, what is homeopathy, exactly? According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), homeopathic medicine was started in Germany over 200 years ago.1 It is based on the theory that "like cures like."
In other words, being exposed to small amounts of a substance that causes disease can actually cure, or at least treat, the disease over time. In addition, the theory is that the smaller the dose, the greater its effectiveness.1
The active ingredients in homeopathic asthma remedies generally contain natural substances, such as:2
The active ingredient is highly diluted, to the extent that it is virtually undetectable in the solution. To treat asthma, this active ingredient would be something that normally triggers allergic asthma symptoms.
A national health survey done in 2012 found that about 5 million adults and 1 million children had used homeopathy (not just for asthma) in the previous year.
Do homeopathic remedies for asthma work?
So, we know that there is a lot of interest in homeopathy and many asthma patients have tried it. But that doesn't mean it's effective. In fact, the NCCIH states emphatically that there is "no evidence to support homeopathic immunizations."1
However, there are a number of studies worldwide that have looked into the effectiveness of homeopathy for asthma symptoms. Results have been mixed, unfortunately:2
- One small study, done in 2018, found that using homeopathic remedies instead of placebo in addition to traditional asthma medicine had better results.
- A 2015 review of past studies concluded that homeopathy appeared to have some value in reducing the severity and frequency of asthma attacks. However, the authors were unwilling to fully endorse homeopathy. This was because they found the studies to be mostly observational in nature, rather than scientifically based.
- A 2019 review of past studies similarly concluded that most studies were biased, had incomplete reporting, and/or used too small a sample of participants.
It is unclear at this time as to whether homeopathic remedies for asthma might be truly effective or not.
There are risks with homeopathic remedies
Despite the fact that homeopathic remedies contain natural ingredients, experts caution that there are risks to be considered.1
The idea behind homeopathic medicines is that the active ingredients are highly diluted into minuscule amounts. However, the NCCIH warns that not all homeopathic products follow this formula. They may, in fact, have significant amounts of the active ingredients. This could trigger an asthma attack or other side effects.
In addition, liquid homeopathic remedies often contain larger amounts of alcohol than normally found in traditional medicines.
Finally, over the counter homeopathic medicines are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. So there is no guarantee that they are either safe or effective.
What's the take away?
Homeopathic remedies should never be used to replace traditional asthma medications. Experts are clear that there is not enough evidence at this point in time to support the use of homeopathy as a primary treatment for asthma. Asthma attacks are serious and can even be life-threatening. It is important to treat them quickly with medicines that are proven to work well.
However, if you are interested in trying homeopathic remedies as an adjunct (or addition) to your traditional asthma medicines, talk with your doctor about the possibilities. Your health care team can help you consider the risks vs. benefits and if the remedy might be right for you.
Have you tried any homeopathic remedies for asthma?
Do you get muscle cramps caused by your asthma medicine?