The Asthma Center

Can alternative medicine treat asthma?

Alternative medicine remedies are nontraditional medical treatments whose effectiveness has not been established by commonly accepted scientific studies. Specifically, these treatments have not been approved by the FDA as medicines that are safe and effective for treating asthma.

Many of these treatments have been used in non-Western societies and have been imported into the US over the last hundred years. In general, the FDA does not classify alternative medicines as medical treatments but rather as nutritional supplements that have little or no proven pharmacological effect (e.g. herbal medicines, homeopathy, aromatherapy, certain vitamins and supplements, etc.). Other types of nontraditional treatments include acupuncture, breathing exercises, chiropractic treatment, etc.

This latter group has also failed to clearly demonstrate its effectiveness to treat asthma in carefully conducted clinical research, in contrast to every single FDA-approved asthma medication. The world scientific literature also does not find many of these medications to be effective. Acupuncture may be somewhat risky since needles in the chest may rarely result in a pneumothorax (collapse of the lungs). On the other hand, few of these treatments currently appear to be associated with major side effects, except when they deter you from seeking traditionally accepted treatment.

If you feel strongly that you would like to try these unproven treatments, you should first discuss these treatments with your physician. Such an approach needs to consider your current state of asthma and the risks involved.

You can always try taking these alternative medication treatments in conjunction with physician prescribed medications. If there is a clear and objective improvement, then, with your physician's assistance, you can try to reduce physician prescribed medications.