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Asthma
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Asthma



Related Terms
  • Adult onset asthma, allergic asthma, allergist, asthmatics, boswellia, breathing problems, bronchodilator, bronchospasm, choline, coleus, corticosteroids, cough-variant asthma, dry-powder inhaler, ephedra, exercise-induced asthma, extrinsic asthma, immunologist, inhaler, intrinsic asthma, leukotriene modifiers, long-acting beta agonists, MDI, metered-dose inhaler, nebulizer, non-allergic asthma, occupational asthma, oral beta agonists, peak flow meter, psychotherapy, short-acting bronchodilators, short-acting beta agonists, spirometer, spirometry, theophylline, trigger avoidance, wheezing, yoga.

Background
  • Asthma is a chronic, inflammatory lung disease. The air passages within the lungs are constantly swollen, restricting the amount of air allowed to pass through the trachea. Asthmatics have recurrent breathing problems and a tendency to cough and wheeze.
  • According to the American Lung Association, about 20 million Americans have asthma, which causes about 5,000 deaths each year.
  • Asthma is incurable, but many medications and changes in behavior may help manage the condition.
  • Allergic asthma occurs when allergens cause the airway to become inflamed.
  • When the airway becomes constricted during vigorous physical activity, the condition is known as exercise-induced asthma.
  • Cough-variant asthma is a chronic, persistent cough without shortness of breath.
  • Occupational asthma occurs as a result of a particular environment. Once the patient is out of the environment, symptoms gradually disappear.

Author information
  • This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. .
  2. American Academy of Family Physicians. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. .
  3. American Lung Association. Epidemiology & statistics Unit, Research and Program Services. . May 2005. .
  4. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Asthma. .
  5. Centers for Disease Control. Surveillance for Asthma - United States, 1960-1995, MMWR. 1998; 47 (SS-1). .
  6. MayoClinic.com. Asthma. .
  7. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. .
  8. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Asthma and its Environmental Triggers. .
  9. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. . Copyright © 2009.
  10. Dey AN, Schiller JS, Tai DA. Summary health statistics for U.S. children: National Health Interview Survey, 2002. Vital Health Stat 10. 2004 Mar;(221):1-78.

Symptoms
  • Bronchospasm (abnormal contraction of the bronchi, resulting in airway obstruction).
  • Coughing (constantly or intermittently).
  • Wheezing or whistling sounds when exhaling.
  • Shortness of breath or rapid breathing.
  • Chest tightness or chest pain.
  • Fatigue.
  • Infants may have trouble feeding and may grunt during suckling.

Diagnosis
  • Spirometry is a noninvasive way to evaluate the air capacity of the lungs. Physicians are able to measure the volume of air exhaled before and after a bronchodilator (inhaler) is used.
  • During this procedure, the spirometer measures the airflow when the patient exhales, comparing lung capacity to the average capacity for the individual's age and racial group. Then the patient inhales medicine from a short-acting bronchodilator. The doctor once again measures the patient's lung capacity. If there is an increase in capacity it is likely that the asthma symptoms can be controlled.
  • In addition, the physician should have the patient perform some form of physical activity to increase the breathing rate and check for changes in lung capacity (both with and without a bronchodilator).

Treatment
  • Long-term:
  • Combined therapy medicine: Combined therapy involves both a controller (long-acting bronchodilator) and reliever (corticosteroid) medicine. This therapy is used to manage asthma symptoms for long-term.
  • Cromolyn sodium and nedocromil sodium: Cromolyn sodium (like Intal® and nedocromil sodium (like Tilade®) are used to help prevent the airways from swelling when they are exposed to asthma triggers. These inhaled non-steroids may also help prevent exercise-induced asthma attacks.
  • Immunotherapy: During immunotherapy (also known as allergy shots), the patient receives periodic injections, as determined by the allergist/immunologist, over the course of three to five years. The solutions in the injections contain the substances the individual is allergic to. The treatment helps the immune system tolerate the allergens and lessens the need for medications.
  • Peak flow meter: A peak flow meter is a portable device that measures airflow, or peak expiratory flow (PEF). When asthmatics blow into the device quickly and forcefully, the peak flow reading indicates how open the airways are. Patients should compare their daily peak flow recordings with their "personal best" recording. The device helps patients determine the severity of the asthma. It is enables patients to check their responses to treatment and monitor their treatment progress.
  • Inhaled corticosteroids: Inhaled corticosteroids (Aerobid®, Azmacort®, Beclovent®, Flovent®, Pulmicort® or Vanceril®) are used to prevent and reduce airway swelling, as well as decrease the amount of mucus in the lungs. These medications are generally considered safe when taken as directed.
  • Leukotriene modifiers: Leukotriene modifiers (like Accolate® or Singulair®) are a new type of long-term control medication. They help prevent airway inflammation and swelling, as well as decrease the amount of mucus in the lungs.
  • Long-acting beta agonists: Long-acting beta agonists, such as Serevent® (which is inhaled) may be taken with or without anti-inflammatories to help control persistent symptoms. Long-acting, inhaled beta agonists should not be used as a substitute for anti-inflammatories. This type of medicine may also prevent exercise-induced asthma. However, these medications cannot relieve symptoms quickly, and they should not be used to treat an acute attack. A short-acting, inhaled beta agonist should be used to treat acute symptoms.
  • Oral corticosteroids: Oral corticosteroids like (Aristocort®, Celestone®, Decadron®, Medrol®, Prednisone® or Sterapred®) are available in pill/tablet format for adults. Liquid corticosteroids (like Pediapred® or Prelone®) are available for children. These medications can be used short-term for severe asthma episodes or as long-term therapy for individuals who have severe asthma.
  • Trigger avoidance: Since asthma can be triggered by allergens, symptoms can be caused or aggravated by the environment. An allergist or immunologist can help patients recognize the allergens and irritants that trigger asthma attacks. Exposure to common irritants, including pollen, animal dander, mold spores and dust mites, may trigger asthma.
  • Eliminate potential food allergens, including dairy (milk, cheese and sour cream), eggs, nuts, shellfish, wheat (gluten), corn, preservatives and food additives (like dyes and fillers). Food allergies can be a contributing factor in immune imbalance triggering symptoms of asthma.
  • Short-term:
  • Oral beta agonists: Oral beta agonists (like Alupent®, Brethine®, Bricanyl®, Proventil®, Repetabs®, Ventolin® or Volmax®) may be used to decrease acute symptoms that arise quickly. Oral beta agonists are available in pill, syrup and inhaled form.
  • Short-acting bronchodilators: Short-acting bronchodilators are also used for quick relief of asthma symptoms. They open airways by relaxing the muscles that tighten around airways during an asthma attack.
  • Short-acting beta agonists: Short-acting beta agonists (like Albuterol®, Brethaire®, Bronkosol®, Isoetharine®, Maxair®, Medihaler-Iso®, Metaprel®, Proventil®, Tornalate® or Ventolin®) may help relieve asthma symptoms quickly. These medications may also help prevent exercise-induced asthma. If these medications are taken daily, or if they are taken more than three times in a single day, the asthma may be worsening, or the inhaler may not be used correctly.
  • Theophylline: Theophylline (like Aerolate®, Elixophyllin®, Quibron-T®, Resbid®, Slo-bid®, T-Phyl®, Theolair®, Theo-24®, Theo-Dur®, Theo-X®, Uni-Dur® or Uniphyl®) may be used to treat persistent asthma symptoms and to prevent nighttime asthma. In order to be effective, theophylline must remain at a constant level in the bloodstream. If the level is too high, it can be potentially dangerous. A qualified healthcare provider will perform regular blood tests to ensure safety. Sustained release theophylline is not the preferred primary long-term control treatment, but it has been shown to be effective when taken with anti-inflammatories to control nighttime asthma attacks.
  • Pregnancy:
  • General: Many asthma medications are considered safe for pregnant patients because the risk of adverse effects appears to be less than the risk of uncontrolled asthma. Medications that have been used in pregnant women include inhaled bronchodilators, cromolyn sodium and beclomethasone, all of which have a local effect. Theophylline has also been used during pregnancy if the asthma is not adequately controlled by the other medications. Oral steroid medications, such as prednisone, should only be used when necessary for severe asthma during pregnancy. Consult a qualified healthcare professional before beginning any treatment.

Integrative therapies
  • Good scientific evidence:
  • Boswellia: Boswellia has been proposed as a potential therapy for asthma. Future studies are needed to assess the long-term efficacy and safety of boswellia and to compare the efficacy of boswellia to standard therapies. Boswellia should not be used for the relief of acute asthma exacerbations. Boswellia is generally believed to be safe when used as directed, although safety and toxicity have not been well studied in humans. Avoid if allergic to boswellia. Avoid with a history of stomach ulcers or stomach acid reflux disease (GERD). Use cautiously if taking lipid-soluble medications, agents metabolized by the liver's cytochrome P450 enzymes, or sedatives. Use cautiously with impaired liver function or liver damage or lung disorders. Use cautiously in children. Avoid if pregnant due to potential abortifacient effects or if breastfeeding.
  • Buteyko breathing technique: The Buteyko breathing technique (BBT) consists of breathing techniques, relaxation exercises, and asthma education. The technique aims to reduce hyperventilation. Studies have shown reduced use of rescue inhalers among patients receiving BBT. Improvements in other measures of asthma severity have not been shown. Additional study is warranted.
  • BBT is generally considered safe. Avoid with asthma that changes suddenly ("brittle asthma"). BBT may interact with asthma medications and should be used with caution when decreasing asthma medication. Asthma should be treated by a qualified healthcare professional and patients should always carry a rescue inhaler. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Choline: Choline is possibly effective when taken orally for asthma. Choline supplements seem to decrease the severity of symptoms, number of symptomatic days and the need to use bronchodilators in asthma patients. There is some evidence that higher doses of 3 grams daily might be more effective than lower doses of 1.5 grams daily. Choline is generally regarded as safe and appears to be well-tolerated. Avoid if allergic/hypersensitive to choline, lecithin, or phosphatidylcholine. Use cautiously with kidney or liver disorders or trimethylaminuria. Use cautiously with a history of depression. If pregnant or breastfeeding it seems generally safe to consume choline within the recommended adequate intake (AI) parameters; supplementation outside of dietary intake is usually not necessary if a healthy diet is consumed.
  • Coleus: There is a lack of sufficient data to recommend for or against the use of coleus in the treatment of bronchial asthma. Preliminary data appears to be promising. However, larger, randomized, controlled trials are needed to confirm the safety and efficacy of coleus in bronchial asthma. Coleus is generally regarded as safe, as very few reports have documented adverse effects. However, only a few short-term trials have assessed its safety in a small sample size of patients. Avoid if allergic to Coleus forskohlii and related species or with bleeding disorders. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Ephedra: Ephedra contains the chemicals ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, which are bronchodilators (expand the airways to assist in easier breathing). It has been used and studied to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, such as asthmatic bronchoconstriction, in both children and adults. Other treatments such as beta-agonist inhalers (for example, albuterol) are more commonly recommended due to safety concerns with ephedra or ephedrine. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has collected thousands of reports of serious toxicity linked to ephedra (including over 100 deaths). Ephedra products are banned from dietary supplements because of serious health risks, including heart attack, heart damage, breathing difficulties and fluid retention in the lungs. Avoid ephedra if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Psychotherapy: Family psychotherapy may slightly improve wheezing and thoracic gas volume for asthma in children, according to several studies.
  • Psychotherapy is not always sufficient to resolve mental or emotional conditions. Psychiatric medication is sometimes needed. The reluctance to seek and use appropriate medication may contribute to worsening of symptoms or increased risk for poor outcomes. In order to be successful, psychotherapy requires considerable personal motivation and investment in the process. This includes consistent attendance and attention to treatment recommendations provided by the practitioner. Not all therapists are sufficiently qualified to work with all problems. The client or patient should seek referrals from trusted sources and should also inquire of the practitioner's training and background before committing to work with a particular therapist. Some forms of psychotherapy evoke strong emotional feelings and expression. This can be disturbing for people with serious mental illness or some medical conditions. Psychotherapy may help with post-partum depression, but is not a substitute for medication, which may be needed in severe cases.
  • Pycnogenol: Pycnogenol® is the patented trade name for a water extract of the bark of the French maritime pine (Pinus pinaster spp. atlantica), which is grown in coastal south-west France. Pycnogenol may offer clinical benefit to both children and adults with asthma. Additional study is needed before a conclusion can be made. Avoid if allergic/hypersensitive to pycnogenol, its components, or members of the Pinaceae family. Use cautiously with diabetes, hypoglycemia, or bleeding disorders. Use cautiously if taking hypolipidemics, medications that may increase the risk of bleeding, hypertensive medications, or immune stimulating or inhibiting drugs. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Yoga: Multiple human studies report benefits of yoga (such as breathing exercises), when added to other treatments for mild-to-moderate asthma (such as standard drug therapy, diet, or massage). Better research is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
  • Yoga is generally considered to be safe in healthy individuals when practiced appropriately. Avoid some inverted poses with disc disease of the spine, fragile or atherosclerotic neck arteries, risk for blood clots, extremely high or low blood pressure, glaucoma, detachment of the retina, ear problems, severe osteoporosis, or cervical spondylitis. Certain yoga breathing techniques should be avoided in people with heart or lung disease. Use cautiously with a history of psychotic disorders. Yoga techniques are believed to be safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding when practiced under the guidance of expert instruction (the popular Lamaze techniques are based on yogic breathing). However, poses that put pressure on the uterus, such as abdominal twists, should be avoided in pregnancy.
  • Unclear or conflicting scientific evidence:
  • Acupressure, shiatsu: Preliminary research suggests that acupressure may be of benefit in improving quality of life in asthma. Further well-designed studies are needed before firm conclusions can be drawn. A combination of acupressure and massage may reduce dyspnea (labored breathing) and anxiety in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who use prolonged mechanical ventilatory support. Further study of acupressure alone is needed before a recommendation can be made. A small study of patients undergoing pulmonary rehabilitation reported acupressure to be beneficial for decreasing dyspnea. Larger, well-designed studies are needed before clear conclusions can be drawn.
  • With proper training, acupressure appears to be safe if self-administered or administered by an experienced therapist. No serious long-term complications have been reported, according to scientific data. Hand nerve injury and herpes zoster ("shingles") cases have been reported after shiatsu massage. Forceful acupressure may cause bruising.
  • Acupuncture: Some research suggests acupuncture may help prevent exercise-induced asthma and that it may reduce the perceived level of breathlessness associated with asthma or emphysema. However, reviewers agree that the available studies are small, poorly designed, and insufficient for making recommendations. A few studies have found no support for the use of acupuncture for asthma. Overall there is insufficient evidence on which to base recommendations for acupuncture to treat breathlessness in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Needles must be sterile in order to avoid disease transmission. Avoid with valvular heart disease, infections, bleeding disorders or with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding (anticoagulants), medical conditions of unknown origin, neurological disorders. Avoid on areas that have received radiation therapy and during pregnancy. Use cautiously with pulmonary disease (like asthma or emphysema). Use cautiously in elderly or medically compromised patients, diabetics, or with history of seizures. Avoid electroacupuncture with arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) or in patients with pacemakers.
  • Alexander technique: The Alexander technique is an educational program that teaches movement patterns and postures, with an aim to improve coordination and balance, reduce tension, relieve pain, alleviate fatigue, improve various medical conditions, and promote well-being. There is currently not enough scientific evidence to make a strong recommendation for the use of the Alexander technique in chronic asthma patients. More study is needed in this area. There is a lack of high-quality research describing the effect of the Alexander technique on respiration. No serious side effects have been reported with use of the Alexander technique. It has been suggested that the technique may be less effective with learning disabilities or mental illnesses. The Alexander technique has been used safely in pregnant women.
  • Applied kinesiology: Applied Kinesiology (AK) is an assessment technique that uses muscle strength testing with the aim to identify nutritional deficiencies and health problems. It is based on the concept that weakness in certain muscles corresponds to specific disease states or body imbalances. Study results are mixed in regards to bronchial asthma. Further research is needed before conclusions can be drawn. Applied kinesiology techniques in themselves are harmless. However, medical conditions should not be treated with AK alone, and should not delay appropriate medical treatment.
  • Aromatherapy: Early evidence suggests that aromatherapy may aid mucus clearance in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). More studies are needed before conclusions about this application of aromatherapy can be made. Essential oils should be administered in a carrier oil to avoid toxicity. Avoid if history of allergic dermatitis. Use cautiously if driving/operating heavy machinery. Avoid consuming essential oils. Avoid direct contact of undiluted oils with mucous membranes. Use cautiously if pregnant.
  • Ayurveda: There is early evidence that daily supplementation with gum resin of Boswellia serrata, known in Ayurveda as Salai guggal, may reduce dyspnea (shortness of breath), rhonchi, and the number of attacks in bronchial asthma. Another herb, Devadaru (Cedrus deodara), may have antispasmodic effects and reduce symptoms in bronchial asthma, particularly for patients with shorter histories of asthma and lower frequencies of attacks. Further research is needed in this area before a recommendation can be made.
  • Ayurvedic herbs should be used cautiously because they are potent and some constituents can be potentially toxic if taken in large amounts or for a long time. Some herbs imported from India have been reported to contain high levels of toxic metals. Ayurvedic herbs can interact with other herbs, foods and drugs. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before use of any herbs or supplements. Use guggul cautiously with peptic ulcer disease. Avoid sour food, alcohol, and heavy exercise. Mahayograj guggul should not be taken for long periods of time. Pippali (Piper longum) should be taken with milk and avoided with asthma. Avoid sweet flag, and avoid amlaki (Emblica officinalis) at bedtime. Avoid Terminalia hebula (harda) if pregnant. Avoid Ayurveda with traumatic injuries, acute pain, advanced disease stages and medical conditions that require surgery.
  • Belladonna: Belladonna may improve the prevention of airway obstruction and reduce the amount of mucus produced. However, due to a lack of high-quality human research in this area, there is not enough evidence to form a clear conclusion.
  • Avoid if allergic to belladonna or plants of the Solanaceae(nightshade) family (bell peppers, potatoes, eggplants). Avoid with history of heart disease, high blood pressure, heart attack, abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia), congestive heart failure, stomach ulcer, constipation, stomach acid reflux (serious heartburn), hiatal hernia, gastrointestinal disease, ileostomy, colostomy, fever, bowel obstruction, benign prostatic hypertrophy, urinary retention, glaucoma (narrow angle), psychotic illness, Sjögren's syndrome, dry mouth (xerostomia or salivary gland disorders), neuromuscular disorders such as myasthenia gravis, and Down's syndrome. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Beta-carotene: The prevalence of bronchitis and shortness of breath in male smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) seems to be lower in those patients who consume a diet containing high amounts of beta-carotene. However, beta-carotene supplements have not been proven to benefit COPD and may actually increase cancer rates in smokers. Based on preliminary evidence, taking a mixture of beta-carotene isomers orally may prevent exercise-induced asthma. However, because synthetic beta-carotene has not been well tested for this indication, the difference between the activities of the two supplements cannot be deduced. Further research is needed before a strong recommendation can be made. Avoid if sensitive to beta-carotene, vitamin A or any other ingredients in beta-carotene products.
  • Black tea: Research has shown caffeine to cause improvements in airflow to the lungs (bronchodilation). However, it is not clear if caffeine or tea use has significant clinical benefits in people with asthma. Better research is needed in this area before a conclusion can be drawn.
  • Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to caffeine or tannins. Skin rash and hives have been reported with caffeine ingestion. Use caution with diabetes. Use caution if pregnant. Heavy caffeine intake during pregnancy may increase the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Very high doses of caffeine have been linked with birth defects. Caffeine is transferred into breast milk. Caffeine ingestion by infants can lead to sleep disturbances/insomnia. Infants nursing from mothers consuming greater than 500 milligrams of caffeine daily have been reported to experience tremors and heart rhythm abnormalities. Tea consumption by infants has been linked to anemia, decreased iron metabolism, and irritability.
  • Borage seed oil: The flowers and leaves of borage (Borago officinalis) are often pressed to produce oil very high in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Preliminary evidence suggests that gamma linolenic acid (GLA) may have some immunosuppressant activity that may be helpful in reducing asthma symptoms. Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to borage, its constituents, or members of the Boraginaceae family. Use cautiously in patients with bleeding disorders or taking warfarin or other anticoagulant or antiplatelet (blood thinning) agents. Use cautiously in patients with epilepsy or taking anticonvulsants. Avoid in patients with compromised immune systems or similar immunological conditions. Avoid in pregnant patients as borage oil may be contraindicated in pregnancy given the teratogenic and labor-inducing effects of prostaglandin E agonists, such as borage oil's GLA. Avoid if breastfeeding.
  • Bromelain: Bromelain is a digestive enzyme extracted from the stem and the fruit of the pineapple plant (Ananas comosus, family Bromeliaceae). There is currently not enough information to recommend for or against the use of bromelain in chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). Avoid if allergic to bromelain, pineapple, honeybee, venom, latex, birch pollen, carrots, celery, fennel, cypress pollen, grass pollen, papain, rye flour, wheat flour, or other members of the Bromeliaceaefamily. Use cautiously with a history of bleeding disorders, stomach ulcers, heart disease, liver, or kidney disease. Use caution before dental or surgical procedures or while driving or operating machinery. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Butterbur: Historically, butterbur has been used to treat asthma. Pre-clinical studies report anti-inflammatory and leukotriene inhibitory properties, which may lead to clinical effects. Initial human research suggests possible benefits. However, controlled trials with adequate sample sizes are necessary in order to clarify whether there are true benefits in humans. Use caution if allergic or sensitive to Petasites hybridus or other plants from the Asteraceae/Compositae family (like ragweed, marigolds, daisies, and chrysanthemums). Raw, unprocessed butterbur plant should not be eaten due to the risk of liver or kidney damage or cancer. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Chiropractic: Several studies report the effects of chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy on breathing indices and quality of life in children and adults with asthma. Results are variable, and in the studies with positive results, mostly subjective but not objective (lung function test) changes are reported. Due to methodological problems and variable results, no clear conclusions can be drawn in this area. There is not enough reliable scientific evidence to conclude the effects of chiropractic techniques in the management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
  • Use extra caution during cervical adjustments. Use cautiously with acute arthritis, conditions that cause decreased bone mineralization, brittle bone disease, bone softening conditions, bleeding disorders, or migraines. Use cautiously with the risk of tumors or cancers. Avoid with symptoms of vertebrobasilar vascular insufficiency, aneurysms, unstable spondylolisthesis, or arthritis. Avoid with agents that increase the risk of bleeding. Avoid in areas of para-spinal tissue after surgery. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding due to a lack of scientific data.
  • Coenzyme Q10: CoQ10 may benefit asthma patients when added to other therapies. Further research is needed. Asthma should be treated by a qualified healthcare provider. Allergy has not been associated with Coenzyme Q10 supplements, although rash and itching have been reported rarely. Stop use two weeks before surgery/dental/diagnostic procedures with bleeding risk and do not use immediately after these procedures. Use caution with a history of blood clots, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke, or with anticoagulants (blood thinners) or antiplatelet drugs, or blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, or thyroid drugs. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Coleus: Coleus species have been used in the Asian traditional medicine to treat angina, asthma, bronchitis, epilepsy, insomnia, skin rashes, and a wide range of digestive problems. Pretreatment with coleus may be beneficial as a breathing aid for intubation, especially for middle-aged smokers. More research is needed.
  • Coleus is generally regarded as safe, as very few reports have documented adverse effects. However, only a few short-term trials have assessed its safety in a small sample size of patients. Avoid if allergic to Coleus forskohlii and related species or with bleeding disorders. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Cordyceps: Cordyceps may reduce some asthma symptoms. Additional studies are needed to make a firm recommendation. There is currently insufficient evidence from clinical study to draw a conclusion on the use of cordyceps for other respiratory disorders.
  • Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to cordyceps, mold, or fungi. Use cautiously with diabetes or bleeding disorders or if taking anticoagulant medications. Use cautiously with prostate conditions, if taking immunosuppressive medications, or if on hormonal replacement therapy or oral contraceptives. Avoid with myelogenous-type cancers. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Creatine: It is unclear if creatine may help treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Study results are mixed. More clinical trials are needed before a conclusion can be made. Avoid if allergic to creatine or with diuretics (like hydrochlorothiazide, furosemide (Lasix®)). Use caution in asthma, diabetes, gout, kidney, liver or muscle problems, stroke or a history of these conditions. Avoid dehydration. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Danshen: Danshen (Salvia miltiorrhiza) is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), often in combination with other herbs. Better studies are needed in which danshen is compared with more proven treatments for asthmatic bronchitis before a clear conclusion can be drawn.
  • Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to danshen. Use cautiously with altered immune states, arrhythmia, compromised liver function or a history of glaucoma, stroke, or ulcers. Stop use two weeks before surgery/dental/diagnostic procedures with bleeding risk, and do not use immediately after these procedures. Use cautiously if driving or operating heavy machinery. Avoid if taking blood thinners (anticoagulants), digoxin or hypotensives including ACE inhibitors such as captopri, or Sophora subprostrata root or herba serissae. Avoid with bleeding disorders, low blood pressure and following cerebal ischemia. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • English ivy: Currently, there is insufficient available information to recommend for or against the use of English ivy in treating asthma in children or in treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD). Additional study is needed.
  • Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to English ivy (Hedera helix), its constituents, or members of the Araliaceae family. In addition, crossreaction or cross-senstivity has been noted between Hedera helix and Dendropanax trifidus, Schefflera arboricola, dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), false ragweed (Ambrosia acanthicarpa), giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida), short ragweed (Ambrosia artemisifolia), sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), wild feverfew (Parthenium hysterophorus), yarrow (Achillea millifolium), and tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), and some Dahlia species. Use cautiously with cancer or taking antineoplastic (anticancer) agents. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Eucalyptus oil: Further research is needed to confirm anti-inflammatory and mucolytic activity of eucalyptus oil before it can be recommended in upper and lower airway diseases, such as asthma. Avoid if allergic to eucalyptus oil or with a history of seizure, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, abnormal heart rhythms, intestinal disorders, liver disease, kidney disease, or lung disease. Use caution if driving or operating machinery. Avoid with a history of acute intermittent porphyria. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding. A strain of bacteria found on eucalyptus may cause infection. Toxicity has been reported with oral and inhaled use.
  • Gingko: Ginkgo biloba has been used medicinally for thousands of years and is currently one of the top selling herbs in the United States. Ginkgo may reduce symptoms in patients with asthma. More study is needed to make a conclusion. Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to members of the Ginkgoaceaefamily. If allergy to mango rind, sumac, poison ivy or oak or cashews exists, then allergy to ginkgo is possible. Avoid with blood-thinners (like aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin®)) due to an increased risk of bleeding. Ginkgo should be stopped two weeks before surgical procedures. Ginkgo seeds are dangerous and should be avoided. Skin irritation and itching may also occur due to ginkgo allergies. Do not use ginkgo in supplemental doses if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Ginseng: Limited research suggests that ginseng has positive effects on breathing, such as its proposed role as a bronchodilator. Ginseng was reported to improve lung function and exercise capacity in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD). Several studies have also looked at the effects of ginseng in a variety of lung conditions. Early results are promising, but many studies have used combination products, making it difficult to evaluate the effect of ginseng. More research using ginseng alone is needed in this area. Avoid ginseng with a known allergy to plants in the Araliaceae family. There has been a report of a serious life-threatening skin reaction, possibly caused by contaminants in ginseng formulations.
  • Goji: In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), herbs are almost always administered in combination formulas consisting of several herbs that balance each other's effects and enhance the success of the treatment. A case study provides some initial objective data on the formula "Invigorating Kidney," which includes wolfberry together with six other herbs. This herbal decoction showed that it may be possible to reverse airway obstruction for patients convalescing from asthma.
  • Use cautiously in patients who are taking blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin. Use cautiously in asthma patients and in patients with sulfite sensitivities. The New York Department of Agriculture has detected the presence of undeclared sulfites, a food additive, in two dried goji berry products from China. Avoid in patients who are allergic to goji, any of its constituents, or to members of the Solanaceae family.
  • Green tea: Research has shown caffeine to cause improvements in airflow to the lungs (bronchodilation). However, it is not clear if caffeine or tea use has significant benefits in people with asthma. Better research is needed in this area before a conclusion can be drawn. Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to caffeine or tannins. Use cautiously with diabetes or liver disease.
  • Green-lipped mussel: Limited evidence suggests that green-lipped mussel supplementation may help allergic diseases, such as atopic asthma. Additional research is needed before a recommendation can be made. Green-lipped mussel is generally considered safe. Use cautiously with anti-inflammatory agents. Use cautiously with asthma. Avoid in patients with liver disease. Avoid with allergy or sensitivity to green-lipped mussel or other shellfish. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Guided imagery: A small study reports increased outcomes of relaxation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with use of guided imagery techniques. Additional research is needed to confirm these results. Guided imagery is usually intended to supplement medical care, not to replace it, and guided imagery should not be relied on as the sole therapy for a medical problem. Contact a qualified health care provider if mental or physical health is unstable or fragile. Never use guided imagery techniques while driving or doing any other activity that requires strict attention. Use cautiously with physical symptoms that can be brought about by stress, anxiety, or emotional upset because imagery may trigger these symptoms. If feeling unusually anxious while practicing guided imagery, or with a history of trauma or abuse, speak with a qualified health care provider before practicing guided imagery.
  • Hydrotherapy: There is preliminary evidence that daily breathing exercises in a warm pool may improve lung function measurements in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is not clear if this technique is superior to breathing exercises alone. Evidence from controlled trials is necessary before a clear conclusion can be drawn.
  • Avoid sudden or prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures in baths, wraps, saunas, or other forms of hydrotherapy, particularly with heart disease, lung disease, or if pregnant. Avoid with implanted medical devices like pacemakers, defibrillators, or hepatic (liver) infusion pumps. Vigorous use of water jets should be avoided with fractures, known blood clots, bleeding disorders, severe osteoporosis, open wounds, or during pregnancy. Use cautiously with Raynaud's disease, chilblains, acrocyanosis, erythrocyanosis, and impaired temperature sensitivity, such as neuropathy. Use cautiously if pregnant or breastfeeding. Hydrotherapy should not delay the time to diagnosis or treatment with more proven techniques or therapies, and should not be used as the sole approach to illnesses. Patients with known illnesses should consult their physician(s) before starting hydrotherapy.
  • Hypnotherapy, hypnosis: Preliminary research for the use of hypnosis for the management of asthma symptoms does not provide clear answers. Anxiety associated with asthma may be relieved with hypnosis. Additional research is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn. Use cautiously with mental illnesses like psychosis/schizophrenia, manic depression, multiple personality disorder or dissociative disorders. Use cautiously with seizure disorders.
  • Kiwi: Currently data on the therapeutic benefit of kiwi as a preventative for lung conditions is lacking. A survey study suggests that kiwi and other fruits high in vitamin C may be effective for the prevention of respiratory problems in children, especially wheezing. However, properly controlled studies are lacking at this time. More research is warranted before a recommendation can be made.
  • Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to kiwi, latex, birch pollen, banana, chestnut, fig, flour, melon, poppy seeds, rye grain, sesame seeds and related substances. Kiwi is generally considered safe when taken in amounts naturally found in foods. Use cautiously with anti-platelet drugs like aspirin, cilostazol or clopidogrel. Use cautiously with hormone therapies or serotonergic drugs. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding because there are no clinical trials that have tested its safety in supplemental doses. The amount found in foods appears to be safe in most people.
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus: Lactobacillus acidophilus has been suggested as a possible treatment for asthma. However, further research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be made. Acidophilus may be difficult to tolerate if allergic to dairy products containing L. acidophilus. Avoid with a history of an injury or illness of the intestinal wall, immune-disease, or heart valve surgery. Avoid with prescription drugs, like corticosteroids, because of the risk of infection. Use cautiously with heart murmurs. Antibiotics or alcohol may destroy Lactobacillus acidophilus. Therefore, it is recommended that Lactobacillus acidophilus be taken three hours after taking antibiotics or drinking alcohol. Some individuals can use antacids (like famotidine (Pepcid®), esomeprazole (Nexium®)) to decrease the amount of acid in the stomach one hour before taking Lactobacillus acidophilus.
  • L-Carnitine: Currently there is insufficient evidence to support the use of carnitine for respiratory distress in adults. Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to carnitine. Use cautiously with peripheral vascular disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), alcohol-induced liver cirrhosis, and diabetes. Use cautiously in low birth weight infants and individuals on hemodialysis. Use cautiously if taking anticoagulants (blood thinners), beta-blockers, or calcium channel blockers. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Lutein: There is early evidence of a role of carotenoids in lung function and severity of respiratory infections. However, there is no association between levels of lutein in the blood and illness severity in the elderly or in lung function in adults. More information is required in this field before a strong recommendation can be made. Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to lutein or zeaxanthin. Use cautiously if at risk for cardiovascular disease or cancer. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Lycopene: Laboratory research suggests that lycopene, like other carotenoids, may have antioxidant properties and may be helpful in the prevention of exercise-induced asthma. There is limited, poor-quality research in this area, and further evidence is needed before a firm conclusion can be made. Avoid if allergic to tomatoes or to lycopene. Due to a lack of conclusive data, avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Massage: Promising initial evidence suggests that massage therapy may improve lung function in children with asthma. Additional research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn. Avoid with bleeding disorders, low platelet counts, or if on blood-thinning medications (such as heparin or warfarin/Coumadin®). Areas should not be massaged where there are fractures, weakened bones from osteoporosis or cancer, open/healing skin wounds, skin infections, recent surgery, or blood clots. Use cautiously if history of physical abuse or if pregnant or breastfeeding. Massage should not be used as a substitute for more proven therapies for medical conditions. Massage should not cause pain to the client.
  • Meditation: Preliminary research of transcendental meditation® for asthma reports benefits. However, due to unclear design or study description, these results cannot be considered definitive.
  • Sahaja yoga, which incorporates meditation techniques, may have some benefit in the management of moderate to severe asthma. Further studies of meditation alone are needed before any a firm conclusion can be drawn.
  • Use cautiously with underlying mental illnesses. People with psychiatric disorders should consult with their primary mental healthcare professional(s) before starting a program of meditation, and should explore how meditation may or may not fit in with their current treatment plan. Avoid with risk of seizures. The practice of meditation should not delay the time to diagnosis or treatment with more proven techniques or therapies, and should not be used as the sole approach to illnesses.
  • Melatonin: Based on preliminary research, melatonin may improve sleep in asthma. Further studies that evaluate the long-term effects of melatonin on airway inflammation and bronchial hyper-responsiveness are needed before a firm conclusion can be made. Based on available studies and clinical use, melatonin is generally regarded as safe in recommended doses for short-term use. Available trials report that overall adverse effects are not significantly more common with melatonin than placebo. However, case reports raise concerns about risks of blood clotting abnormalities (particularly in patients taking warfarin), increased risk of seizure, and disorientation with overdose.
  • Mistletoe: Studies of Iscador® document improved clinical symptoms and markers of immune function in children with recurrent respiratory disease (RRD) exposed to the Chernobyl nuclear accident. There is currently insufficient evidence to recommend for or against mistletoe therapy for RDD in general. Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to mistletoe or to any of its constituents. Anaphylactic reactions (life threatening, shock) have been described after injections of mistletoe. Avoid with acute, highly febrile, inflammatory disease, thyroid disorders, seizure disorders or heart disease. Use caution with diabetes, glaucoma or with cholinergics.
  • Nasal irrigation: Early research suggests that hypertonic saline aerosol may benefit chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), by enhancing the clearance of lung secretions. More studies are needed. Nasal irrigation is generally well tolerated. Use cautiously with history of frequent nosebleeds. If the irrigation liquid is hot, the nose may become irritated.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, alpha linolenic acid: Several studies do not provide enough reliable evidence to form a clear conclusion on the use of fish oil for asthma. Because most studies have been small without clear descriptions of design or results, the results cannot be considered conclusive.
  • Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to fish, omega-3 fatty acid products that come from fish, nuts, linolenic acid or omega-3 fatty acid products that come from nuts. Avoid during active bleeding. Use cautiously with bleeding disorders, diabetes, low blood pressure or drugs, herbs or supplements that treat any such conditions. Use cautiously before surgery. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that intake be limited in pregnant/nursing women to a single 6-ounce meal per week, and in young children to less than 2 ounces per week. For farm-raised, imported, or marine fish, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that pregnant/nursing women and young children avoid eating types with higher levels of methylmercury and less than 12 ounces per week of other fish types. Women who might become pregnant are advised to eat 7 ounces or less per week of fish with higher levels of methylmercury or up to 14 ounces per week of fish types with about 0.5 parts per million (such as marlin, orange roughy, red snapper, or fresh tuna).
  • Para-aminobenzoic acid: Although limited available clinical study suggested that oral PAMBA (para-aminomethylbenzoic acid) administration helped to prevent asthma exacerbation following bronchoprovocation challenge, further studies are needed to confirm this effect.
  • Avoid oral use in children and pregnant or nursing women. PABA must be used with caution in patients with renal disease because of its predominantly renal route of excretion. Abnormalities of liver function tests have been noted in patients taking PABA. Monitoring may be indicated for higher doses (>8g per day). Blood sugar monitoring may be warranted in diabetics or patients at risk for hypoglycemia who are taking PABA systemically. Discontinue use if rash, nausea, or anorexia occurs. Pharmaceutical doses of PABA and its derivatives should only be taken under appropriate medical supervision.
  • Peppermint: There is currently not enough available scientific evidence on the use of peppermint for asthma. Use cautiously in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease or achlorhydria due to lower esophageal sphincter relaxing effects and reports of dyspepsia. Peppermint oil should be used cautiously by people with G6PD deficiency or gallbladder disease. Use cautiously in patients with hiatal hernia or kidney stones. Avoid injection of peppermint oil, as it may result in pulmonary edema and acute lung injury. Avoid topical use of peppermint oil around the facial or chest areas of infants and young children, especially around the nose, because the menthol constituent can induce apnea, laryngeal and bronchial spasm, acute respiratory distress with cyanosis, or respiratory arrest if applied directly to these areas.
  • Perilla: Preliminary evidence suggests some benefit of perilla oil for symptoms of asthma. Further clinical trials are required before a definitive conclusion can be reached. Avoid if allergic/hypersensitive to perilla or members of the Lamiaciae/Labiatae family. Use cautiously with cancer, low HDL-cholesterol and immune disorders. Use cautiously if taking NSAIDS or barbiturates. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Physical therapy: There is currently inconclusive evidence on the use of physical therapy for lung function. Chest physical therapy and physiotherapy breathing retraining have been studied in both children and adults to improve quality of life and improve lung function in severe and acute asthma. Early evidence is mixed. Studies often include combination treatment with drug therapy or are not well-designed, which make it difficult to assess the magnitude of benefit, if any, of physical therapy alone. More research is warranted. There may be a beneficial effect of respiratory rehabilitation in terms of improved tolerance to exercise and improved quality of life for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients. Studies have investigated the use of physical therapy with drugs, as well as the difference between manual and mechanical techniques; few studies have compared respiratory physiotherapy to control groups. Additional study is warranted.
  • Not all physical therapy programs are suited for everyone, and patients should discuss their medical history with a qualified healthcare professional before beginning any treatments. Physical therapy may aggravate pre-existing conditions. Persistent pain and fractures of unknown origin have been reported. Physical therapy may increase the duration of pain or cause limitation of motion. Pain and anxiety may occur during the rehabilitation of patients with burns. Both morning stiffness and bone erosion have been reported in the physical therapy literature although causality is unclear. Erectile dysfunction has also been reported. Physical therapy has been used in pregnancy and although reports of major adverse effects are lacking in the available literature, caution is advised nonetheless. All therapies during pregnancy and breastfeeding should be discussed with a licensed obstetrician/gynecologist before initiation.
  • Pomegranate: It is unclear whether pomegranate juice is helpful for chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD). In theory, pomegranate may be beneficial because of its antioxidant effects, but studies in humans do not support this theory. Additional studies in this area are warranted.
  • Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to pomegranate. Avoid with diarrhea or high or low blood pressure. Avoid taking pomegranate fruit husk with oil or fats to treat parasites. Pomegranate root/stem bark should only be used under supervision of a qualified healthcare professional. Use cautiously with liver damage or disease. Pomegranate supplementation can be unsafe during pregnancy when taken by mouth. The bark, root and fruit rind can cause menstruation or uterine contractions. Avoid if breastfeeding due to a lack of scientific data.
  • Probiotics: Laser acupuncture plus probiotics may help prevent asthma attacks in school-aged children with intermittent or mild persistent asthma. More research with probiotics alone is needed. Probiotics are generally considered safe and well-tolerated. Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to probiotics. Use cautiously if lactose intolerant. Caution is advised when using probiotics in neonates born prematurely or with immune deficiency.
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may decrease anxiety and depression, but it does not seem to improve physical performance. Supportive psychotherapy may reduce psychiatric symptoms of patients with emphysema. More research is needed in this area.
  • Psychotherapy is not always sufficient to resolve mental or emotional conditions. Psychiatric medication is sometimes needed. The reluctance to seek and use appropriate medication may contribute to worsening of symptoms or increased risk for poor outcomes. In order to be successful, psychotherapy requires considerable personal motivation and investment in the process. This includes consistent attendance and attention to treatment recommendations provided by the practitioner. Not all therapists are sufficiently qualified to work with all problems. The client or patient should seek referrals from trusted sources and should also inquire of the practitioner's training and background before committing to work with a particular therapist. Some forms of psychotherapy evoke strong emotional feelings and expression. This can be disturbing for people with serious mental illness or some medical conditions. Psychotherapy may help with post-partum depression, but is not a substitute for medication, which may be needed in severe cases.
  • Qi gong: Qi gong is a type of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that is thought to be at least 4,000 years old. Some research suggests that the regular practice of internal Qi gong over several months may improve breathing in asthma. Further research is needed to confirm these results. Qi gong is generally considered to be safe in most people when learned from a qualified instructor. Use cautiously with psychiatric disorders.
  • Relaxation therapy: Preliminary studies of relaxation techniques in individuals with asthma report a significant decrease in asthma symptoms, anxiety and depression, along with improvements in quality of life and measures of lung function. Further large trials in humans are needed to confirm these results. Avoid with psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia/psychosis. Jacobson relaxation (flexing specific muscles, holding that position, then relaxing the muscles) should be used cautiously with illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure, or musculoskeletal injury. Relaxation therapy is not recommended as the sole treatment approach for potentially serious medical conditions, and should not delay the time to diagnosis or treatment with more proven techniques.
  • Sanicle: Sanicle (Sanicula europaea, Sanicula europa), a perennial plant in the Apiaceae family, has been studied for use in asthma. More evidence is needed before a recommendation can be made. Avoid if allergic or sensitive to sanicle. Use cautiously with stomach problems. Use cautiously if taking blood pressure-lowering or diuretic drugs. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Selenium: Preliminary research reports that selenium supplementation may help improve asthma symptoms. Further research is needed to confirm these results. Avoid if allergic or sensitive to products containing selenium. Avoid with history of nonmelanoma skin cancer. Selenium is generally regarded as safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women. However, animal research reports that large doses of selenium may lead to birth defects.
  • Spiritual healing: It is not clear whether spiritual healing has any effect on symptoms or quality of life in asthma patients. Further research is needed. Spiritual healing should not be used as the only treatment approach for medical or psychiatric conditions, and should not delay the time it takes to consider more proven therapies.
  • Tai chi: Tai chi practice may help improve lung function after lung removal. More study is needed in this area. Avoid with severe osteoporosis or joint problems, acute back pain, sprains, or fractures. Avoid during active infections, right after a meal, or when very tired. Some believe that visualization of energy flow below the waist during menstruation may increase menstrual bleeding. Straining downwards or holding low postures should be avoided during pregnancy, and by people with inguinal hernias. Some tai chi practitioners believe that practicing for too long or using too much intention may direct the flow of chi (qi) inappropriately, possibly resulting in physical or emotional illness. Tai chi should not be used as a substitute for more proven therapies for potentially serious conditions. Advancing too quickly while practicing tai chi may increase the risk of injury.
  • Thymus extract: Preliminary evidence suggests that thymus extract may be useful for asthma symptom reduction and for reducing disease exacerbations and hospital admission related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). More clinical trials are required before recommendations can be made involving thymus extract for these uses.
  • Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to thymus extracts. Use bovine thymus extract supplements cautiously due to potential for exposure to the virus that causes "mad cow disease." Avoid use with an organ transplant or other forms of allografts or xenografts. Avoid if receiving immunosuppressive therapy, with thymic tumors, myasthenia gravis (neuromuscular disorder), untreated hypothyroidism, or if taking hormonal therapy. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding; thymic extract increases human sperm motility and progression.
  • Traditional Chinese medicine: Laser acupuncture and probiotics provided a beneficial clinical effect in children with asthma. Further studies are needed to confirm these findings. Herbs used with Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) have been reported to improve symptoms and improve immune function in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients. Needles must be sterile in order to avoid disease transmission. Avoid with valvular heart disease, infections, bleeding disorders or with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding (anticoagulants), medical conditions of unknown origin, neurological disorders. Avoid on areas that have received radiation therapy and during pregnancy. Use cautiously with pulmonary disease (like asthma or emphysema). Use cautiously in elderly or medically compromised patients, diabetics or with history of seizures. Avoid electroacupuncture with arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) or in patients with pacemakers.
  • Tylophora: Available studies of Tylophora for asthma show conflicting results. Methodologically weak trials make extrapolation to clinical practice difficult. Therefore, efficacy remains unproven. Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to tylophora.
  • Vitamin B6: Preliminary research suggests that children with severe asthma may have inadequate pyridoxine status. Theophylline, a prescription drug used to help manage asthma, seems to lower pyridoxine levels. Studies of pyridoxine supplementation in asthma patients taking theophylline yield conflicting results. Further research is needed before a conclusion can be drawn. Avoid vitamin B6 products if sensitive or allergic to any of ingredients in product formulations. Some individuals seem to be particularly sensitive to vitamin B6 and may have problems at lower doses. Avoid excessive dosing. Vitamin B6 is likely safe when used orally in doses not exceeding the recommended dietary allowance (RDA). Use cautiously if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Vitamin C: It has been suggested that low levels of vitamin C (or other antioxidants) may increase the risk of developing asthma. The use of vitamin C for asthma has been studied since the 1980s (particularly exercise-induced asthma), although the evidence in this area remains inconclusive. Additional research is necessary before a clear conclusion can be drawn.
  • Avoid if allergic or sensitive to vitamin C product ingredients. Vitamin C is generally considered safe in amounts found in foods. Vitamin C supplements are also generally considered safe in most individuals if taken in recommended doses. Avoid high doses of vitamin C with glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, kidney disorders or stones, cirrhosis (inflammation of the liver), gout, or paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (bleeding disorder). Vitamin C intake from food is generally considered safe if pregnant or breastfeeding. It is not clear if vitamin C supplements in doses higher than Dietary Reference Intake recommendations are safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Vitamin C is naturally found in breast milk.
  • Fair negative scientific evidence:
  • Evening primrose oil: Small studies do not show evening primrose oil to be useful in the treatment of asthma. Further research is needed to confirm this conclusion.
  • Reflexology: Reflexology is based on the concept that areas of the feet correspond to other parts of the body, and stimulation of these areas on the feet can affect the associated body part. In addition to the feet, some practitioners perform reflexology of the ears and hands. So far, studies have shown that reflexology is no better than placebo at treating asthma.
  • Vitamin E: There is preliminary evidence that vitamin E does not provide benefits in individuals with asthma.
  • Strong negative scientific evidence:
  • L-arginine: Although it has been suggested that arginine may be a treatment for asthma, studies in humans have actually found that arginine worsens inflammation in the lungs and contributes to asthma symptoms. Therefore, taking arginine by mouth or by inhalation is not recommended in people with asthma.

Prevention
  • Avoidance of known allergens: Asthma is strongly associated with allergies, and exposure to allergens can worsen asthma symptoms.
  • Avoidance of secondhand smoke: Children are especially susceptible to developing asthma or experience a worsening in symptoms if they are exposed to secondhand smoke. Children breathing secondhand smoke are more likely to suffer from bronchitis and pneumonia, ear infections, coughing and wheezing, and more frequent and severe asthma attacks.

Related definitions
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or chronic obstructive lung disease: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), also known as chronic obstructive lung disease, is a general term for diseases that damage the lungs. It is estimated that more than 16 million Americans have some form of COPD. The two main COPDs include chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Asthma is also considered a COPD.
  • COPD develops over many years, and smoking tobacco is almost always the cause of the disease.
  • The most common symptoms of COPD are chronic coughing and shortness of breath. Individuals who have COPD may be more susceptible to colds and the flu. The heart may become enlarged because it is strained. In addition, many COPD patients may experience high blood pressure.
  • There is no cure for COPD. Treatment varies, depending on the specific condition. It can range from medication and oxygen supplementation to transplant surgery. Bronchodilators are commonly used to relax the bronchi muscles that can cause bronchospasms and restrict the airways. Bronchodilators are either short-acting or long-acting.
  • Emphysema: Nearly three million Americans have been diagnosed with emphysema, and it is estimated that millions more are in the early, asymptomatic stages of the disease.
  • The most common cause of emphysema is smoking tobacco. Tobacco smoke temporarily paralyzes the cilia (small hairs) the line the bronchial tubes. The cilia are designed to filter irritants out of the airways. However, when the cilia are paralyzed, irritants remain in the bronchial tubes and infiltrate the alveoli, inflaming the tissue and breaking down the elastic fibers.
  • A minority of patients develop emphysema as a result of low levels of alpha-1-antitrypsin (AAt). This protein protects the elastic fibers in the lungs from being destroyed by certain enzymes. Therefore, this hereditary condition causes progressive lung damage, which can result in emphysema.
  • Emphysema causes the air sacs in the walls of the lungs lose elasticity. Eventually, the walls stretch and break, which creates larger, less efficient air sacs. It becomes difficult for the patient to breathe. Common symptoms include chronic, mild cough, loss of appetite, weight loss and fatigue.
  • There is currently no cure for emphysema. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms and preventing complications. Smokers are advised to abstain from smoking in order to prevent the symptoms from worsening. Medications often include bronchodilators, inhaled steroids, supplemental oxygen, protein therapy, antibiotics (for respiratory infections), lung volume reduction surgery and lung transplant. Pulmonary rehabilitation therapy is also available for patients.
  • Since smoking causes most cases of emphysema, the best prevention method is to abstain from smoking tobacco.
  • Dyspnea: Dyspnea is a term that describes difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. This is a common symptom of many medical disorders, especially COPD.
  • Airway obstruction: Airway obstruction describes partial or complete blockage of the airway passages to the lungs. The cause of this condition varies greatly. Possible causes include allergic reactions, infections, anatomical abnormalities, trauma and foreign substances (e.g. choking). An early sign of airway obstruction is agitation, which may cause individuals to cough suddenly. Signs of respiratory distress include labored, ineffective breathing and loss of consciousness if the obstruction is not removed or relieved.
  • Treatment for airway constriction depends on the underlying cause. If it is an allergic reaction, medication may be prescribed and the patient should avoid exposure to the allergen. Anatomical abnormalities may require surgery to open the airways. Infections may require antibiotics. If an adult is choking, the Heimlich maneuver should be performed.

Classifications of asthma
  • Asthma is classified as either allergic or non-allergic. Both conditions cause airway obstruction and inflammation that is partly reversible by medication. They also produce the same symptoms. The main difference, however, is their cause.
  • Allergic (extrinsic) asthma: An allergic reaction triggers what is known as allergic asthma. Inhaled allergens like dust mites, mold spores, pollen and pet dander may trigger allergic asthma. It is the most common form of asthma, affecting more than 50% of asthma sufferers.
  • Non-allergic (intrinsic) asthma: Non-allergic asthma is not related to allergies and does not involve the immune system. Instead, factors like anxiety, stress, exercise, cold air, dry air, smoke, hyperventilation, viruses and other irritants trigger the disease.

Types of asthma
  • Childhood asthma:
  • Nine million U.S. children, from newborns to 18-year-olds, have been diagnosed with asthma, according to a 2002 National Health Interview Survey.
  • Asthma rates in children younger than five years old have increased more than 160% from 1980 to 1994. One study found a strong correlation between obesity and asthma, but no similar relationship between obesity and allergies. Researchers believe that asthma was the result of the increased physical exertion of the lungs in obese individuals.
  • Many children with asthma have what is known as allergic asthma. In such cases, exposure to allergens like dust mites, pollen, mold and animal dander may irritate the airways, causing even more constriction, as well as causing the production of excess mucus and inflammation of the airway passages.
  • Adult onset asthma:
  • Asthma symptoms may appear at any time in life. Individuals who develop asthma as adults have what is known as adult onset asthma. It is possible to develop asthma at the age of 50 or later.
  • Unlike children who usually experience intermittent symptoms, individuals with adult onset asthma are more likely to experience persistent symptoms.
  • The cause of adult onset asthma is unknown. However, some evidence suggests that allergy and asthma may be genetically inherited.
  • In addition, obesity appears to significantly increase the risk of developing asthma as an adult.
  • Pregnancy and asthma:
  • Asthma is one of the most common, potentially serious medical problems that occur during pregnancy. According to some studies, asthma may complicate up to seven percent of all pregnancies.
  • Researchers estimate that about one-third of pregnant women with asthma will experience increased symptoms during the pregnancy; another third will experience the same symptoms, while the last third will experience a lessening of symptoms.
  • Pregnant women with asthma have an increased risk of delivering prematurely or giving birth to an infant with low birth weight. In addition, pregnant women with asthma are more likely to experience hypertension (high blood pressure) or a related condition called pre-eclampsia (swelling, high blood pressure and kidney malfunction).
  • If asthma is not controlled, the mother has lower levels of oxygen in her blood. This may result in decreased oxygen in the fetal blood, which may also cause growth deficiencies or death in the fetus.
  • However, proper treatment and management of asthma symptoms helps reduce the risk of complications, according to research.
  • Aspirin-induced asthma:
  • Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen (Advil® or Motrin®), may cause asthma symptoms, nasal congestion, watery eyes and, occassionally, facial flushing and swelling in about 10% of asthmatics. Since sensitization and IgE production are not involved in aspirin-sensitive asthma, it is not considered an allergic reaction.
  • In the body, these drugs inhibit the cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) enzyme, which produces inflammation and fever. Their ability to inhibit the enzyme allows NSAIDs to reduce pain, inflammation and fever.
  • Inhibiting the enzyme also allows NSAIDs to clear the way for different enzymes that have adverse effects in some people. One of these enzymes triggers the release of chemicals that can cause the airways to swell and increase mucus production, leading to an asthma attack. The process is an unwanted side effect NSAIDs, not an immune-system reaction to NSAIDs.
  • Asthmatics and especially asthmatics who also have nasal polyps, are vulnerable to asthma as a side effect of aspirin and aspirin-like drugs.

Severity of asthma
  • Mild intermittent: Symptoms occur twice a week or less. Exacerbations are short and the intensity varies. Nighttime symptoms occur twice a month or less.
  • Mild persistent: Symptoms occur more than twice a week but less than once a day. Exacerbations may affect daily activities. Nighttime symptoms occur more than twice a month.
  • Moderate persistent: Symptoms occur daily. Exacerbations occur twice a week or more. Nighttime symptoms occur more than once a week.
  • Severe persistent: Symptoms are constant and limit the individual's physical activities. Frequent exacerbations disrupt daily activities, and nighttime symptoms occur more than twice a week.

Predisposition to asthma
  • Infants or young children who wheeze and suffer from viral upper respiratory infections.
  • Individuals with strong allergies.
  • Individuals with a family history of asthma and/or allergy.
  • Perinatal exposure to tobacco smoke and allergens.

Types of inhalers
  • Dry powder-inhaler: Dry-powder inhalers are the most common inhalers used today. This type of inhaler does not need a propellant. Instead, the individual inhales the medicine so it can reach the lung. Children, people with severe asthma and people suffering from acute attacks may be unable to produce enough airflow to use these inhalers successfully.
  • Metered-dose inhaler: The most efficient way to get asthma medication into the airways is with a metered-dose inhaler (MDI). When used properly, about 12-14% of the medication is inhaled deep into the lungs with each puff of the MDI. They are especially important for delivering quick relief medication - short-acting beta agonists - that relieve an acute asthma attack. MDIs are also used to deliver some long-term control medications, including anti-inflammatories and long-acting bronchodilators, which are taken routinely to manage asthma symptoms. An MDI is especially recommended for use with inhaled steroids because it reduces the amount of drug dispersed into the mouth, which reduces the risk of side effects.
  • Metered-dose inhalers are designed to release a pre-measured amount of medication into the lungs. There are several different types, but in general, they all have a chamber that holds the medication and a propellant that turns the medication into a fine mist. A button is pushed to force the medication out through the mouthpiece.
  • Medication that is inhaled acts more quickly than medication taken by mouth. It also causes few adverse effects because the medication goes directly to the lungs and not to other parts of the body.
  • If an MDI is not used correctly, symptoms may persist or worsen. Individuals who have trouble using the device correctly may use a spacer to help them get the medication they need. Spacers are attached to the mouthpiece, and they hold the discharged, pre-measured medication in a chamber until the patient breathes in. Spacers are recommended for young children and older adults who have trouble coordinating breathing and activating the MDI.
  • Nebulizer: A nebulizer is an electrical device that sends medicine directly into the mouth by a tube (or mask in children). This method does not require hand-breath coordination. The patient puts the prescribed amount of medication into the tube, and then places the tube in the mouth (or places the mask over the child's nose and mouth). Then the patient breathes normally until all of the medication is gone.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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