Common home remedies for asthma on a table
Common home remedies for asthma on a table
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4 asthma “cures” you need to stop using right now

Don't fall for false home remedies to treat your asthma. Learn the facts.

Asthma is a dangerous condition that affects your ability to breathe by constricting your airways with inflammation and mucus.

Fortunately, asthma is manageable with proper treatment.1 Over 300 million people live and breathe comfortably using inhalers and controlling allergens in their homes.

But asthma symptoms can still be frightening. These symptoms can include:

  • Shallow breathing and pain or tightness in your chest
  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Being unable to speak because of a lack of breath

If you’ve seen your doctor for asthma, you’ve probably used inhalers and medications to control your symptoms.2 Serious asthma attacks may even have required a trip or two to urgent care or the hospital.

These treatments may not always seem to work, and medical care for asthma can be expensive.

That’s why so many home remedies have become popular. They claim to make asthma symptoms go away without an inhaler or a trip to the ER. And as global air pollution increases, more people are becoming affected by asthma. This has vastly driven up demand for quick home “cures,” so it can feel impossible to sort through all the science behind these claims.

That’s why we’re giving you a breakdown of the five most popular asthma “cures.”

We’ll help you make sense of the facts, the fictions, and the potentially dangerous results of these claims.

Garlic

The Claims

You can’t research home remedies for asthma without running into garlic.

Because of garlic’s anti-inflammatory characteristics, garlic is thought to be effective against both allergy and asthma symptoms caused by histamine. Histamine is a compound in your body that causes inflammation in your airways.3,4

Using garlic for asthma is an attractive prospect. It’s cheap and delicious: you can eat cloves of garlic raw, cook it into your food and even take it as a dietary supplement. But is garlic really worth it?

The Facts

Aside from giving you bad breath, eating too much raw garlic (more than 1-2 cloves a day) can have dangerous side effects.

Garlic reduces histamine production by affecting the H1 histamine receptor, the cause of many allergy symptoms. However, asthma is not stimulated by the H1 receptor, so garlic has little to no impact on its histamine-related symptoms. In fact, another histamine receptor, H4, may be more crucial for understanding what causes asthma as opposed to allergies.5

Garlic contains proteins that can promote inflammation even if you’re not exposed to asthma triggers. It’s possible for your asthma symptoms to become worse after you’ve consumed garlic. Having too much garlic can even cause an asthma attack to happen on its own.6

It’s possible for your asthma symptoms to become worse after you’ve consumed garlic.

Garlic’s also a natural blood thinner. Eating garlic regularly can cause heavy bleeding after an injury or during surgery. Garlic can make these effects more severe if you’re already taking blood thinners like aspirin.

Echinacea

The Claims

Many people take echinacea to boost their immune system function and fight colds.7,8 Echinacea is thought to be effective in relieving asthma symptoms, too, because of its anti-inflammatory characteristics.

Echinacea is widely available as an herbal supplement, juice or tea. It’s often coupled with goldenseal. This herb is purported to help relieve symptoms of muscle spasms, stomach problems, and even cancer.

The Facts

Echinacea is dangerous to take for asthma. Because asthma is caused by an immune system response that tightens your airways, the immune-boosting properties of echinacea can make your asthma symptoms more severe.9,10

The immune-boosting properties of echinacea can make your asthma symptoms more severe.

Echinacea comes from a plant genus called the coneflowers. This genus comprises nine different species. Many manufacturers don’t specify which species they use in their supplements. You may have an allergy to one of these species and not know it.11 In these cases, taking an echinacea supplement can make your asthma symptoms worse as well as cause severe allergy symptoms, such as:

  • Skin rashes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightening of your throat

Caffeine

The Claims

Research suggests that caffeine can open your airways for up to four hours after asthma symptoms appear.12 This is because it has similar effects to an asthma medication called theophylline.

Caffeine and theophylline are both bronchodilators. They dilate, or open up, passages in your airways that give oxygen to your lungs.13 Bronchodilators have become widely used to treat asthma because they act quickly to improve breathing during an asthma attack.

But can your cup of coffee really soothe your asthma symptoms?

The Facts

Caffeine can increase your heart rate and cause high blood pressure and insomnia. Some of these side effects can induce anxiety or panic attacks, which can make it even harder for you to breathe during an asthma attack. Coffee also contains salicylates, which you might be especially intolerant to if you have asthma.14

Even having small amounts of caffeine (100-200 milligrams) during an asthma attack can cause these symptoms if you’re not used to consuming caffeine. Having too much caffeine (400 milligrams or more) can cause heart palpitations and fever.15 If you’re already taking an asthma medication that contains theophylline, caffeine can magnify these symptoms.

Asthma diets

The Claims

Your diet can have a positive effect on your asthma. Losing weight can help you breathe easier and make some asthma symptoms less severe.

Also, foods rich in antioxidants, magnesium, and vitamins A and D may be able to reduce asthma symptoms.16,17,18

The Facts

Simply adding new vitamins or foods to your diet won’t treat your asthma on its own.19

In most cases, you’ll need to reconsider your entire diet and lifestyle to ensure that any nutritional changes benefit your asthma symptoms.20 Changing your diet suddenly or without professional guidance can quickly lead to a deficiency in important nutrients.

5 Steps you can take to control your asthma

  • Follow your doctor’s orders. If you’re seeing a medical professional for asthma treatment, closely follow any instructions or treatment plans your doctor gives you. Ask your doctor before starting any home remedies or dietary changes. This not only helps you keep your symptoms under control but also keep you from unintentionally harming yourself with unproven home treatments.
  • Monitor your Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Indoor pollutants from cooking, smoking and cleaning chemicals can all trigger asthma symptoms. AirVisual Pro by IQAir is an air quality monitor that empowers you to monitor pollutant levels in your indoor and outdoor air so that you know when to act to improve your ambient air quality.
  • Avoid your triggers. Asthma is often triggered by your lifestyle as well as exposure to chemicals and allergens. Limit or remove these triggers from your environment to help prevent asthma symptoms:
    • Exercise indoors when outdoor air quality is poor or when it’s cold and dry outside.
    • Wear an N95 respirator mask to keep yourself from breathing in asthma triggers.
    • Take steps to prevent and remove mold if it’s triggering your asthma.
  • Limit your exposure to pets that produce dander, including dogs, cats and birds. If you can’t bear to be away from your pet, make sure they’re not allowed in areas where you eat, sleep or spend a lot of time.
  • Use a high-performance air purifier to reduce asthma triggers in the air. The HealthPro Plus® by IQAir is the #1 rated room air purifier for allergies and asthma, filtering 99.5% of particles down to 0.003 microns from the air. This includes asthma triggers like dust, pet dander, and mold spores.
  • Keep your home at an optimal humidity level. Your home’s relative humidity (RH) should be around 40%. Use a humidifier if it’s too low, as your airways can dry out and increase your risk of asthma symptoms. Try a dehumidifier if humidity is too high, as dust mites and mold spores can multiply and trigger symptoms.

Never use any home remedy for asthma unless your doctor says it’s okay. When you introduce new substances into your body, you may not know exactly what they’re doing to your body until it’s too late.

Never use any home remedy for asthma unless your doctor says it’s okay.

Most home remedies for asthma probably won’t do you any real harm. But don’t rely on them for relief. See your doctor to create an asthma action plan so that you always know exactly what to do when poor air quality or allergens trigger your symptoms.21

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FOOTNOTES

[1] How is severe asthma treated? (2017).
https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/severe-asthma/treating-severe-asthma/how-is-severe-asthma-treated/

[2] Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016). Asthma attack.
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma-attack/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354274

[3] Garlic. (2015).
http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/garlic

[4] Kashiwakura J, et al. (2011). Histamine-releasing factor has a proinflammatory role in mouse models of asthma and allergy. DOI: 10.1172/JCI59072

[5] Dunford PJ, et al. (2010). The role of histamine in asthma.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21618887

[6] Arreola R, et al. (2015). Immunomodulation and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Garlic Compounds.
DOI: 10.1155/2015/401630

[7] Schapowal A, et al. (2015). Echinacea reduces the risk of recurrent respiratory tract infections and complications: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
DOI: 10.1007/s12325-015-0194-4

[8] Vimalanthan S, et al. (2017). Echinacea purpurea extract can reverse respiratory virus induced secondary bacterial infection.
DOI: 10.1055/s-0037-1608444

[9] Echinacea. (2016).
http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/echinacea

[10] Echinacea. (2016).
https://nccih.nih.gov/health/echinacea/ataglance.htm

[11] Bielory L. (2002). Adverse reactions to complementary and alternative medicine: ragweed's cousin, the coneflower (echinacea), is “a problem more than a sneeze”.
DOI: 10.1016/S1081-1206(10)63585-5

[12] Bara AI, et al. (2010). Caffeine for asthma.
DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001112

[13] Singh M. (1999). Caffeine and asthma.
http://www.indianpediatrics.net/dec-99/99-dec-20.htm

[14] Baenkler H. (2008). Salicylate intolerance: Pathophysiology, clinical spectrum, diagnosis and treatment.
DOI: 10.3238/arztebl.2008.0137

[15] Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Caffeine: How much is too much?
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20045678

[16] Moreira A, et al. (2004). Increased dietary beta-carotene intake associated with better asthma quality of life.
DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2004.01.582

[17] Gilliland FD, et al. (2002). Dietary magnesium, potassium, sodium, and children’s lung function.
DOI: 10.1093/aje/155.2.125

[18] Asthma. (2015).
https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/health-conditions/asthma/

[19] Allan K, et al. (2011). Diet and asthma: Nutrition implications from prevention to treatment.
DOI: 10.1016/j.jada.2010.10.048

[20] Han Y, et al. (2016). Diet and asthma: An update.
DOI: 10.1097/ACI.0000000000000179

[21] Asthma. (n.d.).
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/asthma#Treatment

Air Quality Life is brought to you by The IQAir Group, the world’s leading innovator of Indoor Air Quality solutions since 1963. This online publication is designed to educate and inform the public about the latest research and news affecting indoor and outdoor air quality.

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