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Herbal Remedies for Breathing Problems

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Herbal Remedies for Breathing Problems
Butterbur Photo Credit Zoonar/Heike Rau/Zoonar/Getty Images

If you have breathing problems, certain herbal remedies may help by improving your airflow, clearing mucus congestion and boosting your lung function. Breathing problems are often caused by medical conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. These conditions can constrict your airways, fill your lungs with mucus and reduce your lungs’ air capacity. Be sure to discuss with your doctor any herbal remedies you’re taking to ensure that the herbs won’t interact negatively with any other medications you’re taking.

Butterbur

Herbal remedies made from butterbur may help to treat breathing problems, particularly asthma symptoms. Taking butterbur may improve your airflow to your lungs, notes the University of Michigan Health System. A double-blind study published in 2004 found that adults with asthma who were already taking inhaled steroids experienced substantially better airflow improvement from taking butterbur extract than the placebo.

Boswellia

Taking boswellia may also help to treat breathing problems due to its anti-inflammatory effects, says the University of Michigan Health System. For example, a six-week-long, double-blind study of people with acute bronchial asthma found that taking 300 mg of boswellia resin extract three times per day substantially reduced the frequency of asthma attacks and improved breathing ability, compared with the placebo group.

Ivy Leaf

Dried ivy leaf may also help to treat asthma symptoms. No meaningful results from medical studies have indicated that ivy leaf is effective in treating breathing conditions like COPD, but it may have benefits for people with asthma. For instance, a controlled clinical trial found that taking 25 drops of ivy leaf extract twice each day improved oxygen and air flow to the lungs in children with bronchial asthma, notes the University of Michigan Health System.

Ginkgo

Ginkgo biloba extract can help to treat asthma symptoms.
Ginkgo biloba extract can help to treat asthma symptoms.

Ginkgo biloba extract may help to relieve your asthma symptoms. Ginkgo extract acts to block a specific compound called platelet-activating factor, or PAF, which plays a role in instigating asthma symptoms, explains the University of Michigan Health System. If you have asthma, you can take 3 to 4 mL of ginkgo tincture or 120 to 240 mg of ginkgo extract three times daily.

Lobelia

Lobelia may help to dilate your airway passages and reduce bronchial spasms.
Lobelia may help to dilate your airway passages and reduce bronchial spasms.

Lobelia may help to treat a wide range of breathing problems, including asthma and COPD. Lobelia acts as an expectorant to clear your lungs of mucus and congestion, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center. Lobelia has been used in traditional medicine to treat asthma due to its anti-spasmodic and bronchodilating actions, notes the University of Michigan Health System.

Mullein

Mullein may reduce airway inflammation and provide expectorant actions.
Mullein may reduce airway inflammation and provide expectorant actions.

Mullein may have anti-inflammatory effects that can help in treating breathing problems. Like lobelia, you can take mullein to help keep your lungs clear of mucus, says the University of Maryland Medical Center. Although this herb hasn’t been studied in treating asthma or COPD, the typical dose of mullein is 3 grams daily.

Echinacea, Wild Indigo & White Cedar

When combined with wild indigo and white cedar, echinacea can help to ttreat COPD.
When combined with wild indigo and white cedar, echinacea can help to ttreat COPD.

If you have COPD, or chronic bronchitis, taking a combination of echinacea, wild indigo and white cedar extracts may help to improve your lung function and breathing, says the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. A double-blind clinical trial of people with chronic bronchitis found that taking antibiotics with this herbal extract mixture increased the study participants’ lung-function improvements more rapidly than those who took the placebo and antibiotics.

Essential Oil Monoterpenes

Certain essential oils may help to improve your breathing. A combination of the essential oils from eucalyptus, citrus and pine extracts, called essential oil monoterpenes, may help in several different ways, says the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Essential oil therapy with these herbs has been studied in people with COPD, or chronic bronchitis. One double-blind clinical trial involving 246 individuals with COPD found that taking essential oil monoterpenes orally for three months may prevent chronic bronchitis flare-ups. Another smaller double-blind study found that taking the essential oil combination can improve the effectiveness of antibiotics used for COPD flare-ups.

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