Healthy Q & A: Natural Help for Asthma

Q:  Both myself and my daughter have asthma.  It isn’t as severe as some people have, but we always have to have our rescue inhalers with us just in case.  I’ve heard there are some natural things that can help for people with asthma, so I wondered if there were any supplements for asthma that you’d suggest.


A:  Asthma can run in families, which seems to be the case with you and your daughter, though there are also environmental factors that can contribute to the incidence of asthma.  The prevalence of asthma is increasing in America, especially among children.  According to the EPA, about 23 million people, including 6.8 million children, have asthma and 12 million people report having an asthma attack in the past year. Asthma accounts for nearly 17 million physician office and hospital visits, and nearly 2 million emergency department visits each year.

The reason for this increase has been linked to our increasingly “indoor culture”.  Most people think of the outdoors when they think of air pollution, but the levels of indoor air pollutants may be two to five times higher (and occasionally more than 100 times higher) than outdoor levels, according to EPA. 

Much of this pollution is caused by the chemicals we use to clean our homes.  Replacing chemical household cleansers with natural, environmentally friendly versions can go a long way to reducing the toxin levels in our homes.  Seventh Generation, Ecover, and BioKleen and just a few of the many wonderful companies that have full lines of natural household cleansers which are safe for humans, pets, and the environment.

There are natural supplements which can help with reducing asthma symptoms.  The two I would most recommend are pycnogenol and NAC.

Though pycnogenol, an extract of French maritime pine bark, is not a well known supplement, it has been the study of over 70 trials in the past 30 years.  One placebo controlled study on pycnogenol at the

University of Arizona gave asthma patients 1 mg per pound of body weight daily.   No adverse effects were reported and almost all responded favorably to pycnogenol for their asthma symptoms and experienced improvements in breathing in contrast to the placebo.

Pycnogenol has also been studied on children with asthma.  One study, published in the Journal of Asthma, found that 60 children aged six to 18 years old were able to significantly reduce or discontinue their use of rescue inhalers more often than the placebo group.  Their breathing improved after only one month and continued to improve with further treatment.  The severity of their asthma symptoms also decreased the longer the children took Pycnogenol.

Recent research has even found that using inhalers for asthma may not be as effective as once thought.  An article from cited a study which determined that using inhalers for asthma was not any more effective than a placebo, though the placebo effect is very strong.

Another supplement that can be beneficial for asthma is the amino acid N-Acetyl Cysteine, more commonly known as NAC.  NAC has been shown to be useful for a variety of lung problems, including asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and influenza.  NAC works by helping to dissolve the thick mucus that is present in the lungs, which can be especially beneficial for people suffering with asthma.  NAC also has the benefit of helping the body to synthesize important antioxidants.  NAC may also help repair damage and inflammation in the lungs.