Herbal Remedies for Asthma

If you're dealing with asthma, you know the annoying symptoms: swelling of passageways, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and tightness of chest. However, you're not alone. Asthma is on the rise since the 1980s across age groups, sex and racial groups. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 18.4 million adults and 6.2 million children have asthma. The staggering rise in asthma is not quite understood but two theories are: increased exposure to environmental toxins and loss of structural integrity in the pediatric population associated with lack of physical activity and poor posture in children (hunching for hours over electronics).

Although there are a number of ways medical professionals commonly treat this respiratory problem using conventional methods such as medication, inhalers, injection of antihistamines, it can be helpful in using complimentary treatments as well. There are some powerful herbs that have been used to treat asthma, long before pharmaceuticals came along. 

  • Mullein

Mullein belongs to the genus Verbascum (over 300 species) and has pale yellow flowers. It thrives in northern temperate regions and can grow up to 7 feet tall. In the Middle ages, it was reputed to be a cure-all, including coughs and sore throats. A breakdown of its vital components reveals a combination of flavonoids, saponins, tannins, terpenoids, glycosides, carbohydrates, proteins, fats and oils. Because Mullein also contains 3 percent mucilage, it's often used to treat asthma as well. Mucilage exerts soothing actions on the mucous membranes and saponins act as an expectorant, both useful in treating symptoms of asthma.

  • Astragalus

Of the 2000 species of astragalus, only two related species (A. membranaceus and A. mongholicus) are used for health purposes. Indigenous to northern and eastern China, astragalus has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years to treat a variety of health issues including arthritis, asthma, nervous conditions, fever, digestive issues among others. A clinical study on 90 asthmatic children in remission shows astragalus play a crucial role in preventing the recurrence of asthma. The results are even more effective when combined with hormones.

  • Marshmallows

Marshmallows may bring the sweet treat to mind but, here, we're talking about an herb that exerts great health benefits. It has a long history of use as a source of food and medicine across different cultures from the Romans to the Chinese to the Egyptians. The roots and leaves contain a gummy substance called mucilage which can coat the throat and stomach to reduce irritation and inflammation. As such, it has been used to treat asthma, bronchitis, agitated stomach issues and inflammation. PennState Hershey Medical Center states that although marshmallow's medical benefits are often tied to traditional use, one study reveals that marshmallows may soothe irritated mucous membranes.

  • Elderberry

Elderberry comes from the honeysuckle family and the black elderberry is most commonly used in medicine. Raw elderberries may be poisonous but when cooked and prepared correctly, they yield medicinal properties. It has high anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant that helps to fight free radicals. In addition, it boasts high levels of flavonoids, nutrients and various vitamins (such as A, B vitamins, C and E), minerals, phytosterols and carotenoids. These constituents may provide beneficial nutritional and medicinal supplementation for upper respiratory, cardiovascular and mental health. According to the U.S National Library of Medicine, one study indicates encouraging use of elderberry for respiratory and allergic illnesses.

  • Elecampane

A member of the sunflower family, Elecampane (Inula Helenium) is indigenous to Europe and Asia and naturalized in North America. It enjoys a long history of use in traditional Chinese, Indian and Western cultures. Primarily used for treating bronchial and respiratory issues, this very versatile herb has been used to treat a variety of ailments from digestion to loss of appetite to gallstones. According to University of Michigan Medicine, elecampane is high in inulin (44%) and mucilage. These components exert a demulcent effect to help calm coughs associated with bronchitis, asthma and whopping cough.  

  •  Wild Cherry Trees

Native Americans have long recognized the usefulness of cherry trees. The bark is dried and ground to treat cough and various health issues such as labor pain and dysentery. Due to its astringent, sedative, antispasmodic and bronchodilator capabilities, it dries mucus, helps with expectoration and opens the airways for easier breathing. Its anti-inflammatory and cooling properties also make it a good aid to treat sinus inflammation and allergies, including asthma.

  • Passion Flower

This climbing vine has beautiful flowers and fruits that are used for exotic drinks. The Peruvians and Aztecs have been using the passion flowers for centuries as a sedative and pain reliever. Its use spread to Europe and quickly gain a reputation for its ability to calm nerves. The Europeans also discovered its efficacy in treating bronchial issues such as asthma and relieving burns, inflammation of the skin and hemorrhoids, among others.

As with all herbal supplements and treatments, it's best to consult a medical professional before taking any. A fully trained medical professional will be able to properly administer the use of these herbs, including dosage and how to use them.

Erin Gattuso