Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of the most common causes of death in America and affects at least 13 million people. Even worse, nearly 125,000 people die from COPD each year. And the damage done to the lungs is largely irreversible.
The most common treatments target smokers who developed emphysema and bronchitis. Medication, oxygen therapy, and even surgery are usually prescribed. But what if you aren’t a smoker or you prefer a more natural approach?
Luckily, several alternative treatments for COPD seem to do exactly what they promise!
Some doctors may already prescribe breathing exercises or pulmonary rehabilitation for COPD patients, but the evidence behind them is somewhat varied. While this review found good short-term and long-term results, another review of 16 studies found inconsistent results. In most cases, participants improved their exercise capacity and reduced the rate at which their COPD worsened, but not other indicators of wellness.
However, many of the alternative treatments studied offer similar approaches and good results with those other health indicators. If you are considering alternative treatments for COPD, talk to your doctor about what might work for you before starting a new regime.
One of the worst complications of COPD is dyspnea or labored breathing. The review above could not find any consistent evidence that breathing exercises reduced dyspnea, but an alternative medicine approach shows promising results. A study from earlier this year found that acupuncture could help COPD patients reduce dyspnea, breathe more easily, and exercise for longer while improving quality of life. This follows evidence from several other acupuncture studies and case studies with similar results.
Exercise therapy as part of pulmonary rehabilitation has also shown positive results as an alternative treatments for copd, but it may not be accessible to some patients due to the cost. A lower-cost alternative treatment for copd can be found in Tai Chi, which offers gentle exercise focused on health and calmness. The study found that Tai Chi can improve exercise capacity, reduce breathlessness, and increase quality of life. Another study also showed that Tai Chi could reduce the progression of the disease.
However, there are some alternative treatments floating around the web that have little proof behind them, so beware. For example, the idea that taking magnesium orally can help with COPD symptoms has not yet been shown in any studies (although an IV supplement did show results). Vitamin D deficiency is also common among COPD sufferers, and although a preliminary study shows that taking supplements may help, there isn’t enough evidence that it has a significant impact.
Other herbs that have been purported to help include licorice root, ginger, and ginseng, but scientific evidence is sparse (and the side effects and drug interactions can negate any positive effects). There have been some promising results with eucalyptus (commonly used to in cough drops) and similar oils, as well a combination of echinacea and wild indigo in combination with traditional antibiotic therapy. But these studies did not look at long-term improvement of lung function or exercise tolerance, but instead focused on mucus clearance, coughing, and recovery from infection.
A more traditional solution is to use a top rated HEPA air purifier.