Natural Remedies Overview

Some patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) use natural remedies to help relieve their COPD symptoms. When used in combination with a COPD treatment plan that includes medications and pulmonary rehabilitation programs, natural remedies are considered complementary therapies. In many cases, complementary therapies have not been proven by the types of large-scale scientific studies that are required for prescribed medications and therapies and should not be used in place of standard treatment.1

Complementary therapies can provide relief for some people’s symptoms, but people take caution when using them. Patients should be suspicious of any treatment that claims to cure COPD, or requires them to stop their prescribed treatment routine, which can be very dangerous.1

It is very important for patients to let their healthcare providers know about any and all-natural remedies or complementary approaches that they are taking. This is because certain remedies can interact with their prescribed medications. These interactions can affect how well the medicines work. They can even cause serious health problems, in some cases.1

What kinds of natural remedies are used for COPD?

Natural remedies that may be used by people with COPD include:

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an important part of traditional Chinese medicine. It is a type of therapy that involves inserting extremely thin needles into the skin at various strategic points on the body. For some patients, acupuncture can provide relief for COPD symptoms, such as breathlessness. It may also improve a patient’s ability to exercise.2

What are nutritional supplements?

A person’s body needs a range of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in order to function well. Many people can get all of the nutrients they need through the food they eat. However, some people with COPD have low levels of certain nutrients, due to their disease or for other reasons. Being underweight or overweight can also impact a person's general health and may worsen COPD. In those cases, healthcare providers may suggest that the patients take nutritional supplements to make sure that they are getting the full range of nutrition.3

What are herbal treatments?

Herbal treatments are another kind of complementary medicine that can be helpful for some COPD patients. They are made from plants that are thought to benefit a person’s health. Some types of herbal treatments used by COPD patients include:

  • Peppermint
  • Osha root
  • Turmeric4

Herbal treatments can have many interactions with medicines used to manage COPD. Patients should make sure they talk with their healthcare providers before starting to take any herbal treatments.

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are a type of substance that can help to block the harmful effects of other chemicals called free radicals. Many types of foods contain antioxidants. However, some COPD patients may benefit from taking extra antioxidant supplements, if their healthcare provider recommends it. These may include:

  • Vitamins A, C, and E
  • N-acetylecysteine (NAC)

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Written by: Anna Nicholson and Emily Downward | Last reviewed: August 2020.