Natural Remedies Overview

Some people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) use natural remedies to help relieve their COPD symptoms. When used aling with a COPD treatment plan that includes medicines 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 drugs and therapies and should not be used in place of standard treatment.1

Complementary therapies can provide relief for some people’s symptoms. However, they should be used with caution. People should be suspicious of any treatment that claims to cure COPD or requires them to stop their prescribed treatment routine. This can be very dangerous.1

It is very important for people to let their doctors know about any natural remedies or complementary approaches they are taking. This is because certain remedies can interact with their prescribed drugs. These interactions can affect how well the medicines work. In some cases, they can even cause serious health problems.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 people, acupuncture can provide relief for COPD symptoms, such as breathlessness. It may also improve a person'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. This may be 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, doctors may suggest that people take nutritional supplements to ensure 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 people with COPD. They are made from plants that may benefit a person’s health. Some types of herbal treatments used by people with COPD include:4

  • Peppermint
  • Osha root
  • Turmeric

Herbal treatments can have many interactions with medicines used to manage COPD. Always talk with your doctor before starting any herbal treatments.

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are substances that can help block the harmful effects of other chemicals called free radicals. Many types of foods contain antioxidants. However, some people with COPD may benefit from taking extra antioxidant supplements, if their doctor 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: March 2021