Natural Remedies for COPD
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last updated: March 2022
Some people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) use natural remedies as part of their COPD treatment plan. When natural remedies are used along with a treatment plan, they are called complementary therapies.1
What are natural remedies?
Natural remedies may help relieve COPD symptoms and can improve quality of life. But complementary therapies usually have not been proven effective by the types of large-scale scientific studies that are required for prescribed drugs and therapies. This means they should not be used in place of standard treatment.1
Natural remedies that may be used by people with COPD include:1,2
- Acupuncture or acupressure
- Nutritional supplements
- Massage therapy
- Herbal treatments
- Mind-body practices
Always talk with your doctors about any complementary approaches you are considering. This is because certain remedies can interact with prescribed drugs. These interactions can affect how well the medicines work. In some cases, this can even cause serious health problems.1,2
Any natural remedy 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 plan. This can be very dangerous.1,2
What are acupuncture and acupressure?
Acupuncture and acupressure are therapies from traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture involves inserting extremely thin needles into the skin at various strategic points on the body. Acupressure is similar but uses pressure instead of needles at these strategic points.2
Acupuncture and acupressure may help people with COPD feel less breathless. However, acupuncture can be dangerous for people who are on blood thinners.2
What are nutritional supplements?
The body needs a range of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to function well. Some people can get all the nutrients they need through a healthy, balanced diet. However, some people with COPD have low levels of certain nutrients. This may be due to their disease or for other reasons.3
COPD can also make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight. 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 is massage therapy?
Massage therapy has many health benefits such as relieving stress, increasing blood flow, and relaxing muscles. It is uncertain if massage therapy can help relieve COPD symptoms. However, it can be helpful along with COPD treatment to relieve pain and stress.4
What are herbal treatments?
Herbal treatments are another type of complementary medicine that may be helpful for some people with COPD. Herbal treatments are made from plants that may benefit a person’s health. They sometimes have historical use as medicine in different cultures.2
Some types of herbal treatments used by people with COPD include:2,5
Different herbal treatments have different benefits and uses. For example, mullein may help reduce inflammation and help thin mucus. This can make the mucus easier to cough up.5,6
Herbal treatments can have many interactions with medicines used to manage COPD. Always talk with your doctor before starting any herbal treatments.2
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are substances that can help block the harmful effects of other chemicals called free radicals. Many foods naturally contain antioxidants. However, some people with COPD may benefit from taking extra antioxidant supplements if their doctor recommends it. These may include:2,7
- Vitamins A, C, and E
- N-acetylcysteine (NAC)
What are mind-body practices?
Mind-body practices are any activity that focuses on connecting the body and breath and promoting mindfulness. These practices can improve quality of life by reducing stress. They also may be able to give people with COPD more awareness and control of their breathing.2
Examples of mind-body practices include:2
- Tai chi