Herbs & Supplements for Kids with Asthma

Supplements and herbs are growing in popularity with parents of asthmatic kids as a way of treating some of the underlying problems and reducing the chance of attacks. Today, 89% of children with asthma receive some sort of complementary or alternative therapy. You’re interested in exploring the possibility of alternative medicine to treat your child’s asthma, but you have no clue where to start. Here’s a rundown on some of the most common supplements and herbs used for this respiratory disorder:

Supplements for Asthma

Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, usually taken in the form of fish oil, help treat inflammatory conditions like asthma with their powerful anti-inflammatory properties. They’re often used in cases of pediatric bronchial asthma and exercise-induced asthma and patients report reduced use of rescue inhalers as a result.

Magnesium. Magnesium can help asthmatics with its ability to relax muscles along the bronchiole tubes and esophagus, acting as a bronchodilator to help make breathing easier.

Vitamin C. Vitamin C is beneficial for asthma in two important ways. First, it is a powerful antioxidant which can strengthen the body’s immune response. Secondly, it has natural antihistamine properties that reduce asthmatic attacks brought on by allergies.

Herbs (and Spices) for Asthma

Garlic. Garlic hasn’t been widely studied for asthma specifically. However, it does contain anti-inflammatory compounds like allicin, thought to decrease the inflammation that can come with an asthma attack. Garlic also stimulates the release of compounds called prostacyclins, which also help keep the airways open.

Ginger. Ginger contains compounds called gingerols, which have well-documented anti-inflammatory properties. While it’s not clear is if ginger has any effect on the lung function itself, it’s believed to inhibit airway constriction and keep the muscles of the respiratory tract relaxed.

Turmeric. Turmeric is botanically related to ginger and shares some of its properties. It has long been used in both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine from India and is valued as a natural asthma treatment because of its anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties. This is due to turmeric’s main active ingredient called curcumin.

Quercetin. Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant that tackles free radical activity and thus also reduces inflammation in the airways that can lead to asthma exacerbations. It’s a natural antihistamine so it can stave off allergy attacks. It is also a bronchodilator and believed to help reduce the severity and frequency of allergy attacks.

Bromelain. Bromelain is derived from pineapples and has natural anti-inflammatory effects. It’s believed to decrease the severity of allergy-induced asthma attacks because it contains cysteine proteases, chemicals which help inhibit inflammation of the airways due to the activity of eosinophils, part of the body’s immune defense. It also is a natural and effective cough suppressant.

Milk Thistle. Though often thought of as a supplement for the liver, milk thistle is useful for respiratory conditions as well. Sylimarin, the active ingredient in milk thistle, is able to help protect against allergy-induced bronchoconstriction due to its strong antihistamine properties. It’s also a general immunity booster.

Pycenogenol. This compound, derived from the bark of French maritime pine trees, is a potent anti-inflammatory. It also helps with asthma indirectly by strengthening the immune system.

Eucalyptus. There is a good reason why eucalyptus is a part of so many cold and flu remedies. It’s a powerful decongestant that can also help asthmatics clear their airways of excess mucus. It’s particularly effective as a steam treatment.

Oregano. This herb, which lends its flavor to so many Mediterranean dishes, also lends itself to asthma treatment. It’s rich in active compounds including terpenes, flavonoids, and carvacrol which can bring relief to asthmatics by reducing inflammation and irritation throughout the respiratory tract.

Slippery Elm. Slippery elm is one of the best herbs to help reduce the coughing associated with an asthma attack. It’s an anti-inflammatory and can thin the mucous in the airways and make it easier to expel. It also contains a substance called mucilage, which is roughly the consistency of uncooked egg white, and can help to coat and soothe an irritated throat.

Stinging Nettle. Despite the uninviting name, this plant is very helpful for asthma treatment. It reduces inflammation and opens up the airways to provide relief. It has the additional benefit of being rich in butyric acid, which is thought to help strengthen the body’s immune response.


Here are some things to keep in mind when considering herbs or supplements for your asthmatic child:

  • Discuss your decision to use supplements or herbs with your child’s doctor.
  • Check to make sure that they will not interfere with any medication your child is currently taking.
  • Consult with a naturopathic doctor to help you pick a supplement or combination of supplements that will suit your child’s particular needs.
  • Discontinue any herb or supplement immediately if your child breaks out in a rash or displays any other sign of an allergic reaction.
  • Never discontinue your child’s current asthma medications in favor of an herb or supplement.
  • Keep a journal of frequency/severity of asthma attacks before and after beginning a supplement. This can help you judge if the supplement is working.

What herbs and supplements have you found helpful for your asthmatic child?

Tags : health   asthma   

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