COPD Alternative and complementary treatments


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung condition. It makes it harder to breathe. To treat COPD, your doctor may prescribe medications or oxygen therapy. Some alternative and complementary therapies can also help relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Complementary treatments are used in conjunction with standard COPD treatments. But often it has not been proven effective in large scientific studies. Some treatments may interact with certain medications or present other risks. Always talk to your doctor before attempting complementary or alternative treatment (used instead of standard). They can help you understand the possible benefits and risks.

Herbal remedies and dietary supplements.

Certain over-the-counter supplements may have a place in the treatment of COPD. Ask your doctor if any of these may be right for you.

Vitamins C and E

A Korean study of people with COPD, mostly men, showed that increasing the dietary intake of vitamins C and E improved lung function. These vitamins are known as antioxidants. It is believed that they play a role in the prevention of cell damage.

The results of this study indicate that antioxidants may have a place in the treatment of COPD, along with medications prescribed by the doctor. The necessary dose of these supplements is unknown at this time. Larger studies are needed.

Omega-3 fatty acids

The omega-3 fatty acids consumed as a regular part of the diet can benefit many systems throughout the body. Currently there are no studies showing that omega-3 fatty acids have a specific role in the treatment of COPD. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements may be useful for treating other conditions that accompany COPD, such as high cholesterol. You can get them through supplements or through food. Food sources of omega-3 include:

  • Flax seed

  • walnuts

  • soya beans

  • Fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna.

Talk to your doctor to see if this supplement could benefit you.

Eucalyptus oil

This is a common herbal expectorant (mucus locker and cough promoter) that is often found in cough drops. A study published in the Journal of Respiratory Research has shown positive results in people with COPD who took cineole capsules daily. Cineole is the main ingredient in eucalyptus oil. People reported less dyspnea when used along with their regular medications.

Eucalyptus oil can help open the airways in COPD, as well as treat inflammation. However, breathing concentrated eucalyptus oil can cause irritation of the lungs and worsen symptoms. It can also interact with a wide variety of medications.

Mind-body approaches.

Many people with COPD experience depression, anxiety and stress. The challenges of living with a chronic health condition can come at a cost. It is important to control your negative thoughts and stress levels. Meditation, yoga and other relaxation techniques can improve your quality of life.

Yoga can be especially useful. At the 2013 annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians, researchers presented evidence that yoga can:

  • improve lung function

  • improve breathing

  • Improve Life Quality

  • reduce inflammation

Talk to your doctor if you think you might be experiencing depression. Relaxation strategies may not be enough to handle it. Your doctor may recommend antidepressant medications, counseling, or both.


Acupuncture is a technique used in traditional Chinese medicine. During an acupuncture session, your acupuncturist will insert fine needles into certain points of your body. Acupressure is a similar technique. It's about applying Pressure instead of inserting needles.

According to a study conducted in Acupuncture in Medicine, acupuncture could help treat COPD. The researchers compared people with COPD who took medications alone to those who took medications and also received weekly acupuncture treatments. After 10 weeks, those who received both had less trouble breathing during exercise.

Another small study in China compared people with COPD who used drugs alone versus those who used drugs and acupuncture. After eight weeks, those who added acupuncture had less difficulty breathing on a six-minute walk test and a better quality of life than those who used medications alone.

There are no studies suggesting that acupuncture treatments can replace the current medical treatment for COPD.

Changes in lifestyle

Adjusting your daily habits can also make a big difference in your health when you have COPD. It is important:

  • Stop smoking, if you smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke.

  • Limit your exposure to other lung irritants, such as toxic chemicals and pollution.

  • drink lots of water and use a humidifier to keep secretions from getting too thick

  • Get vaccinated against flu, whooping cough, and pneumonia.

  • wash your hands regularly to decrease the chances of getting lung and respiratory infections

  • eat a well-balanced diet

  • Exercise regularly

  • participate in pulmonary rehabilitation

  • sleep enough

Integrative medicine

More and more doctors from all specialties are seeking additional training in the field known as integrative medicine. Integrative medicine is a combination of traditional and complementary medicine. Centers of integrative medicine recognized at national level can be found in:

  • Harvard

  • Northwest

  • Vanderbilt

  • The University of California at San Francisco

  • The University of Arizona

Integrative medicine is also a recognized medical certification.

Ask your doctor for more information about alternative and complementary treatments and lifestyle changes that can help you manage your COPD. They can help you understand the possible benefits and risks of trying new methods or changing your daily routine.

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