Q. Dear Terry, “What herbs can I take to help me with my asthma? I am having attacks every four hours.” – Delphina D., Suva, Fiji
A. Dear Delphina, While not a replacement for your asthma medications, there are some natural ingredients I think could really help. My favorite natural medicine for helping with respiratory issues is boswellia. Boswellia is a specific inhibitor of the 5-LOX enzyme, an inflammation trigger almost no other medicine (conventional or natural) can touch. This makes boswellia effective at treating lung problems, many of which are associated with excessive 5-LOX activity. Boswellia stops bronchial inflammation, opens bronchial airways, and helps them remain open. It may also reduce the damage to bronchi that occurs over time due to chronic respiratory inflammation.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study that lasted 6 weeks looked at boswellia’s effects on asthma. The participants ranged from 18 to 75 years old. At the end of the study, 70% of the people experienced improvement in their symptoms.
The boswellia I prefer is standardized to contain high levels of the key compound, AKBA, which gives boswellia many of its health benefits. While most of the compounds within boswellia are anti-inflammatory, there is one compound that is actually pro-inflammatory. Therefore, I recommend a boswellia that is low in beta-boswellic acid, which can actually cause inflammation.
There are a few other natural compounds that work synergistically with boswellia to help with respiratory conditions. Thyme helps stop the spasmodic coughing and “tickling” in the throat, relaxes the airways in the lungs, and strengthens the activity of cilia to help loosen phlegm and keep mucus moving so you don’t feel clogged up. Ravintsara reduces inflammation and oxidative stress, which can benefit any type of respiratory disease or condition. Myrtle is excellent for treating bronchial and lung infections because it is a strong antioxidant, antiseptic, and antibacterial agent.
I would take boswellia, thyme, ravintsara, and myrtle two or three times per day.
Additionally, you may also want to consider a combination of thyme and climbing ivy. These botanicals are expectorants (helps to cough out phlegm), antispasmodics (can decrease spasms) and mucolytics (breaks up congestion), and bronchial dilators. All of those properties can be very beneficial for people with asthma. I suggest taking these ingredients three times a day.
Terry . . . Naturally
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