Asthma is an increasingly common condition, with life-threatening consequences. Conventional treatment includes anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids and bronchodilators such as salbutamol. The herbal world also offers herbs which have beneficial anti-inflammatory and bronchodilating effects in asthma as well as many other benefits. Recent studies of interest in the natural management of asthma include:


  • A combination containing 150mg boswellic acid from frankincense (Boswellia serrata), 50mg liquorice extract (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and 15mg curcumin from turmeric (Curcuma longa) taken 3 times a day was shown to have ‘a pronounced effect in the management of bronchial asthma’. (Houssen et al., 2010)
  • A trial using ginger (Zingiber officinalis) tincture (equivalent of 0.5g/day) was effective in reducing asthmatic symptoms, including nocturnal coughing attacks and dyspnoeic attacks, and usage of spray medication was reduced (Rouhi et al., 2006). In general , ginger is used for its anti-inflammatory effects and initial studies also suggest that it may also more directly prevent damaging long-term changes in the airways (Kuo et al., 2010)

Diet and  Supplements:

  • Low serum vitamin D may be associated with asthmatic response to the common mould Aspergillus (Kreindler et al., 2010)
  • Vitamin C supplementation was shown to reduce the need for corticosteroids in asthma patients (Fogarty et al., 2006) and other antioxidants such as beta-carotene (precursor to vitamin A) have also been shown to be beneficial. Children with asthma have been shown to have increased ‘oxidative state’ suggesting the use of antioxidants is beneficial (Bakkenheim et al., 2011)
  • Although asthma has been associated with low selenium levels, recent studies do not support supplementation; brazil nuts have particularly high levels of naturally occuring selenium.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (e.g. fish / flax oils) have been associated in trials with improvement in asthma symptoms (e.g. Covar et al., 2010)
  • A recent meta-analysis of trials supported use of vitamins A, D, and E; zinc; fruits and vegetables in prevention of asthma (Nurmatov et al., 2010)

Chemical associated with development of asthma:

  • Phthalates in flexible plastics such as food wrappings has been found in recent studies to be associated with development of asthma and allergies in children (55% increased risk) and adults by altering the immune response. Phthalates in the food in contact with the plastic increases with time in contact, increased fat content and microwaving (Jaakkola and Knight, 2008).
  • The use of paracetamol in the first year of life may be linked to increased risk of asthma in children according to a study of more than 205,000 children aged between 6 and 7 years old (Beasley et al. 2008) Lancet 2008 Sep 20;372(9643):1039-1048


Bakkeheim E, Mowinckel P, Carlsen KH, Burney P, Lødrup Carlsen KC. (2011) ‘Altered oxidative state in schoolchildren with asthma and allergic rhinitis’. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 22(2):178-85.

Beasley R, Clayton T, Crane J, von Mutius E, Lai CK, Montefort S, Stewart A; ISAAC Phase Three Study Group. (2008) ‘Association between paracetamol use in infancy and childhood, and risk of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in children aged 6-7 years: analysis from Phase Three of the ISAAC programme’. Lancet. 372(9643):1039-48.

Covar R, Gleason M, Macomber B, Stewart L, Szefler P, Engelhardt K, Murphy J, Liu A, Wood S, DeMichele S, Gelfand EW, Szefler SJ. (2010) ‘Impact of a novel nutritional formula on asthma control and biomarkers of allergic airway inflammation in children’. Clin Exp Allergy. 40(8):1163-74

Fogarty A, Lewis SA, Scrivener SL, Antoniak M, Pacey S, Pringle M, Britton J. (2006) ‘Corticosteroid sparing effects of vitamin C and magnesium in asthma: a randomised trial’. Respir Med.100(1):174-9.

Houssen ME, Ragab A, Mesbah A, El-Samanoudy AZ, Othman G, Moustafa AF, Badria FA. (2010) ‘Natural anti-inflammatory products and leukotriene inhibitors as complementary therapy for bronchial asthma’. Clin Biochem. 43(10-11):887-90.

Jaakkola JJ, Knight TL. (2008) ‘The role of exposure to phthalates from polyvinyl chloride products in the development of asthma and allergies: a systematic review and meta-analysis’. Environ Health Perspect. 116(7):845-53. Review.

Kuo PL, Hsu YL, Huang MS, Tsai MJ, Ko YC. (2011) ‘Ginger suppresses phthalate esters-induced airway remodeling’. J Agric Food Chem. PMID:21370925 [Epub ahead of print]

Kreindler JL, Steele C, Nguyen N, Chan YR, Pilewski JM, Alcorn JF, Vyas YM, Aujla SJ, Finelli P, Blanchard M, Zeigler SF, Logar A, Hartigan E, Kurs-Lasky M, Rockette H, Ray A, Kolls JK. (2010) ‘Vitamin D3 attenuates Th2 responses to Aspergillus fumigatus mounted by CD4+ T cells from cystic fibrosis patients with allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis’. J Clin Invest.120(9):3242-54.

Nurmatov U, Devereux G, Sheikh A (.2010)  ‘Nutrients and foods for the primary prevention of asthma and allergy: Systematic review and meta-analysis’. J Allergy Clin Immunol. [Epub ahead of print] PMID:21185068

Rouhi H, Ganji F, Nasri H. 2006 PAKISTAN J. NUTR.; 5 (4) 373-376