Alternative Methods of Treating Asthma and Allergies

Nowadays complementary-alternative medicine is a popular trend: according to the statistics, approximately half of the whole population of the USA always uses or have tried to use CAM at least once.

CAM includes such forms of treatment as acupuncture, herbal medicines, homeopathic remedies, and yoga. The reason for the increased use of CAM-methods may be based on widespread distrust of scientific-based medicine and negative experience with doctors whose prescriptions did not help. In addition, many people believe that CAM is natural and consequently safe.

So, what are the most common methods of CAM?


Acupuncture originated from traditional Chinese medicine. Ancient physicians used it for treating hundreds of chronic diseases, such as asthma and allergic rhinitis. They inserted needles into the patient’s skin at special parts of the body, and these manipulations were supposed to restore normal balance of “vital flows”.

However, the power of acupuncture in treating asthma is not supported by proper medical evidence. The difficult part is that it is impossible to include a placebo group as part of the study.

Available results of scientific research in acupuncture show almost no benefit for the treatment of asthma. As for allergic rhinitis, some studies show its benefit over placebo. During one study on children, it appeared that kids who received real acupuncture showed better results than the second control group. However, they needed the same traditional therapy for their allergic reactions as the placebo group.

Herbal Medications

Many studies concerning various herbal supplements in asthma were poorly designed. Useful herbs that showed good results include Chinese herb mixes, Boswellia serrata, and Indian ipecac.

Researches on herbs in allergic rhinitis are more promising. One of them showed that butterbur had the same effect as cetirizine, and the second one showed its equivalence to fexofenadine. During another studies, scientists have found that biminne and Chinese mixes help improve symptoms of allergic rhinitis compared to placebo.

Considering those, one should notice that herbal supplements also have some drawbacks. Thee may cause dangerous side effects and interact with prescribed medications in a negative way. Moreover, FDA does not approve herbal supplements in the same manner as traditional prescription medications, so their purity and harmlessness are not guaranteed.


This alternative method is based on the idea that illnesses can be treated by giving the patient extremely small amounts of substance causing the disease. Immunotherapy uses similar principles.

However, homeopathic remedies showed little to no results in treating asthma, according to three well-designed studies.

The situation with allergic rhinitis is a bit better: scientists managed to show the benefit of homeopathic remedies over antihistamines in treating this illness. Yet the overall evidence for homeopathic supplements and drugs is weak in comparison to the strong results of prescription medications.

Other Alternative Techniques

• Chiropractic-Spinal Manipulation. One study showed that patients had decreased sensitivity to an irritant active agent that helped detect the severity of asthma after a course of a chiropractic spinal manipulation. Another quite poorly designed test showed a slight improvement of lung function in the group receiving “real treatment”.

• Yoga and Breathing Techniques. These are beneficial methods to improve mental well-being, while scientific studies on such techniques failed to show improvement in symptoms of asthma.

To cut a long story short, CAM-methods show weak results in treating asthma and allergic rhinitis in comparison to ordinary medicine. It is reasonable to make them part of an overall therapy, but it is not wise to replace conventional medications with herbal supplements or yoga classes – it can lead to deplorable consequences.