Would you consider trying a natural herbal remedy to treat your asthma symptoms? If so, you're not alone. This alternative approach has been gaining in popularity, but beware.  While some herbs and spices may help to relieve the discomfort of asthma, others can put you at risk for serious side effects.

The Benefits

A growing number of Americans are turning to natural remedies to treat various health problems. In fact, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that more than one-third of adults in this country turn to alternate treatments to address a range of conditions, including asthma.

Further, some natural herbal remedies today are helping asthmatics to feel better. In fact, a study conducted by researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City found that a Chinese herbal formula can effectively help block allergic reactions that cause asthma symptoms. The study findings, which appeared in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in February of 2004, reported that these herbs work in much the same way as corticosteroid drugs, but without causing the same side effects.

Buyer Beware

While these findings sound encouraging, before you reach for just any natural herbal remedy on the health food store shelf, it's essential to know that herbal remedies and spices aren't regulated in the same way as mainstream medications. The US Food and Drug Administration oversees the safety of prescription medicines, but they don't have the same stringent standards for herbs and other such supplements. Therefore, the experts warn that you need to keep beware when selecting natural options. Some choices may not be safe, while others could cause potential side effects and may even interfere with your prescription medications.

Potential Allergy Triggers

It's also essential to know that in some people, the herbs themselves can trigger an allergic reaction and/or asthma attack, instead of heading a reaction. That's because some herbal products are made from plants, leaves and pollen, all of which can prompt allergic symptoms. Further compounding the problem is that not all herbal products are labeled correctly and they may not list all of the ingredients contained, so you may not be aware of exactly what you're taking.

Be on the Lookout for Side Effects

If you do decide to try an herbal remedy, talk to your doctor first and make sure it's safe.

Experts say that the best bet is usually a brand name product that lists specific details about the supplement right on the bottle, including the scientific name, manufacture information, expiration date and dosage information. You should also be on the lookout for any possible side effects, including a rash or other skin irritation, nausea, stomach distress or rapid heartbeat.


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAI)


The Cleveland Clinic Foundation


The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology