Alternative Medicine for COPD

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Two problems, one term. That's what COPD, emphysema and chronic bronchitis have in common. They also have some alternative therapies in common, This lesson covers some of them.


You're likely more than aware that smoking is a leading cause of numerous issues, most famously lung cancer. But it can also lead to emphysema and chronic bronchitis, two lung conditions classically seen as representing COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Long story short, COPD involves lots of mucus production by the airways, inflammation and scarring of the airways and difficulty breathing.

This lesson is going to go over the many different purported alternative therapies for COPD. They don't have much in the way of credible scientific evidence but some people give them a try anyways after consulting with their doctor first, which you should do as well.

Diet & COPD

Let's play a little game. In front of you are three plates. Each plate has a bunch of food on it. Your job is to identify which (if any) of the plates represent a COPD-friendly diet.

Plate #1: Well-done steak, instant mashed potatoes, and cake

Plate #2: Fresh organic yogurt, breakfast cereal, and a piece of toasted white bread

Plate #3: Salmon, organic apples, and pears

So which one is it? If you picked plate #3, you were correct! Why? It's because many fish, like salmon, as well as fruits are rich in important compounds, like antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. These compounds help counter inflammation and inflammation, if you recall from the intro, is a key part of COPD.

Sweets, red meat and processed foods should be avoided but dairy is a bit tricky. For some people with COPD, dairy is okay. But in others, dairy might increase mucus production and make breathing even more difficult. Consult with your doctor to see if dairy is okay or a no-go for you in your particular case.

Other Alternative Therapies for COPD

Other than a change in diet to try and alleviate COPD, a person might also consider some supplements. An amino acid blend might help improve general lung health. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Other supplements aimed at COPD or its effects include:

  • The mucus building up in the lungs might be thinned out by a compound called N-acetylcysteine, or proteolytic enzyme supplements. This might help reduce the coughing associated with COPD as a result.
  • The inflammation occurring in the lungs during COPD is what eventually leads to the scarring of the lungs. This might be prevented or slowed by an antioxidant compound called glutathione or bromelain, the latter of which is a substance composed of different enzymes found in pineapples.
  • Airway spasms might be helped by taking a mineral called magnesium.
  • Exercise intolerance associated with COPD might be improved with omega-3 fatty acids, like EPA & DHA or by a substance called L-carnitine.
  • Licorice might be used to reduce coughing.

People who are interested in more herbal-based therapy might consider using the following herbs that might help improve respiratory health: plantain, marshmallow root, peppermint, cherry bark, ginger, horehound, and pleurisy root.

Some other possible alternative remedies for COPD include:

  • Intravenous administration of vitamins, such as vitamin C
  • Eucalyptus oil as part of an aromatherapy treatment regimen
  • Acupressure or acupuncture under professional guidance

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