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Natural COPD Treatment

Updated on November 30, 2012
Worldwide incidence of COPD per 100,000 inhabitants.  It is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.
Worldwide incidence of COPD per 100,000 inhabitants. It is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. | Source
Healthy versus COPD-affected lungs.
Healthy versus COPD-affected lungs. | Source

As people age, the risk of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) increases. In the United States, it has risen to be the fourth leading cause of death. Worldwide, it is ranked fifth in this regard. Because of its rising incidence, an increased awareness of means for natural treatment of COPD is needed. If one knows key tools to increase their body's health and cope with this disease, there will be less reliance on palliative care, or traditional medical treatments that merely treat the symptoms and do not affect the disease at its root.

This article includes things to avoid, the effect of exercise and alternative treatments for COPD, including herbs, diet and alternative therapies. At the end of this article I list references, several which are scholarly, for those who wish to read and investigate further on specific topics.

Avoiding Damaging Environmental Risks

Those who have COPD, or who are at high risk of getting this chronic inflammatory condition, need to avoid certain environmental exposures which can elicit further inflammation of lung tissue. First, don't smoke. Avoid exposure to second hand smoke from other smokers and even burning incense. Wear a dust mask if you enter dusty spaces. If there is significant outside air pollution, like ozone, avoid going outdoors when it reaches dangerous levels. In many of the cities these days, pollution due to ozone is a problem. Ozone oxidizes lung tissue. Watch for ozone alerts to determine the best times for outings.

Keeping the Airway Clear

Water. Since the airways get obstructed by mucus, keeping the airways clear is necessary. Drinking plenty of water is an important factor. Without sufficient quantities of it, removing of the mucus becomes more difficult. If you like to drink coffee, remember that it takes three cups of water to compensate for the diuretic effect caused by each cup of coffee.

Herbs for COPD to consider for loosening the phlegm. Elecampe (Inula helinium) and coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) have been used by Native Americans to help clear out excess mucus in the longs. Elecampe is used in modern herbal cough syrup recipes along with licorice root and other herbs to help expectoration, and it has been used for a variety of "cold" lung diseases (as described by Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM), such as asthma and COPD. Ginger seems to assist in the effectiveness of herbal expectorants, as well.

More herbal expectorants to consider include eucalyptus (taken in the form of cough drops), lobelia (Lobelia inflata) and mullein (Verbascum densiflorum). Besides expectorant activity, lobelia has alkaloids that increase breath volume and force. Lobelia can be taken as an acid tincture or in dry form, as capsules or tablets. Carefully follow the advise on dosages for this herb, as it can be toxic when too much is taken.

Supplements for COPD

Vitamin D - Research by Lehouck, et al., published in 2012 suggests that Vitamin D supplements can reduce the rate of lung deterioration in patients suffering from COPD. This vitamin has anti-inflammatory properties. Participants in this study received 100,000 IU of the vitamin every 4 weeks. However, some researchers have commented that it may be marginally effective or not help at all in severe cases.

Omega-3-polyunsaturated fatty acids - Yes, fish oil. In a study by Matsuyama, et al. (2005), they noted a decrease in COPD disease markers in their group, who were fed a diet that had 400 kilocalories of omega-3-fatty acid per day. The anti-inflammatory properties of this supplement were believed to have caused the effect.

Vitamin E - A long term study from Cornell University indicated that Vitamin E supplementation help reduce the risk of getting COPD in women, whether they were smokers or not. There is no evidence that it can reduce COPD disease effects in those that already have it. This vitamin is not recommended for those who also have cardiovascular problems, as it has been shown to make congestive heart failure more likely.

Consider Also Increasing Intake of Foods High in Antioxidants

Serving Size
Total Antioxidant capacity per serving size
Small red bean
1/1/4 cup cooked
Wild blueberry
1 cup
Red kidney beans
1 1/4 cup cooked
Pinto beans
1 1/4 cup cooked
Blueberry, cultivated
1 cup
1 cup
Artichoke hearts
1/2 cup
1 cup
1/2 cup
1 cup
1 cup
Red Delicious apple
Granny Smith apple
1 ounce
Sweet cherry
1 cup
Black plum
Russet Potato
1 cooked
Black bean
1 1/4 cup cooked
Gala apple

*Data from a USDA employee, quoted as Wu, et al. in the references section. Units are Total Antioxidant Capacity per serving in units of micromoles of Trolox equivalents.

Breath of Life: Living Well with COPD (Home Use)
Breath of Life: Living Well with COPD (Home Use)

Based on the popular television series recommendations. Effective therapies that can help COPD patients regain their breath! Various therapies and treatments can increase lung function and drastically curb the symptoms.


Breathing Exercises for COPD

Learning how to breathe with the diaphragm allows you to use more of your lung capacity. Most people only breathe in the upper part of the chest, and this is something that COPD patients can unlearn to their benefit. As babies, we are born with the capacity for natural, relaxed diaphragmatic breathing. As the diaphragm muscle drops, the belly naturally expands outward and the lungs bring in fresh air. As the diaphragm goes up, the belly contracts and stale air containing the waste carbon dioxide is expelled efficiently.

Relaxing the chest muscles and rib cage is a part of natural diaphragmatic breathing. Sitting upright in a chair, or standing, practice progressive relaxation going from the top of the head to the feet. Watch your breathing all of the time you are consciously relaxing each muscle of the body. Relax all the way to the soles of your feet, and when you are done, return your attention to the diaphragmatic movement in your belly. Practice this at least twice a day.

You may also want to try exercises that gently coordinate with the breathing, to help reinforce your ability to breathe naturally with the diaphragm. There are many qigong exercises that can help you do that. There are also qigong breathing exercises that help you increase your breathing and body awareness, allowing you to relax fully into your breath and body. I have provided a book resource to the right and I have also written more about the subject of qigong on HubPages. With daily practice of qigong, you can achieve a relaxed body and improved breathing, and there is better blood flow and oxygen delivery to your muscle and lung tissue.

A YouTube video below describes diaphragmatic breathing methods and exercises. In this video, pursed lip breathing and helpful exercises are described. I also recommend that you check out other YouTube videos that describe qigong breathing methods. Avoid breathing exercises that require force, twice daily gentle exercise will improve your breathing capacity gradually.

Breathing and Movement Exercises for COPD Patients


So, there are many different natural COPD treatments that individuals can try to help improve their quality of life. Getting involved in your own management of your disease by eating more healthy, taking supplements, working on you breathing ability and exercising, can help augment one's ability to do activities of daily living. These efforts can be a vital lifeline supplement, not a replacement, of medicines and other methods provided by conventional medicine.


Anonymous. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. University of Maryland Medical Center.

Lehouck, A., et al. 2012. Hight Doses of Vitamin D to reduce exacerbations in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: A randomized trial. Ann. Intern. Med. 152:105-114.

Matsuyama, W. 2005. Effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fattey acids on inflammatory markers in COPD. Chest 128:3817-3827.

Wu, X, et al. 2004. Lipophilic and hydrophilic antioxidant capacities of common foods in the United States". J. Agric. Food Chem. 52 (12): 4026-37. (Source of table data: Wikimedia)

Health Advice Precaution

All information in this article is provided for educational purposes only. Before using any herb, diet or exercise regimen, it is advisable to consult your doctor and/or a qualified professional. Also note that some herbs and supplements may have side effects that can conflict with pharmaceuticals.


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Thank you Maria, i made purchase and received it days ago

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 

      5 years ago from Central Virginia

      Great informative article. I have a friend from the states who is helping to build a respiratory therapy program in Liberia, I am always on the lookout for good information to share with him. I will be passing this on.

    • Randy M. profile imageAUTHOR

      Randy McLaughlin 

      6 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

      Thanks, shining, I hope it helps lots of people. My brother has COPD, I particularly hope that he finds the information useful. I also have breathing problems (asthma) and know that some of the tips will help me with my condition.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      6 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Very informative write Randy. I used to work with many elderly people suffering from COPD.


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