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Asthma Treated with Integrative Medicine

An innovative study investigated the effect of a simple holistic approach to asthma treatment in adults. Researchers included several forms of treatment including nutrition and supplements, a botanical medicine, yoga, and keeping a journal. These interventions resulted in significant improvements compared to a group treated only with conventional medications.

This study is important because holistic practitioners integrate several treatment modalities at the same time to address causes and aggravating factors in asthma as well as medications that relieve symptoms. This study therefore simulated actual clinical practice using an integrative approach to asthma.

A limitation of this study was the necessity to have all participants use the same treatments and interventions. In a clinical setting treatment would be individualized and probably include specific treatment designed to relieve asthma symptoms. Nonetheless, this study showed that holistic care using modalities that have no side effects could result in significant improvement in symptoms.

The nutritional arm of the treatment program involved eliminating foods that commonly trigger inflammation, including dairy, soy, eggs, corn, wheat, citrus, nuts, shellfish, pork, and chocolate. The participants reintroduced the foods one at a time for three to five days to monitor aggravation of symptoms. Those foods that stimulated asthma symptoms were then removed for the remainder of the study.

At the same time participants also began taking fish oil (EPA 860 mg and DHA 580 mg) and vitamin C (1,000 mg).

The herbal treatment included an anti-inflammatory supplement made from hops (Humulus lupulis). This preparation of reduced iso-alpha acids influences kinase signaling and the formation of substances that trigger inflammation.

Participants were taught yoga postures and pranayama breathing techniques selected for respiratory improvement. Each was also given a CD for home study and practice.

Participants attended a class where they were encouraged to write about the most traumatic event in their lives.

Outcomes were measured in this study by two questionnaires that evaluate quality of life and physical symptoms in asthma sufferers over a six week period. Both evaluation instruments showed significant improvement in the treatment group compared to the control group. Pulmonary function tests remained unchanged in both groups.

The researchers sought to study a low cost intervention that could be instituted by anyone with asthma. The protocol used in this study can be undertaken safely by anyone at home without medical supervision.

Holistic health care practitioners would also include other herbal preparations and supplements or homeopathic medicines in addition to some of these interventions in an integrative asthma treatment plan. However, this study shows that simple measures accessible to anyone with very little cost result in significant improvement of asthma.


Kligler B, Homel P, Blank AE, et al. Randomized trial of the effect of an integrative medicine approach to the management of asthma in adults on disease-related quality of life and pulmonary function. Alternative Therapies 2011; 17(1):10-15