If you have COPD, you probably turn to medicine, lung therapies, and maybe surgery to manage your illness. It’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations. You might also wonder if mind-body therapies or supplements could help.
These methods cannot cure COPD, but studies show some may offer relief. Always check with your doctor before you take any of these, so you know what’s safe for you to try. Also, avoid anything that promises a cure, calls itself a “secret” treatment, or goes against your doctor’s advice.
Acupuncture may help with quality of life when given in addition to standard COPD treatments. That’s the finding of a Chinese study of 65 people with COPD who got acupuncture or a sham treatment using needles for 8 weeks, along with their regular COPD treatments.
Acupuncture involves using very fine needles to stimulate certain points in the body. It’s part of traditional Chinese medicine and is widely available in the U.S. It’s been studied for many conditions, but there hasn’t been that much research on its use with COPD.
In the Chinese study, those who got the real acupuncture treatments had less shortness of breath after walking for 6 minutes. They also they reported better quality of life than those who got the sham needle treatments.
Exactly how acupuncture helped isn’t clear. If you decide to try it, ask the practitioner about their credentials and experience. Also, plan on having several sessions.
Massage may help relax tight chest muscles. But there is not enough research to know if massage directly helps with COPD. There haven’t been enough studies on the topic.
However, massage can help with stress and relaxation in general. If that’s true for you, it may be something to consider as part of your self-care.
Both a form of exercise and of meditation, yoga benefits people with COPD in several ways. As a form of exercise, it can help with lung function and shortness of breath. And it can lower stress and help with anxiety and depression.
NAC is an antioxidant supplement with mixed reviews in studies.
Some research says NAC can help your lungs work better. It might also:
- Thin mucus
- Give you less phlegm
- Ease your cough
But other studies say that NAC has little effect on those things. Research found that NAC didn't stop flare-ups of COPD from happening. But it does suggest NAC may help you have fewer flare-ups.
This herb has been used for thousands of years for various medicinal reasons. Some early, small studies have found that ginseng might have promise in treating COPD symptoms.
But a more recent, larger study showed that ginseng was no better than a placebo for people with moderate to severe COPD. So it’s not likely to be helpful if you have COPD.
Doctors aren't sure if raising low levels of vitamin D up to normal bring fewer flare-ups and help your lungs work better. In some studies it does. In others, it doesn't.
Your doctor may want to check your vitamin D levels and suggest supplements if yours are below normal.
Also called red sage, Salvia miltiorrhiza is an herb long used in Chinese medicine. Some research says salvia may help protect your lungs during flare-ups. But there hasn’t been enough research to tell. There aren’t studies that support salvia’s use for COPD or any other health condition.
Some people take this as a supplement to help ward off or ease cold symptoms. Research shows that taking it once you have a cold won’t do much to shorten it. But taking echinacea while you’re well may help keep you from getting sick.
Some research shows that taking echinacea along with other supplements -- like zinc, selenium, and vitamin C -- may ease cold symptoms. That, in turn, may help with flare-ups. But echinacea hasn’t been specifically studied for COPD.
If you have COPD, you may have trouble sleeping. There's mixed research on whether melatonin can help. Some studies say it helps make it easier to breathe, so it's easier to sleep.