Asthma is an inflammatory breathing condition which can be aggravated by particular stimuli, and some supplements are currently being investigated as to whether the reactivity of a person to these stimuli can be reduced.
Last Updated:April 27, 2022
Asthma is diagnosed through a combination of clinical and laboratory tools. Typically, a diagnosis is formed from a combination of patient history, a physical examination of the lungs (using a stethoscope), and lung function tests (e.g., spirometry, peak expiratory flow, and response to an inhaler). Additionally, since allergens can provoke immune responses that worsen the symptoms of asthma, clinicians may also do allergy tests.
Inhalers are the primary medical treatment for asthma. During acute exacerbations, inhaled short-acting beta-agonists (SABAs), such as albuterol/salbutamol, are considered the primary tool for managing asthma. As their name suggests, these drugs bind to β2 adrenergic receptors and cause the smooth muscles in the bronchi to relax and open. Additionally, if asthma is classified as “intermittent” or worse, inhaled long-acting beta-agonists (LABAs) and glucocorticoids can be used for more continuous treatment.
A handful of supplements have been studied for asthma, but none exhaustively so. Magnesium, Coleus forskohlii, pycnogenol, and saffron all have a few studies suggesting they modestly improve asthma symptoms.
There are several noteworthy connections between diet and asthma. Consumption of fruits, vegetables, and dairy have all been correlated with a reduced risk of Asthma. Additionally, switching from a proinflammatory diet (such as the Western diet) to a less inflammatory diet (such as the Mediterranean diet) may reduce the risk of asthma. Finally, there is evidence that alterations to the microbiome (e.g., by antibiotic use early in life) may increase the risk of asthma later in life.
Alongside inhalers, avoiding triggers is a major part of asthma treatment. Ideally, individuals with asthma should keep track of environments, activities, and substances that make their asthma worse and avoid them (or at least bring and use an inhaler).
The cause of asthma is unclear; it’s a combination of genetics and environment. Acute episodes of asthma can be caused by exposure to allergens (e.g., dust mites, mold, pollen), exposure to nonallergens (e.g., cold air, household chemicals, smoke/pollution), or exercise.
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- ^The content of this page was partially adapted from MedlinePlus of the National Library of Medicine
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- L-Carnitine - Mohammed Al-Biltagi, Mona Isa, Adel Salah Bediwy, Nevien Helaly, Dalia D El LebedyL-carnitine improves the asthma control in children with moderate persistent asthmaJ Allergy (Cairo).(2012)
- Pycnogenol - Hosseini S, Pishnamazi S, Sadrzadeh SM, Farid F, Farid R, Watson RRPycnogenol((R)) in the Management of AsthmaJ Med Food.(2001 Winter)
- Umckaloabo - Tahan F, Yaman MCan the Pelargonium sidoides root extract EPs® 7630 prevent asthma attacks during viral infections of the upper respiratory tract in childrenPhytomedicine.(2013 Jan 15)
- Coleus Forskohlii - Kaik G, Witte PUProtective effect of forskolin in acetylcholine provocation in healthy probands. Comparison of 2 doses with fenoterol and placeboWien Med Wochenschr.(1986 Dec 31)
- Citrulline - Fernando Holguin, Hartmut Grasemann, Sunita Sharma, Daniel Winnica, Karen Wasil, Vong Smith, Margaret H Cruse, Nancy Perez, Erika Coleman, Timothy J Scialla, Loretta G QueL-Citrulline increases nitric oxide and improves control in obese asthmaticsJCI Insight.(2019 Dec 19)
- Magnesium - Gontijo-Amaral C, Ribeiro MA, Gontijo LS, Condino-Neto A, Ribeiro JDOral magnesium supplementation in asthmatic children: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trialEur J Clin Nutr.(2007 Jan)
- Black seed - Kalus U, Pruss A, Bystron J, Jurecka M, Smekalova A, Lichius JJ, Kiesewetter HEffect of Nigella sativa (black seed) on subjective feeling in patients with allergic diseasesPhytother Res.(2003 Dec)
- Magnesium - Bede O, Surányi A, Pintér K, Szlávik M, Gyurkovits KUrinary magnesium excretion in asthmatic children receiving magnesium supplementation: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind studyMagnes Res.(2003 Dec)
- Coleus Forskohlii - R González-Sánchez, X Trujillo, B Trujillo-Hernández, C Vásquez, M Huerta, A ElizaldeForskolin versus sodium cromoglycate for prevention of asthma attacks: a single-blinded clinical trialJ Int Med Res.(Mar-Apr 2006)
- Saffron - Marzie Zilaee, Seyed Ahmad Hosseini, Sima Jafarirad, Farhad Abolnezhadian, Bahman Cheraghian, Foroogh Namjoyan, Ataollah GhadiriAn evaluation of the effects of saffron supplementation on the asthma clinical symptoms and asthma severity in patients with mild and moderate persistent allergic asthma: a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trialRespir Res.(2019 Feb 22)
- Vitamin D - Martineau AR, MacLaughlin BD, Hooper RL, Barnes NC, Jolliffe DA, Greiller CL, Kilpin K, McLaughlin D, Fletcher G, Mein CA, Hoti M, Walton R, Grigg J, Timms PM, Rajakulasingam RK, Bhowmik A, Rowe M, Venton TR, Choudhury AB, Simcock DE, Sadique Z, Monteiro WR, Corrigan CJ, Hawrylowicz CM, Griffiths CJDouble-blind randomised placebo-controlled trial of bolus-dose vitamin D3 supplementation in adults with asthma (ViDiAs)Thorax.(2015 May)
- Vitamin E - Pearson PJ, Lewis SA, Britton J, Fogarty AVitamin E supplements in asthma: a parallel group randomised placebo controlled trialThorax.(2004 Aug)
- Conjugated Linoleic Acid - Stickford JL, Mickleborough TD, Fly AD, Stager JMConjugated linoleic acid's lack of attenuation of hyperpnea-induced bronchoconstriction in asthmatic individuals in the short termInt J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab.(2011 Feb)
- Magnesium - Kazaks AG, Uriu-Adams JY, Albertson TE, Shenoy SF, Stern JSEffect of oral magnesium supplementation on measures of airway resistance and subjective assessment of asthma control and quality of life in men and women with mild to moderate asthma: a randomized placebo controlled trialJ Asthma.(2010 Feb)
- Boswellia - Gupta I, Gupta V, Parihar A, Gupta S, Lüdtke R, Safayhi H, Ammon HPEffects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with bronchial asthma: results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, 6-week clinical studyEur J Med Res.(1998 Nov 17)
- Vitamin D - Urashima M, Segawa T, Okazaki M, Kurihara M, Wada Y, Ida HRandomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildrenAm J Clin Nutr.(2010 May)
- Saffron - Seyed Ahmad Hosseini, Marzie Zilaee, Maryam Haddadzadeh Shoushtari, Mohammad Ghasemi DehcheshmehAn evaluation of the effect of saffron supplementation on the antibody titer to heat-shock protein (HSP) 70, hsCRP and spirometry test in patients with mild and moderate persistent allergic asthma: A triple-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trialRespir Med.(2018 Dec)
- Moringa - Babita Agrawal, Anita MehtaAntiasthmatic activity of Moringa oleifera Lam: A clinical studyIndian J Pharmacol.(2008 Jan)
- Black seed - Boskabady MH, Javan H, Sajady M, Rakhshandeh HThe possible prophylactic effect of Nigella sativa seed extract in asthmatic patientsFundam Clin Pharmacol.(2007 Oct)
- Magnesium - Fogarty A, Lewis SA, Scrivener SL, Antoniak M, Pacey S, Pringle M, Britton JOral magnesium and vitamin C supplements in asthma: a parallel group randomized placebo-controlled trialClin Exp Allergy.(2003 Oct)
- Pycnogenol - G Belcaro, R Luzzi, P Cesinaro Di Rocco, M R Cesarone, M Dugall, B Feragalli, B M Errichi, E Ippolito, M G Grossi, M Hosoi, S Errichi, U Cornelli, A Ledda, G GizziPycnogenol® improvements in asthma managementPanminerva Med.(2011 Sep)
- Vitamin D - Martineau AR, Jolliffe DA, Greenberg L, Aloia JF, Bergman P, Dubnov-Raz G, Esposito S, Ganmaa D, Ginde AA, Goodall EC, Grant CC, Janssens W, Jensen ME, Kerley CP, Laaksi I, Manaseki-Holland S, Mauger D, Murdoch DR, Neale R, Rees JR, Simpson S, Stelmach I, Trilok Kumar G, Urashima M, Camargo CA, Griffiths CJ, Hooper RLVitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory infections: individual participant data meta-analysisHealth Technol Assess.(2019 Jan)