Natural Remedies for Emphysema

Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The condition is marked by damage to the air sacs in the lungs, which limits the flow of air when you breathe. Due to this restriction in airflow, emphysema patients typically aren't able to take in the oxygen their systems need to function properly.

Causes

Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of emphysema. Chemicals found in cigarettes are thought to attack your air sacs (as well as the fibers that support them).

Air pollution (both indoors and outdoors) and exposure to chemical fumes, irritants, and secondhand smoke may also increase your risk for emphysema.

In a small number of cases, emphysema may result from the inherited deficiency of a protein that protects certain structures in the lungs.

Symptoms

Emphysema symptoms typically worsen as the disease progresses. These symptoms may include:

  • Chronic coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Continuous production of mucus
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Reduced capacity for physical activity
  • Poor appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss

Treatment

Although emphysema-induced lung damage can't be reversed, it's possible to slow or even stop the disease's progression through the use of certain treatments (including medications, inhalers, supplemental oxygen, and/or surgery).

Quitting smoking is considered crucial to fighting emphysema, and for those who prefer to go the natural route, there are natural remedies that can help you quit.

To date, very little is known about the safety or effectiveness of alternative medicine in emphysema treatment. Here are two substances that show some promise in the treatment of emphysema:

1) Coenzyme Q10

In one of the few studies to examine coenzyme Q10's effects on pulmonary function, researchers found that eight weeks of coenzyme Q10 supplementation had some benefit for chronic lung disease patients. Overall, however, there's a lack of evidence to support the use of coenzyme Q10 supplements among people with emphysema.

2) Curcumin

In an animal study published in 2009, curcumin (an anti-inflammatory compound available in the curry spice turmeric) was found to attenuate the development of emphysema in mice. However, there's no evidence that curcumin can halt the progression of emphysema in humans.

If you're considering the use of any type of alternative medicine in the treatment of emphysema, make sure to consult your physician about the possible risk and benefits.

A number of natural approaches and lifestyle changes are thought to benefit people with emphysema. These include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Following a balanced diet
  • Avoiding respiratory infections (by washing your hands frequently and strengthening your immune system, for instance)

You should also talk to your doctor about breathing exercises that may help improve your respiratory function.

A Word From Verywell

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend natural remedies for emphysema treatment. It's also important to note that self-treating a chronic condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using alternative medicine in the treatment of emphysema, make sure to consult your physician first.

In addition to avoiding all exposure to cigarette smoke, you can protect against emphysema by wearing appropriate work protection gear whenever working with/near chemical fumes or dust.

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  2. Turino GM. Emphysema in COPD: consequences and causesThorax. 2006;61(12):1031–1032. doi:10.1136/thx.2006.066308

  3. Pahal P, Avula A, Sharma S. Emphysema. [Updated 2019 Aug 14]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-.

  4. Tanrikulu AC, Abakay A, Evliyaoglu O, Palanci Y. Coenzyme Q10, Copper, Zinc, and Lipid Peroxidation Levels in Serum of Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary DiseaseBiological Trace Element Research. 2010;143(2):659-667. doi:10.1007/s12011-010-8897-5

  5. Suzuki M, Betsuyaku T, Ito Y. Curcumin attenuates elastase- and cigarette smoke-induced pulmonary emphysema in miceAmerican Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology. 2009;296(4). doi:10.1152/ajplung.90443.2008

Additional Reading
  • Worth H. "What Is Proven in the Treatment of COPD?" Internist (Berl). 2009 Nov 26.

  • Fujimoto S, Kurihara N, Hirata K, Takeda T. "Effects of Coenzyme q10 Administration on Pulmonary Function and Exercise Performance in Patients With Chronic Lung Diseases." Clin Investig. 1993;71(8 Suppl):S162-6.