Traditional Chinese Medicine and Asthma

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the main component of CAM. TCM has two distinct practices used for asthma: herbal medicine and acupuncture.

Herbal Medicines

Herbal medicines are a common traditional Chinese medicine practice that can help with your asthma. You can use different herbs 1 alone (in place of prescribed medication) or with one of your asthma medications. Some herbal medicines act like oral steroids. What that means is, they can decrease your airway swelling. The main difference between herbs and steroids is the herbal medicines have fewer harmful side effects. Herbal medicines have some known risks.

Risks with Herbal Medicines

  • Each herbal medication contains a complex mixture of different herbs. Therefore, they may be hard to reproduce.
  • Some agents of these herbal medications are toxic.
  • The herbs are boiled down to create a mixture. During this process, the herbs lose some of their healing properties, making them less effective.
  • You may not see the same results as you would using your prescribed medications.


Acupuncture is an ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine practice that has been around for thousands of years. People use acupuncture to treat different health conditions, like migraines and arthritis. Some people use acupuncture to manage their asthma. Acupuncture involves inserting needles into specific areas or regions of your body. The location of these points is crucial to regulate your energy flow and limit inflammation. Thus, acupuncture aims to restore and maintain your internal balance.

Acupuncture may not work alone to treat your asthma. We do not recommend using acupuncture instead of a prescribed asthma therapy because research on whether acupuncture prevents or treats asthma is limited. Speak with your healthcare provider before making changes to your treatment regimen.

Considerations for Acupuncture

  • Acupuncture may not work as well as your add-on asthma therapies.
  • You can have skin reactions, like irritation or bruising, to the needles.
  • If the provider does not follow universal health precautions, you can become exposed to different blood and infectious diseases.