What Is COPD and What Can Be Done About It?

Ok, so what is COPD? It is the abbreviation for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It may also go by the names emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

It is characterized by coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing. It is a progressive disease caused by smoking or long-term exposure to certain pollutants.

More than 12 million Americans are diagnosed with COPD and it is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Unfortunately, the disease is irreversible, and requires medical attention. However, a few holistic treatments can slow the disease’s progress and improve symptoms.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary DiseaseQuit Smoking

The most important step to managing COPD is to quit smoking. If you smoke, quit. If you live in a high pollution area, consider moving. In order to slow the progress of the disease, it is important to remove the toxins that caused it in the first place. One thing you can do to help you quit smoking is start by choosing electronic cigarettes over the ones you currently use. This step will improve your chances of success.


Cardiovascular exercise helps strengthen the heart and lungs. According to the US Department of Agriculture, adults need at least two and a half hours of moderate to vigorous exercise each week just to stay healthy. Make sure you are getting some form of exercise each day.

Find something you enjoy. Try aerobics, yoga, Pilates, biking, hiking, tennis or just taking a brisk walk. The important thing is to get the body moving, the heart rate up and improve lung capacity.

Breathing Techniques

In addition to exercise, certain breathing techniques can strengthen the lungs. Try the following yogic breathing exercise called kapalabhati:

Begin sitting upright in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and begin to relax. Allow your hands to rest on your lap. Start to breathe deeply. To perform kapalabhati, forcefully expel all the air from your lungs using your abdominal muscles. Quickly inhale through your nose and fill the lungs with air. Then, quickly expel all the air again. These should be short, quick breaths. Repeat this process for 20 to 30 expulsions, then rest, breathing deeply. Repeat for two or three more sets.


Aromatherapy uses room diffusers and botanical oils to heal the body. The oils are placed in a room diffusers either alone, or combined with a little water. The diffuser is then heated to release the oils into the air.

Certain essential oils are known to have healing properties and can be used to help control symptoms of COPD. Chamomile and lemon balm essential oils help to quiet a cough.

Eucalyptus and peppermint act as expectorants and help expel mucus from the lungs. Lavender and Rosemary are both calming and anti-bacterial, help to boost the immune system and allow the lungs to heal from infection.

Room diffusers work best in a small area, such as a bedroom. If you do not have a room diffuser, add a few drops of essential oils to a pot of boiling water. Drape a towel over your head and sit with your face over the pot, breathing in the vapors. Use this technique once a day, preferably at night.


In addition to exercise, breathing techniques and aromatherapy, certain herbs can help heal the lungs and address some of the symptoms of COPD.

1.Licorice is naturally demulcent, meaning soothing to mucus membranes. It acts as a natural expectorant, relieving the lungs of excess fluid. Herbalists use it to treat coughs, colds, asthma and other respiratory problems. It is available as a herbal tea, as well as in capsule and liquid extract form.

The standard dose is 250 to 500 mg, three times per day. However, licorice may affect blood sugar levels and should not be taken by patients with diabetes, heart disease or liver disease.

2.Lobelia, or Indian tobacco, is a substitute for tobacco for those trying to quit smoking. It is no longer recommended for smoking, but taking the herb is known to be beneficial to the lungs. It is used by herbalists to treat asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia and chronic cough.

Lobelia can be toxic, and should only be taken in small amounts. Talk to a trained health care practitioner for appropriate dosing instructions. It is typically found in dried extract or capsule form.

3.Red clover blossom is another herb that is used specifically for respiratory problems. It has been used traditionally to treat whooping cough and other respiratory conditions. It is naturally diuretic, and is believed to be a “blood purifier”. It is also naturally expectorant, helping to remove mucus from the lungs.

Additionally, the herb is rich in certain vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, calcium, niacin, potassium, phosphorus and vitamin C. The recommended dose is 40 to 160 mg per day. It can be found in herbal teas, liquid extract or capsules.


1. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute – http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/copd/

2. University of Maryland Medical Center – http://www.umm.edu/altmed/