Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease that occurs when the tissue in the small airways breaks down. It is also known as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It rarely goes away instead it worsens over time. Symptoms include – shortness of breath, a cough, wheezing, a large amount of mucus in the throat and lungs, fatigue and losing weight without trying. COPD is usually caused by or aggravated by cigarette smoking but in 2% of affected individuals there is a genetic component.

COPD And The Immune System

Moderate to severe COPD may be an auto-immunity problem, according to researchers in Spain, who studied the presence of auto-antibodies in patients with COPD and compared them to levels in control subjects. They found that a significant number of patients with COPD had about 5 to 10 times the levels of auto-antibodies circulating in their blood than the people in the control group. The study showed that between one-third and one-quarter of all patients studied had significantly high levels of auto-antibodies circulating in their bloodstream and these auto-antibodies were attacking the matrix and epithelium of their lungs.

If You Smoke

It is thought that COPD may be another instance where the body's own defense mechanism is trying to rid the lungs of cigarette smoke and ends up making the situation worse. Smoking also destroys another of the body's defense mechanisms – the cilia. These finger-like projections help to sweep foreign particles out of the lungs. Cigarette smoking paralyzes them, making them ineffective. When you first quit smoking don’t be surprised if you actually cough more – but that’s a good thing – because these cilia are starting to work again. Just another good reason to quit smoking – it messes with your immune system and may make your body attack itself. If you think that feeling short of breath is a normal sign of aging— it's not. If you have any signs and symptoms, see your doctor. Ask for a spirometry – a simple test that measures how much air you can move out of your lungs.

It’s Never Too Late

Once COPD has been diagnosed stopping smoking slows down the rate of progression of the disease. Even at a late stage of the disease, it can significantly reduce the rate of deterioration in lung function and delay the onset of disability and death. It is the only standard intervention that can improve the rate of progression of COPD. Smoking cessation starts with an individual decision to stop smoking that leads to an attempt at quitting. Often several attempts are required before long-term smoking cessation is achieved. Some smokers can achieve long-term smoking cessation through willpower alone. However, smoking is highly addictive and many smokers need further support to quit. The chance of successfully stopping smoking can be greatly improved through social support, a stop smoking group and the use of drugs such as nicotine replacement therapy.

Stopping COPD In Its Tracks

Whether you are an ex smoker, a current smoker or one of those with a defective gene (and you don’t know it) there are many things you can do to help your lungs and keep your immune system in great shape:


There is some evidence that poor nutrition and certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies may exacerbate COPD. Therefore, eating a healthy, balanced diet is especially important for COPD sufferers. Their diets should include plenty of fruits and vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. In addition, magnesium deficiency may increase the risk of lung disease. Magnesium-rich foods include legumes, whole grains and leafy green vegetables. Also, some COPD patients find that drinking black tea helps to ease tightness in the chest and makes it easier for them to breath


One COPD sufferer named Jenny says she eliminated her COPD symptoms by using an exercise bicycle outdoors. In addition to exercise, Jenny changed her diet and added supplements like fish oil, CQ10 and olive leaf. Interestingly while Jenny’s COPD symptoms improved her depression symptoms did as well. Jenny also lost 15 pounds with her healthy diet. She attributes much of her success to regular exercise and soaking up the sun in the late afternoon. It is advisable to exercise in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the sun’s most intense rays.


Vitamin C and Magnesium are important. Research conducted at the University of Maryland revealed that Vitamin C and Magnesium aid in the treatment of COPD. People with COPD often have low levels of magnesium due to poor nutrition. Magnesium promotes healthy lung function, thereby making it vital for COPD patients. Research has also revealed that supplements like Carnitine and CQ10 are beneficial for COPD patients, who experienced improved breathing and fewer COPD symptoms.

Herbal Treatments for COPD

  • Olive leaf is one herb that eases symptoms of COPD. Olive leaf reduces inflammation and aids in the treatment of COPD-related infection. Olive leaf is a natural antibiotic with anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties
  • Astragalus, enchinacea, ginseng, quercetin, thyme, milk thistle and lobelia are helpful herbs
  • Eucalyptus is a natural expectorant that can help to loosen phlegm
  • Licorice, lobelia, marshmallow, red clover and saw palmetto all can be used to treat bronchitis
  • Garlic has antioxidant properties and may help to fight infections
  • Cayenne is useful because it has the ability to increase circulation and improve breathing. A recipe for blood clearance is 1 cup of water, 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and 2 teaspoons of honey. Drink this slowly throughout the day
*As with any other natural COPD treatment, herbs should only be used with the knowledge of a physician. Some should not be taken with certain medications or by those with certain medical conditions.

Natural Treatments

Acupuncture, acupressure and shiatsu. Some COPD sufferers report that they experience some relief from their symptoms after being treated with acupuncture. Acupressure is similar to acupuncture but relies on pressure from thumbs and fingers rather than the insertion of needles. Shiatsu, another massage pressure technique is helpful. These techniques also can be useful as part of an anti-smoking program 

  • Yoga. Mind/body programs, like yoga, that include meditation and stress reduction techniques as well as strengthening exercises and controlled breathing routines may be good natural COPD treatments for some sufferers
  • Other activities that can help to reduce the stress of living with COPD and, therefore, may help to ease the symptoms include joining a support group, practicing tai chi, meditating, listening to relaxation tapes and using biofeedback