Will drinking herbal tea help my COPD?Dear Dr. Mahler:I have read that herbal teas may be good for my COPD. Is there any evidence for this? Julia from Bennington, VT
Caffeine is naturally present in coffee and all types of green and black teas. Studies show that caffeine can mildly relax the muscle that wraps around our breathing tubes (airways) to make it easier to breathe.
Herbal tea is a general term for a hot beverage that uses other plant material to produce a tea other than the tea leaf (Camellia sinensis). Many people drink herbal teas as a way to enjoy a hot beverage that contain antioxidants, but avoid caffeine. An antioxidant is a substance that inhibits oxidation – a process that damages or injures cells in our body.
Teas considered to be high in antioxidants include lemon balm, scarlet pimpernel, sweet basil, arabian jasmine, guava, wolfberry, and balsam pear.
According to Healthline (http://www.healthline.com/health/copd/herbs-supplements#1), several herbs have been used for centuries to alleviate the symptoms of COPD. These include thyme (Thymus vulgaris), ivy (Hedera helix), ginseng (Panax ginseng), curcumin (Curcuma longa), and red sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza).
I suggest that you view the Healthline website and seek other information about possible benefits of herbal tea for your COPD. Certainly, you should not smoke and avoid airborne irritants that can cause inflammation (redness and swelling) in your breathing tubes.
Donald A. Mahler, M.D.
Donald A. Mahler, M.D. is Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. He works as a pulmonary physician at Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, NH, where he is Director of Respiratory Services.