Breathe Easy with these Natural Remedies for Pulmonary Fibrosis

Pulmonary fibrosis is a serious lung condition which makes it difficult to breathe. Here are some natural remedies to help support the treatment.

Elderly Asian man with breathlessness.

Pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive lung condition that currently has no cure. The disease causes scarring and stiffening of the lungs, making breathing difficult. Thankfully, it is considered a rare disease and affects only around 20 per 100,000 people worldwide. While research is ongoing for new therapies to treat the condition, there are traditional remedies that can delay the progression of the disease. 

Causes of Pulmonary Fibrosis 

In many cases, the cause of pulmonary fibrosis remains unknown and is referred to as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Researchers believe that the condition may be hereditary, and some families may be predisposed to the disease. However, inheriting the condition is quite rare and it is caused by other factors.

Exposure to certain substances like chemicals or hazardous fumes can damage your lungs and cause pulmonary fibrosis. If you have been exposed to radiotherapy, chemotherapy and are taking certain medications used to treat heart ailments, these can also cause the condition. Your risk increases with cigarette smoking and with age, too, especially if you are 50 years old and above. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pulmonary Fibrosis 

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), pulmonary fibrosis is known as the fei wei disease (肺痿)and is the degeneration of the Lungs due to chronic damage. Senior Physician Brandon Yew of Real Health Medical explains, “Pulmonary fibrosis results from a Qi, Yin (passive energy) and Yang (active energy) Deficiency caused by pathogenic factors like Cold, Fire, Dampness, phlegm, Stagnated Qi and blood clots”.

He attributes an important role to lifestyle. “Work-related stress, a poor work-life balance, insufficient sleep or rest, emotional disturbances, an unhealthy diet, binge drinking, and smoking all contribute to the pathologies responsible”. Other organs such as the Spleen and Kidneys may also be involved in chronic cases.

Woman walking in the park and smiling
A healthy lifestyle is important to decrease the pathologies for pulmonary fibrosis.

Common Symptoms of Pulmonary Fibrosis 

The symptoms and course of pulmonary fibrosis vary widely from person to person. While some patients develop severe symptoms and rapidly progressing illness, others may have milder symptoms which worsen progressively over the years.

The most common symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis include breathlessness, a dry cough, tiredness, and aching muscles and joints. Patients may also experience unexplained weight loss. In severe cases, they may develop widening and rounding of the tips of fingers or toes, also called clubbing.

Treatment of Pulmonary Fibrosis

There is no treatment that can cure the condition. But medications and supportive oxygen therapy allow patients to live more comfortably and have more productive lives. In Physician Yew’s experience, TCM can help alleviate the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis. However, he emphasises that treatment should be taken under the guidance of a registered TCM physician.

Traditional chinese medicine herbs and remedies in jars
Herbal remedies can help relieve pulmonary fibrosis symptoms. 

Herbal Remedies 

TCM practitioners will formulate therapy based on the unique body composition of each individual patient. Hence it is important to consult a TCM practitioner for proper assessment.

Here is a list of some herbal remedies which have shown benefits in alleviating symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis: 

  • Xie Bai San (泻白散) – dispels residual Fire and nourishes the Lungs  
  • Bai He Gu Jin Tang (百合固金汤) – dispels residual Fire and phlegm, replenishes yin to nourish Lungs  
  • Ren Shen Wu Wei Zi Tang (人参五味子汤) – dispels residual phlegm, regenerates qi to strengthen Lungs  
  • Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi (香砂六君子) – dispels Dampness and phlegm, regenerates qi to strengthen Lungs 
  • Sheng Mai San (生脉散) – regenerates qi and yin to strengthen and nourish Lungs  
  • Bu Fei Tang (补肺汤) – replenishes qi and yin to strengthen and nourish Lungs, dispels residual Fire and phlegm  
  • Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang (清燥救肺汤) – replenishes qi and yin to strengthen and nourish Lungs, dispels residual Fire  
  • Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang (甘草干姜汤) – dispels Cold and phlegm, regenerates yang to warm and strengthen Lungs  
  • Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang (血府逐瘀汤) – dispels blood clots and Stagnated Qi, improves circulation within Lungs  

Acupuncture 

When performed by a trained TCM physician, acupuncture can be very effective in tackling the complex pathology behind pulmonary fibrosis. This is suggested for patients who have severe symptoms. 

Acupressure 

Physician Yew suggests acupressure as an easy self-help remedy for patients with mild symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis. “You can place your fingers or a blunt object like a massage stick at certain acupoints, and gently massage specific acupoints to elicit soreness or tenderness. Massage circularly in both clockwise and anticlockwise directions, 20 times each. Repeat for at least three minutes per acupoint,” he says.

You can use the acupoints listed below:  

  • Tai yuan LU9, (太渊): It dispels phlegm and Fire and revitalises Lung qi. 
  • He gu (LI4, 合谷): It dispels Fire, phlegm, Stagnated Qi and blood clots; clears the Lungs and airways. 
  • Tian tu (RN22, 天突): It dispels Cold, Fire and phlegm and clears the upper respiratory tract. 
  • Dan zhong (RN17, 膻中): It dispels Cold, Fire, and phlegm, Stagnated Qi and blood clots. It also clears the thoracic cavity and strengthens the Lungs.  
  • Zu san li (ST36, 足三里): It dispels Cold, Dampness, phlegm and Stagnated Qi, and strengthens the stomach to enhance the recovery of the Lungs.  
  • Yin ling quan (SP9, 阴陵泉): It dispels Cold, Dampness, phlegm and Stagnated Qi; it strengthens the Spleen to enhance the recovery of the Lungs
  • Feng long (ST40, 丰隆): It dispels Dampness, phlegm and Stagnated Qi
  • San yin jiao (SP6, 三阴交): It revitalises the Spleen and Kidneys to enhance Lung recovery. 
  • Tai xi (KI3, 太溪): It revitalises the Kidneys to enhance Lung recovery. 

Pulmonary fibrosis can considerably hinder the quality of life, making it challenging to go about routine activities. However, these traditional therapies can help you relieve the symptoms. Do consult your TCM physician today and breathe easy. 

References

  1. Cleveland Clinic. Pulmonary fibrosis.  [Accessed on 27 June 2022]. 
  2. Mayo Clinic. Pulmonary fibrosis.  [Accessed on 27 June 2022]

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