Purpose of review: Complementary and alternative medicine is widely used in bronchial asthma. Data on efficacy of these treatment modalities are lacking.
Recent findings: Studies published since June 2002 on complementary and alternative medicine in bronchial asthma were systematically reviewed.
Summary: Studies do not support the use of homeopathy, air ionizers, manual therapy, or acupuncture for asthma. These methods bear some risks to patients related to undertreatment and side effects. There might be a possible, but so far not clearly established, role for antioxidant dietary supplementation, and some natural antiinflammatory and immunomodulatory remedies. However, their effect size compared with the classical treatment and side-effect profile is not clearly established. Strategies influencing breathing technique or perception, such as breathing or retraining exercises, need to be studied over the next few years to establish their additive role in the treatment of asthma. Breathing exercises could improve lung function and quality of life in different studies. Psychotherapy-related methods such as relaxation, hypnosis, autogenic training, speleotherapy, and biofeedback might have a small effect in selected cases, but have not proven to be superior to placebo. Nevertheless, more randomized controlled trials of good methodological quality are required to allow firm conclusions.