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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising the public not to use over the counter homeopathic asthma products.
Thanks to protection from friendly legislators, the multibillion dollar homeopathic and supplement industry is allowed to mislead the public by labeling homeopathic products as “promoting lung health,” or even advertising them specifically as "providing relief for acute asthma symptoms."
These over-the-counter products are considered drugs and so technically fall under FDA’s review — but there is no requirement for evidence of their efficacy or safety, and manufacturers are allowed to make unfounded claims on the labels and marketing materials.
That may be fine for some homeopathic remedies, like for constipation or anxiety, but asthma attacks can be life threatening if untreated.
The homeopathic products are often labeled “natural”, “safe and effective,” etc., capitalizing on the prevalent aversion among the lay public against using pharmaceuticals.
Homeopathic products may include extremely dilute quantities of such asthma-busters as arsenic (arsenicum album), histamine (histaminum hydrochlorum) and ground-up dust mites. Seriously: that’s what some contain.
Here’s an example of the safe and effective advice (not really) to treat an acute asthma attack, from one of the website of one of the most famous names in homeopathic and alternative medicine:
For acute [asthma] attacks, try lobelia, or Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflate). Mix three parts tincture of lobelia with one part tincture of capsicum (red pepper, cayenne pepper). Take twenty drops of the mixture in water at the start of an asthmatic attack. Repeat every thirty minutes for a total of three or four doses.
["... or until your lips turn blue." -Editors]
Ginkgo biloba, licorice root, and reishi mushrooms are also sold as herbal remedies for asthma.
No homeopathic medicine, supplement, herbal, or dietary treatment has been shown to improve asthma in well-conducted randomized trials.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans a public hearing in Silver Spring, Maryland this week with an eye toward revising its regulatory framework for homeopathic products.