The Different Medical and Natural Remedies for the Treatment of IPF

With the documented success rate and benefits of naturopathic treatment for various chronic illnesses, it is hard for patients not to consider how natural remedies might help with their personal diagnosis. Natural remedies such as the use of essential oils or organic supplements, and those grounded in Chinese medicine such as acupuncture and herbal medicines, are gaining traction for their benefits in treating various diseases.

Medical Remedies
For someone with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), the sad truth is that the treatment options are currently limited and the prognosis of survival beyond three to five years remains poor. This is because Western medicine or the traditional medical treatment of this disease includes just two approved anti-fibrotic medications that are used to slow down the progression of fibrosis in the lungs.

There currently aren’t any medications that a patient with IPF can take to stop or reverse the fibrosis and damage in the lungs, leaving the only real “cure” to IPF being a double lung transplant. For those who don’t want to endure organ transplantation for personal or health reasons, or for those who can’t withstand such a surgery, the other options for treating, or even for living better with IPF are few. That is unless a patient considers natural remedies for the treatment or management of their disease.

MORE: Four tried-and-true tips for coping with a chronic illness

Natural Remedies
When considering natural remedies for the management of IPF, it is hard to know where to begin. The Internet is filled with a plethora of information about naturopathic options to treat chronic illness, and some of it is legitimate and credible, however much of it is not. This is where patients have to be careful.

The other consideration is that often times, natural remedies target a symptom of a disease that is contributing to a vicious cycle of other symptoms or an overall decline in a person’s health. For example, patients with IPF are familiar with inflammation both in the lungs and joints, as often times rheumatoid arthritis goes hand in hand with the diagnosis of IPF.

A naturopathic treatment for reducing inflammation could include the use of certain essential oils or acupuncture, which can improve mobility and patients’ joints, enabling them to be more active and reducing their pain levels. Reducing inflammation in the lungs would also likely increase the process of oxygenation, which is something IPF patients struggle with as their disease progresses.

This is just one example of how natural or Chinese medicines may be used to target a symptom of chronic illness that causes a patient pain, immobility or reduced ability to breathe and how eliminating or treating that symptom could benefit patients, particularly those living with IPF. This all being said, it is incredibly important to speak with a doctor, as well as other professionals who have access to credible literature on how natural remedies might help in the treatment of specific chronic illnesses.

MORE: Three professionals to talk to before traveling with IPF/PF

The Debate
The debate about the use of traditional medicine versus natural remedies for the treatment of chronic illnesses across social media, television (both fictional and non-fictional series), and medical journals, as well as among patients remains a very controversial topic.

There are documented success stories of people claiming to cure their chronic illness, or at least alleviate symptoms naturally. As a result, it’s hard for patients not to consider an alternative to Western medicine, especially for diseases where treatment options that are known to work are rare, such as IPF.

MORE: Four breathing exercises for pulmonary fibrosis

Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

38 comments

  1. Lea says:

    I want there to be more info on this!!

    First, I don’t have an IPF diagnosis. I have a diagnosis of ILD, with no clue of why. Non smoker. Never exposed to environmental disease risks. And so on. Any helps that I come up with may not apply to others.

    Second, my symptoms occur in flare ups, i.e., 3-day to 5-day periods of time when my oxygen will not increase not matter what I try, and I just want to sit in a recliner until it is over.

    Third, I ain’t even close to 30.

    Now.

    Chocolate has become my “go to” medicine for rough days. I’m looking for safe chocolate recipes, that don’t increase my likelihood for allergic reaction.

    Cannabis oil increases my oxygen for about 3 hours. It became legal and my son, anxious for a cure, ran out and bought it for me. The label says 3 drops, but I only use 1-2 drops. It seems to also lower my blood pressure. I don’t need low blood pressure, so I don’t use a lot.

    A supplement called N-A-G helps with gastric issues.

    Olive oil has become my skin soother for nasal scabs.

    Serrapeptase has done nothing noticeable.
    Grapeseed oil is good for my nasal sores, but causes nausea.
    N-A-C has done nothing noticeable.
    Vick’s Vaporub and similar products only agitate my allergies.

    Thank you for allowing comments here so that I can share!

    • Steven says:

      Lea – I know athletes will juice with red beets before a long activity. They (and others) suggest it will increase oxygen uptake. How and for how long I do not know. I know these same athletes use soda bicarb – non-aluminum only to help with endurance. I have tried both and they do help me for a while. Be cautious about the bicarb and know under what times of day regarding meals it is safe. You can mix other things in the beet juice of course. – SteveD

      • Charlene Marshall says:

        Hi Steven,

        Thanks for reading my columns and for getting in touch with us via the comments. I know your response was to Lea, however, I just wanted to share that I really appreciate hearing about the red beet juice and oxygen uptake. I started a topic in our Pulmonary Fibrosis News forums about juicing, and am inviting folks to contribute recipes. I love fresh juicing and quite enjoy doing so with beets so I’m glad to know it has an oxygen uptake benefit as well. Thanks again for sharing 🙂

        Charlene.

    • Chuck says:

      Lea, Thank You for sharing. I have sarcoidosis of the lungs. I know it is a scaring of the lung tissue, but I don’t know if it is a IPF COD or ???. My MD confesses He knows little about scarcidosis and my pulmonary DR just gives me inhalers ( with a lot of possible side affects)
      I have tried Serrapeptases at time with mixed results.
      I have never taken more than 1,500,000 I.U.’s a day.
      Never give up. Chuck Tenor

  2. My Father really enjoyed Reflexology sessions as a means of an alternative therapy to provide relief. I’ve also had other family members who have found it useful with mental health illnesses. I am a big believer in natural remedies and essential oils, alongside the use of traditional medicines when used correctly. Something as simple as lavender oil to calm helps me in day to day life and as a hand lotion I encouraged my Dad to use it to moisturise his hands but also to distract from times when he was feeling anxious xx

  3. Ruth Ridgway says:

    Are there two types of Pulmonary Fibrosis?
    My pulmonologist told me that I won’t die from this, I would die from something else.

    • Katherine L. Broach says:

      a lot of us are far more likely to die of heart disease, for example. i don’t know your medical history, but i know an IPF patient who lived many years with our disease and died of something entirely unrelated. by all means ask the doctor who told you this to clarify his statement.

    • Ginger Adelstone says:

      Dear Ruth,
      I am recently diagnosed with PF, of which there are 200 different types, which make treating it so difficult, as the dr needs to know exactly which one we have, in order to provide any type of accurate treatment. A lung transplant will be my only option. I hope this email finds you well. IPF May have more options. I hope do for your sake. I cherish every minute. Live your life, find peace, rejoice at your friends and family. Peace be with you!

      • Charlene Marshall says:

        Amen to that Ginger, thank you for contributing your reply to all of us and wishing you nothing but the best on your PF journey!
        Kindest regards,
        Charlene.

  4. Nick Hill MD says:

    By seeming to equate the efficacy of the available IPF medications and natural remedies, the article by Charlene Marshall on natural remedies is misleading and does patients a disservice. It undervalues the approved medications – they clearly slow the progression of the disease and perfenidone (and probably nintedinib) improves survival. No natural remedies have been shown to do either of those. The natural remedies are unproven when it comes to interstitial lung disease and there’s no debate about that. I tell patients to check with their doctor before using a natural remedy to make sure it is likely to be safe and not to break the bank! They do sometimes make people feel better for a variety of reasons (including the placebo effect)and many of them can be taken with the medications.

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hello Mr. Hill,

      Thank you for contributing your comments to my column, I appreciate the time anyone takes to read and respond to my work.

      My recent column was not meant to equate the efficacy of the available IPF medications and natural remedies, as you say. I agree that there is exceptional work being done and studies that publish the success of medications that slow the development of fibrosis in the lungs. I am on these medications and am grateful for what it has been able to do for me. I also encourage everyone to speak with their Doctor about natural remedies first and foremost, which is what I have done. I have been approved to try certain natural remedies to help with my IPF, and if others want to do this as well then I encourage them to do that. Everyone is entitled to the treatment options that suit them individually, as the side effects of anti-fibrotic medications are often unpleasant and are not worth it to some patients I have spoken with. The fact that there is no known standard treatment and care for IPF (although this is getting clearer, which I know patients including myself really appreciate) that is applicable to everyone, there is a large responsibility on patient’s to consider all their options in not only treating their disease but alleviating side effects and symptoms as well. There may not be any literature supporting the use of natural remedies and IPF/ILDs, however, there are a number of patients who have good things to say about different naturopathic options that have helped them in the management of their disease. Perhaps this is the placebo effect, but unless you are living with the daily struggles of IPF, you cannot possibly understand the desperation to alleviate the symptoms or side effects of this disease and if natural remedies help to do that legitimately or via the placebo effect, the important thing is that there is some relief.

      In summary, absolutely patients should check with their Doctor first about any natural remedies. That being said, I think this is an individual choice and if patients want to try these options let them without argument. Western medicine and the intensity of some medications are not worth it to some patients and this should be an individual’s choice.

      Thank you again for your comments.

      Charlene.

      • Love your reply, Charlene. Very balanced and respectful. I found your column very informative and in no way misleading. As a patient, it has provided me with wonderful information, which I will carefully consider. Like you, I always run any treatments by my doctor. I have found some doctors very open to natural remedies, and others will not consider them unless there are mounds of research supporting them. Somehow, volumes of patients reporting their experiences doesn’t count. Crazy, huh? I appreciate you sharing so freely your experience, and appreciate your column so much.

      • Binal says:

        Hello Miss.Charlene Marshall may I know what kind of natural remedy you are using for IPF. My mom has IPF since last 5 year, she is on prednisolone. she has developed very serious side effect because of pred. now she can not even walk till bathroom. she feel more breathlessness. So, can you suggest me any natural remedy for her, which can help to improve her condition. I know IPF is not a curable disease, but if you have any suggestion for her that she can feel little better. or do you know any altered for prednisolone?

    • Hey Nick, I’m sure you had the best of intentions in your comment above. I can tell that you care deeply about your patients, and want them to be helped, not harmed. That’s a good thing. However, your zeal to make sure patients get the full picture came across harsh and insulting, “the article by Charlene Marshall on natural remedies is misleading and does patients a disservice.” First, this is not true. Second, I know your comment came from a good place. I would encourage you to remember in the future that this column is being written by a patient who is doing her best to survive, and is brave to offer her experiences to other patients. Please remember we are patients with tender hearts and we have valuable information to share about the day in and day out of living with a terminal illness. The information you have to share is important. Please deliver it more kindly in the future.

    • Vic says:

      Dr. Hill it is disingenuous to say that natural remedies are unproven. The reality is that synthetic drugs like OPEV and Esbriet have had multiple high-level medical investigations because, like other synthetic drugs that didn’t make it to market, because there is an economic incentive behind finding a product that shows results. Look both are $90,000/year and that is the recoup cost for finding a medicine for a rare disease. There is an article on lycopene use in induced PF rats that show great results for rats fed tomato juice. One can of tomato juice a day is $1, $365/year. But there are no studies on the effective dose of tomato juice in PF humans not because tomato juice is not effective but because there are not the research dollars to get through the rigors of FDA approval. The same goes for propolis, a plant substance collected by honeybees. Who would fund these investigations and be able to recoup the costs of the study? So reality is not that natural treatments are not effective, instead that no one financially sponsors natural treatments through to the rigors of drug investigation. Usually those studies, even positive ones are stuck at the animal level.

    • Steven says:

      Nick – a good friend of mine (an orthopedic surgeon) travels the world giving the health message. His notable comment, “Pills are for dying people, food is for living people”, makes a lot of sense as all medications -ALL – have side effects even those that started out from a natural source at some point.

      Pharmacy is in the business of creating customers not necessarily healing patients. Ask my brother-in-law how many free trips he has taken thanks to his pharmacy reps. The right combination of natural organic foods will tremendously help with or without supplements or the placebo effect. Since there are no current medications that reverse ILD or IPF, supplements can be a viable alternative. Western medicine and its schools have big pharma sitting on their boards. Most western trained doctors know very little about nutrition – especially potential Ayurvedic options. Just a few short observations…. SteveD

      • Charlene Marshall says:

        Thanks for sharing Steven, we appreciate your knowledge.
        Since there are no medications that reverse ILDs or IPF, I agree that supplements certainly don’t cause us any harm in trying. Wishing you nothing but the very best!
        Kind regards,
        Charlene.

  5. Chuck says:

    Hello All. I have sarcoidosis of the lungs. In the 6-8 times it has caused me discomfort and chest pressure, 1,000,000 I. U.’s daily of serrapeptase has brought relief, but not this time. So much to my dismay, my MD has just put me on prednisone. He said he knows nothing of natural or holistic treatment for sarcoidosis. He is trying to find me a Dr. who has expertise with lung sarcoidosis. I have read on health websites of some getting great results by using food grade hydrogen peroxide or a baking soda solution and using it in a nebulizer.

    • Jim W says:

      Vincent, my pulmonologist said that stem cell might work in the future but so little is known about it and how to use it that it is not for right now. Maybe some day. In the meantime, be very skeptical.

    • Veronica says:

      I’m looking into the stem cell therapy for my husband. I have contacted The Lung Institute in PA. Very informative and will answer all your questions including cost.

  6. Jim W says:

    Charlene, Thanks for your column and the opportunity to commend and comment. In year five of IPF I am willing to try something beyond FDA and that is Chinese herbs. I have not spoken to my pulmonologist about this but did mention it to a research doctor and got the eye-roll response followed by this is not approved by FDA. The Chinese have been treating lung problems for a couple of centuries before FDA and using herbs and other stuff I don’t want to know about, with apparent success. It is too soon to say if they are working, and indeed, I continue to decline so don’t know if the uninsured cost will pay off or not. I also get acupuncture for inflammation which has no side effects like Prednisone does. I just want to be positive in my response to your bringing up a subject we IPFers wonder about. I hope I can respond later to report that the Chinese herbal tea works way better than it tastes.

  7. Krissy says:

    Hello all! I apologize in advance if this has already been asked or talked about. My father has IPF and I’ve been looking into natural therapy and came across Pyunkang-Hwan an herbal treatment that detoxes the lungs. From what I have found it all sounds great and makes total sense when it comes to detoxing the body. Has anyone else read about this lung cleansing therapy created by Dr. Seo?? Please any feed back would be greatly appreciated!

    • Jim W says:

      Krissy, perhaps related to the Pyunkang-Hwan herbal treatment, I found a Chinese herbal treatment from a company named Wei Labs in San Jose, CA. Their lung program uses three of their products to address lung problems including IPF like your father and I have. Sold only through trained acupuncturists (but also available on Amazon!), one takes three each of three different pills (9/day). They are called Soup A and Soup B and LC Balancer. Pricy, my acupuncturist took the course and sold them to me at her cost, i.e. $730 for month’s supply. Took for two months and felt no difference at all so I stopped. I am just in the beginning of year five after diagnosis, on OFEV and do acupuncture once a week. Now on 24/7 oxygen and I think I have hit a plateau as I feel like I am not declining just now. ( I see I responded to this subject a while back, before starting the herbs. This, then, is the response to that. Don’t think it worked for me.

      • Charlene Marshall says:

        Hi Whitney,

        Thanks for reading my columns and for getting in touch. I haven’t looked into a lot more on these natural remedies for PF, although lots of information is available on the internet. It is also a popular discussion in our Pulmonary Fibrosis news forums: https://www.pulmonaryfibrosisnews.com/forums that you may want to consider joining to read through. The only thing I want to ensure I caution you on is the importance of looking at credible information online only. The best thing that I’ve found that helps me manage my PF symptoms is eating a clean, healthy diet…

        If you find more information on this topic, please let us know as well and I’ll be sure to share any ‘gems’ I find as well.
        Cheers,
        Charlene.

  8. Binal says:

    Hello Miss.Charlene Marshall may I know what kind of natural remedy you are using for IPF. My mom has IPF since last 5 year, she is on prednisolone. she has developed very serious side effect because of pred. now she can not even walk till bathroom. she feel more breathlessness. So, can you suggest me any natural remedy for her, which can help to improve her condition. I know IPF is not a curable disease, but if you have any suggestion for her that she can feel little better. or do you know any altered for prednisolone?

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Melika,

      Thank you for reading and commenting on my column. I haven’t tried this, but I’d be curious to hear of others’ opinions as well…
      Charlene

      • Jim W says:

        Charlene, I tried Chinese herbs for 2.5 months, then stopped. I detected no change in my lung condition but felt blah so stopped. Cost was high but not a factor in the decision. Herbs were in pill form from WEI Labs, a CA company.

        • Charlene Marshall says:

          Hi Jim,

          Thank you so much for reading my columns and contributing to the comments. I’m sorry to hear that the herbs made you feel unwell! I’ve never heard of WEI Labs, but I’ll look into it. I’m not sure how I feel about herbal remedies yet, although I am open to it I think if they don’t have any adverse effects. My naturopathic Doctor recommended a combination based on a piece of literature that was published in 2017. I have them sitting on my counter, although I haven’t tried them yet. I always appreciate hearing others’ experience with herbs, good or bad, so I am grateful for your sharing.

          Cheers,
          Charlene

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Alina,

      Thank you so much for your comments, I am so glad to hear my column has been helpful. Best wishes to you!
      Kind regards,
      Charlene.

  9. Chuck Tenor says:

    Charlene. Thank You for time, effort,and labors of love.
    I have a question maybe someone can answer. I have sarcoidosis of the lungs and it times when I feel like someone’s giving me a bear hug, serrapeptase has helped.
    I have never taken more than 1,500,000 IU’s a day,sometimes for a few days or as long as 10 days to find
    relief. Now the serrapeptase is not bringing relief. I was told buy several natural healt professionals that serrapeptase will breakdown scar tissue. My new MD
    at the time of a physical exam and chest X-ray told me the
    Serrapeptase will not break down scar tissue and that I had been mislead.
    I now take prednisone. It brings quick relief but I don’t like taking it.
    Any comments or insight are appreciated and welcomed.

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Chuck,

      Thanks for reading my columns and for getting in touch via the comments. So sorry to hear about your diagnosis of sarcoidosis of the lungs, a friend of mine was just diagnosed with that as well and it is also a very unfair illness, like IPF/PF. She hasn’t specifically complained about chest tightness or the feeling of a ‘bear hug’ but I know any type of inflammation or fibrosis in the lungs can cause this and as far as I know there is nothing that can reverse it sadly. I know there are a few different things that can (hopefully) relieve the side effects ie. various inhalers (I am on a combination of 4 different ones) but the goal is symptom management, not disease management. I don’t know of any products that help break up the scar tissue, and unfortunately there is a lot of information out there with unknown credibility about more natural products like Serrapeptase. Not saying this is the case for you, just that it might be a possibility that you were misled unfortunately.

      I can relate about not enjoying the prednisone, it is so hard on my stomach and causes me so many unpleasant side effects. Hopefully you aren’t on it permanently/long term?

      This might be an excellent question to ask other PF/ILD patients in our Pulmonary News forums site: https://pulmonaryfibrosisnews.com/forums/
      Everyone is so willing to help one another that someone might have a bit more insight to share than I do. Worth a try?

      Sending you best wishes and thanks again for connecting.
      Kind regards,
      Charlene.

      • Chuck Tenor says:

        Charlene. Thank You for such a sweet spirited and kind reply. I will keep you posted on any help I find and continue to read all your emails and the comments.
        God bless You for Your labors of love.

        • Charlene Marshall says:

          Thank you for your reply Chuck and for your kind words, I very much appreciate connecting with all the wonderful people through the Pulmonary Fibrosis News site and forums. Although, I certainly wish it wasnt IPF/PF/ILDs that brought us together. Sending you best wishes and yes, please do keep me posted on any help you find for your concerning symptoms. Thank you so much.

          Take care,
          Charlene.

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