Wheezing & coughing? Try a cup of coffee.

Yes, you read that headline right. Caffeine, known more as a pick-me-up than a home remedy, has been researched by scientists for its benefits for people with asthma. So is it true? Will caffeine from coffee or strong tea work as a home remedy for asthma symptoms?

THE LOWDOWN:

The chemical structure of caffeine resembles that of a common asthma medication that relaxes the airway muscles and relieves respiratory problems, theophylline, reports Anahad O’Connor.

In a 2007 study in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, researchers pooled and analyzed the results of a half dozen clinical trials looking at the effects of caffeine on asthmatics. They found that caffeine produced small improvements in airway function for up to four hours, compared with a placebo, and that even a small dose — less than the amount in a cup of Starbucks coffee — could improve lung function for up to two hours.

In other words, in a pinch, a cup of coffee or strong tea might provide some momentary relief. Just be sure not to replace that handy inhaler for a tall dark roast just yet.

The improvements are very slight, studies show. To the point where it is definitely not enough to make caffeine a replacement for medication. The other problem is that because of their chemical similarities, consuming too much caffeine can compound any side effects of theophylline. As a result, doctors advise people taking that medication to watch their consumption of coffee, tea, chocolate and other foods with caffeine.

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