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Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and Herbal Medicine

By Leah Regner
from Naturally With

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a serious lung disease that gets worse over time and can cause significant health problems. It is a relatively rare disease, with an estimated 6 people per 100,000 individuals worldwide (1).

While the exact cause of IPF is unknown, it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including exposure to certain chemicals and toxins (2). In our clinic, we had had a patient that was a Vietnam War Vet that was exposed to chemicals and other patients that had office jobs with no exposure to any chemicals or toxins. Hence the name Idiopathic or “arises from no known cause”

The incidence of IPF is increasing, likely due to increased awareness and improved diagnostic methods (3). IPF is most commonly diagnosed in individuals over the age of 60, and it is more common in men than in women (1).

Medications for IFP may assist with reducing inflammation and slow progression however there are limited choices and this may be problematic for patients with other chronic conditions.

Herbal Options for IPF

The emergence of herbal treatments for IPF is an exciting development as it presents an alternative to traditional pharmaceutical treatments. It also allows patients to explore different treatment plans that can work best for them while reducing the risks of medication interactions.

Several supplements and herbs have been studied for their potential therapeutic effects on IPF. A few of the most commonly used ones are:

  1. N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a derivative of the amino acid cysteine, has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the lungs, which are both implicated in the pathogenesis of IPF. A meta-analysis of six randomized controlled trials found that NAC supplementation improved forced vital capacity (FVC) and reduced exacerbations in patients with IPF (4).
  2. Another herb that has shown promise in the treatment of IPF is Cordyceps sinensis, a parasitic fungus that grows on the larvae of certain caterpillars. Cordyceps sinensis has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to treat respiratory conditions. A study on a mouse model of IPF found that Cordyceps sinensis supplementation improved lung function and reduced inflammation (5).
  3. Astragalus also traditionally used in Chinese medicine as a remedy for respiratory diseases. It is known for its immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties. A study conducted in China evaluated the effect of Astragalus on IPF patients. The results showed that Astragalus improved the lung function and quality of life of the patients. Additionally, Astragalus reduced the decline of forced vital capacity (FVC) in patients with IPF, indicating a potential role in preventing the progression of IPF (6).
  4. Angelica sinensis is another traditional Chinese herb that has been used to treat various ailments, including respiratory diseases. It has been reported to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fibrotic properties. A study conducted in Korea investigated the effect of Angelica sinensis on IPF using a mouse model. The results showed that Angelica sinensis treatment reduced lung inflammation and fibrosis in the mice, indicating its potential therapeutic value in IPF (7).

See a natural health practitioner

However, it is important to note that not all herbal remedies are safe or effective for IPF. Some herbs may interact with medications or worsen symptoms of the disease.

Some patients I have assisted have had no other conditions and been able to have all the above-mentioned supplements. Others have things such as heart disease, mental health or diabetes and need to have a more personalised treatment plan.

Therefore, it is important to work with a qualified Naturopath before incorporating herbal remedies into a treatment plan.



  1. Maher, T. M., Bendstrup, E., Dron, L., Langley, J., Smith, G., Khalid, J. M., … & Kreuter, M. (2021). Global incidence and prevalence of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Respiratory Research22(1), 1-10.
  2. Maher, T. M., & Wells, A. U. (2019). IPF: One disease, many comorbidities and no cure. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, 7(10), 878-888.
  3. Fernández Pérez, E. R., et al. (2018). Epidemiology of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Clinics in Chest Medicine, 39(1), 1-8.
  4. Jiang, C., et al. (2021). N-acetylcysteine in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine, 100(14), e25417.
  5. Zhao, J., et al. (2015). Cordyceps sinensis oral liquid improves pulmonary function in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, 9(5), 1731-1736.
  6. Wang, J., Ma, Y., Zhuang, Y., Li, J., Mu, S., Zhang, J., … & Li, X. (2017). Efficacy and safety of traditional Chinese medicine on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: a meta-analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2017.
  7. Kwon, O. K., Lee, M. Y., Yuk, D. Y., Oh, S. R., & Lee, H. K. (2015). Anti-inflammatory effects of Angelica sinensis extract in a mouse model of ovalbumin-induced allergic asthma. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 77, 39-44.

More about the author

Leah Regner
Leah Regner
– Naturally With

Leah Regner is an experienced Nutritionist and Naturopath with a practice located at the My Dr Erina Clinic on the NSW Central Coast. As a mother and grandmother, Leah's extensive life experience complements her university qualifications.

She incorporates traditional medicines with scientific studies to support her patients in achieving optimal health and wellbeing. Leah recognises that many of her patients seek her help after discovering underlying health issues or losing track of their health goals. She provides a judgment-free environment and sets realistic goals while respecting her patients' choices.

Leah understands that patients often seek her help after encountering an underlying health issue or losing track of their health goals. Hence, she provides a judgment-free environment and sets realistic goals, respecting her patients' choices.

Her area of expertise lies in treating Gut Health. However, Leah's recent encounter with one of her favourite patients, who had Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, piqued her interest. This led her down a path of extensive research and knowledge gathering. Now, she is one of the only Natural Practitioners in Australia who specialises in minimising and slowing the progression of this fatal disease.