Asthma affects an estimated 300 million people every year with symptoms that include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and persistent cough. Many sufferers take a slew of anti-inflammatory medications to keep symptoms under control.

Some asthma patients look for alternative treatments to soften or cure their symptoms. One alternative treatment that some patients use for asthma is the dietary supplement Vitamin O.

What is Vitamin O?

Vitamin O was first introduced into the marketplace in 1988 by Rose Creek Health products. The "vitamin" is not actually a vitamin at all – it's a man-made formula of salt water and a small amount of germanium, a substance known to cause health problems. 

The Vitamin O is promoted as a way to increase the amount of oxygen in blood.  In turn, the increased oxygen then promotes increased oxygen in cells, according to Rose Creek Health. In reality, the substance is more of a placebo. 

Rose Creek Health also claims that vitamin O helps cure asthma, heart disease and cancer. No medical studies have proved the claims, though the Federal Trade Commission ordered Rose Creek Health to pay $375,000 in 2000 for fraud. The FTC said that Rose Creek cannot advertise vitamin O's purported health benefits unless "they possess competent and reliable scientific evidence to support the representation."

Now, all bottles of vitamin O carry a label that clearly states "this product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease." 

Vitamin C and Vitamin E for Asthma

Vitamin D is good for asthma(74982)Credit: Wikimedia CommonsVitamin O doesn't cure asthma, but asthma suffers can take certain vitamins to help alleviate their symptoms. For instance, taking large amounts of vitamin C are shown to lower the allergic inflammation of the airways, according to the October 2009 issue of the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry."

Adding a daily dosage of Vitamin E also works with Vitamin C to block free radicals in the airways, according to a study published in the 2002 issue of the "American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine."

Vitamin C and vitamin E are available both online at retailers like Amazon or through mass retailers and pharmacies. Several vitamin manufacturers regularly offer coupons for money off their vitamins.

Vitamin D for Asthma

Vitamin D is shown to improve asthma symptoms by blocking inflammatory proteins found in the lungs, according to a study published in the September 2010 issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Doctors are still performing long-term trials to determine the exact benefits, but they recommend parents up the dosage of vitamin D for their children, especially during the winter months when the body doesn't produce as much naturally. 

"Winter is coming on and flu season is coming on, and that is all the more reason for parents to increase vitamin D in their children," said Michael Holick, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine, physiology, and biophysics at the Boston University School of Medicine.

"Recent studies suggest that it will reduce risk of wheezing disorders, including asthma."

Like other supplements, vitamin D is available online and at other retailers or pharmacies.