Buteyko breathing technique

March 22, 2017


Buteyko breathing technique

Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.

While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Buteyko breathing training, Buteyko Institute Method, Buteyko technique, Eucapnic breathing technique, Eucapnic Buteyko breathing.


  • The Buteyko breathing technique (BBT) consists of breathing techniques, relaxation exercises, and asthma education. The technique aims to reduce hyperventilation. BBT originated in Russia in the 1950s and has since been adapted for use elsewhere.

  • BBT is most commonly used to treat asthma and other breathing conditions. Some evidence suggests that BBT may help reduce reliance on asthma drugs, especially among patients who frequently use a rescue inhaler. However, studies have not shown improvement in other measures of asthma severity.


  • The theory behind the Buteyko breathing technique (BBT) is that individuals with asthma over-breathe (hyperventilate), causing them to lose excessive carbon dioxide from the lungs. When carbon dioxide levels become too low, the airways constrict and oxygen levels are lowered.

  • BBT may have an effect because of the personal attention patients receive or because of a change in the patient's perception of asthma severity. In addition, asthma education may improve patients' understanding of the disease.

Scientific Evidence


These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.


Asthma (adjunct)

Studies have shown reduced use of rescue inhalers among patients receiving BBT. Improvements in other measures of asthma severity have not been shown. Additional study is warranted.


*Key to grades:A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).


The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.

  • Allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease, hormonal disorders, migraine, nervous system disorders, panic attacks, respiratory disease, skin conditions (eczema), sleep apnea, snoring.


Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.

  • BBT is generally considered safe. BBT may interact with asthma medications and should be used with caution in patients with asthma that changes suddenly ("brittle asthma"). Patients should use caution when reducing levels of asthma medications and should always carry a rescue inhaler. Asthma should be treated by a qualified healthcare professional.

  • BBT is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding due to a lack of safety data.

Author Information

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).


Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Abramson M, Borg B, Doran C. A randomized controlled trial of the Buteyko method for asthma. Int J Immunorehabil 2004;6:244.

  2. Bruton A, Lewith GT. The Buteyko breathing technique for asthma: a review. Complement Ther Med. 2005;13(1):41-46. View Abstract

  3. Bowler SD, Green A, Mitchell CA. Buteyko breathing techniques in asthma: a blinded randomised controlled trial. Med J Aust. 12-7-1998;169(11-12):575-578. View Abstract

  4. British Guideline on the Management of Asthma. Thorax 2008;63 Suppl 4:iv1-121. View Abstract

  5. Cooper S, Oborne J, Newton S, et al. Effect of two breathing exercises (Buteyko and pranayama) in asthma: a randomised controlled trial. Thorax 2003;58(8):674-679. View Abstract

  6. McGowan J. Health Education: Does the Buteyko Institute Method make a difference? Thorax 2003;58(suppl III):28.

  7. McHugh P, Aitcheson F, Duncan B, et al. Buteyko Breathing Technique for asthma: an effective intervention. N Z Med.J 12-12-2003;116(1187):U710. View Abstract

  8. Opat AJ, Cohen MM, Bailey MJ, et al. A clinical trial of the Buteyko Breathing Technique in asthma as taught by a video. J Asthma 2000;37(7):557-564. View Abstract

  9. Walters EH, Johns DP. Unravelling the Buteyko effect. Med J Aust. 1-15-2001;174(2):64-65. View Abstract

  10. Weiner JM, Burdon JG. Severe allergen-induced asthma despite the use of Buteyko breathing technique. Med J Aust. 7-19-1999;171(2):109. View Abstract

Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.


March 22, 2017