The results to expect from attending a Buteyko Course for asthma are on average a 50% reduction of asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and breathlessness within two weeks. Courses are suitable for any person with hyperventilation related symptoms.


British Thoracic Society

The British Thoracic Society recently upgraded the Buteyko Method to “B” classification indicating that there are “high quality systematic reviews of case control or cohort studies” and “High quality case control or cohort studies with a very low risk of confounding or bias and a high probability that the relationship is causal.”


Scientific Trials

The following six papers from respected medical journals provide the facts and figures of the efficacy of Buteyko breathing for asthma.


1) Buteyko Trial- Calgary, Canada. Pubmed May 2008

A randomised controlled trial of the Buteyko technique as an adjunct to conventional management of asthma.


At six month follow up the Buteyko group had:

Substantial improvement to quality of life
41% reduction of inhaled corticosteroid
41% reduction of long acting beta agonist
Improved control of 79%


2) The New Zealand Medical Journal 2003

Buteyko GroupControl Group
Bronchodilators use at 6 months:decrease 85%decrese 37%
Inhaled steroids use at 6 months:decrease 50%no change


3) Buteyko trial for children- New Zealand Medical Journal 2003

Buteyko GroupControl Group
Bronchodilators use at 6 months:decrease 66%
Inhaled steroids use at 6 months:decrease 41%


4) Strathclyde Trials 2001 (600 Patients)

British Thoracic Society/ Thorax Buteyko Strathclyde trials
98% of group had reduced asthma symptoms-coughing, wheezing, breathlessness
98% of group had reduced need for reliever medication
92% of group had reduced need for inhaled preventer medication
96% of group had reduced need for oral preventer medication


5) Clinical Trial of Buteyko as taught by video Pubmed 2000

Our results demonstrated a significant improvement in quality of life among those assigned to the BBT compared with placebo (p = 0.043), as well as a significant reduction in inhaled bronchodilator intake (p = 0.008).


6)Mater Hospital Brisbane Medical Journal Australia 1998

Buteyko GroupControl Group
Bronchodilators use at 3 months:decrease 90%increase 9%
Inhaled steroids use at 3 months:decrease 49%no change
Symptoms score at 3 months:improvement 71%improvement 14%
Quality of life at 6 weeks:improvement 54%worsening 24%


Mater Hospital Trials 1995


Taken from the book Asthma Free Naturally
A therapy is accepted as having therapeutic value when it is proven and verified by independent trials. This appendix provides a brief summary of the first trials into Buteyko Breathing in the Western world, which were conducted at the Mater Hospital, Brisbane, Australia in 1995.


Summary of blind randomised trial at the Mater Hospital, Brisbane, 1995.
Duration: January to April 1995
Trial sample: 39 people
The purpose of the trial was to evaluate the therapeutic benefits of the Buteyko Breathing Method as a treatment for asthma. The trial was funded by a grant from the Australian Association of Asthma Foundations and conducted by Professor Charles Mitchell.
Following publicity by the asthma foundation, one-hundred-and-seventy subjects were interviewed and screened. The forty-two subjects who met the requirements were monitored for a period of four weeks prior to the trial to determine their peak flow readings, medication use and asthma stability. During this period, three subjects were excluded because they did not require sufficient short-acting reliever medication.

Thirty-nine subjects participated in the trial; nineteen were allocated to the Buteyko group and twenty to the control group. Participants were allocated to either group by random selection. There were no significant medication use or airway obstruction differences between either group.



The trial was blind, meaning that none of the participants involved was aware of what therapy he or she was being taught; no mention of Buteyko was made during the training on which the trial results were based.

Buteyko Breathing was taught in accordance with normal Buteyko procedures. The Buteyko instructor made follow-up calls to each patient as needed, and some participants were given follow-up instruction.

The control group was taught conventional abdominal breathing exercises and relaxation techniques by a physiotherapist. The instructor in the control group made one call to each participant.

Each participant was instructed to use his or her short-acting reliever medication only as needed. In the event that the requirement for short-acting reliever was reduced to one dose or less per day, participants were instructed to reduce their steroid intake.
All participants completed an individual diary of progress including medication intake and symptoms. Each participant completed quality-of-life questionnaires twice: once when the trial started and again three months later as a comparison measure. The quality-of-life measurement took four indicators into account including mood, breathing, social interaction and concern for others.


Trial Results

Exacerbation of symptoms
During the three months of the study, three subjects from each group were admitted to hospital. In addition, six subjects from the Buteyko Method group and seven subjects from the control group received short courses of oral steroids. An approxiamate number of severe chronic asthmatics were involved in both groups.


Medication usage after three months.

Buteyko GroupControl Group
Average reduction in reliever use: 90%Average reduction in reliever use: 14.78%
Average reduction in steroid use: 49%Average reduction in steroid use: 0%
Daily symptom score: 71%Daily symptom score: 14% improvement


Changes in minute volume

Buteyko GroupControl Group
Average breathing volume per minute at start of trial: 14 litresAverage breathing volume per minute at start of trial: 14.2 litres
Average breathing volume after three months: 9.6 litresAverage breathing volume after three months: 13.3 litres


[Sources of information in relation to the trials include personal correspondence with the Buteyko instructor involved, Tess Graham; the Australia Medical Journal 1 and the James Hooper Manual.2]



The Buteyko Breathing group experienced a significant reduction in the need for reliever medication and steroids, along with a greater improvement in quality of life.

The control group showed little change in medication and quality of life despite being taught the conventional breathing exercises that continue to be the mainstay of treatment in hospitals and clinics. It is interesting to note that half the control group was later taught Buteyko Breathing and the results from this group were consistent with earlier findings, according to Tess Graham, the Buteyko instructor involved in the trials.

In order to measure only changes to lung function brought about by Buteyko breathing, preventer medication would be required to remain constant. A reduction of preventer medication generally would lead to a decrease of lung function for any asthmatic. During this trial, the Buteyko group were able to reduce their need for preventer medication and yet there was no deterioration in lung function. In twelve weeks, patients could produce the same lung function scores as before the trial but with less than half the need for medication.

A headline from an article published in Australian Doctor read “Doctors gasp at Buteyko sucess”. Dr Simon Bowler, a respiratory physician at Mater Hospital in Brisbane was quoted as saying “we were surpised at the results, as we didn’t expect any significant changes.”


Final note

When the trial started, the average volume per minute in the Buteyko group was 14 litres and 14.1 litres in the control group. After three months, the average volume per minute was reduced to 9.6 litres in the Buteyko group and 13.3 litres in the control group.
There was a direct correlation between the reduction in use of short-acting reliever and volume per minute of breathing. Those who reduced their breathing volume the most were able to reduce their symptoms and therefore their medication the most. In addition, no contraindications or dangers were cited throughout the trials or during the reviews afterwards.

Buteyko’s theory is that because hyperventilation causes asthma, a reduction in overbreathing results in a reduction of asthma severity and therefore the need for medication. This was indeed proven by the trials.



  1. MJA 1998; 169: 575-578. Simon D Bowler, Amanda Green and Charles A Mitchell
  2. The Buteyko Manual for Asthma by James Hooper
  3. Australian Doctor 7 April 1995.

Copyright (c) Patrick McKeown 2003. All rights reserved. No reproduction or republication is permitted without written permission

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