Activin A, a member of the TGF-beta superfamily of cytokines, was originally identified as an inducer of follicle stimulating hormone release, but has since been ascribed roles in normal physiological processes, as an immunoregulatory cytokine and as a driver of fibrosis. In the last 10-15 years, it has also become abundantly clear that activin A plays an important role in the regulation of asthmatic inflammation and airway remodelling. This review provides a brief introduction to the activin A/TGF-beta superfamily, focussing on the regulation of receptors and signalling pathways. We examine the contradictory evidence for generalized pro- vs. anti-inflammatory effects of activin A in inflammation, before appraising its role in asthmatic inflammation and airway remodelling specifically by evaluating data from both murine models and clinical studies. We identify key issues to be addressed, paving the way for safe exploitation of modulation of activin A function for treatment of allergic asthma and other inflammatory lung diseases.