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(This article was first published on Medium.com the publication Living and Lovin Herbs)
I recently heard a story from a friend of mine about someone they knew who slipped in the tub while attempting steam inhalation treatment with essential oils and hot water. This person had been fighting off a bad cough and head cold for weeks, and all the over-the-counter medicine they tried provided no relief. A doctor only advised them to drink fluids, take Acetaminophen in case of fever, and return for a follow-up if their condition worsened. My heart ached for this person, wishing I could have suggested natural remedies to help them while they waited for the virus to run its course.
Doctors tend to be hesitant about prescribing antibiotics for viral infections as regular use can cause the body to become resistant to them as we age. That’s why my friend’s friend could have benefited from one of these herbs for lung health:
Lung health is essential for overall well-being, allowing the body to absorb oxygen properly. Unfortunately, pollution, smoking, and chronic stress can negatively impact our lungs. Luckily, natural remedies can help keep the lungs healthy and breathing easy. This article will give you information on 15 herbs that can support lung health and improve respiratory function.
What Herb Is Right For You?
When selecting the appropriate herb(s) for your respiratory needs, consider your cough type — is it wet or dry? Are you feeling warm or chilled? Is your head congested or running? Here are a few key features to remember when deciding on the right herb(s).
- Certain herbs can help break up and expel phlegm.
- Certain herbs can reduce inflammation in the chest and bronchial tubes.
- Some herbs have potent antioxidants that assist with healing.
- Certain herbs can help bolster your immune system.
Herbs For Improved Lung Health
Peppermint: Herbs high in aromatic essential oils can help decrease inflammation and open bronchial, which increases lung capacity. Peppermint can also reduce muscle pain and spasms and aid in digestion. Note: if you suffer from reflux or GERD, do not drink peppermint in high doses. Drinking this as a tea (hot or iced) is effective.
Chamomile: This herb is perfect for children sensitive to smoke from brush fires. It can be made strong, and it is also a calming herb. If steeped for a long time, the tea will taste slightly bitter but perfect for better digestion.
Chamomile tea can be used as an eyewash for raw irritating eyes. Make a cup of tea and allow it to cool. Take the teabag out of your cup and gently place it over your eyes and squeeze a small amount of tea out. It is also effective as a tea (hot or iced) before bed.
Turmeric is known to be an antioxidant and has compounds that reduce inflammation. This herb can be taken as a tea, tincture, or in dried form and in high doses. Turmeric is also known to reduce heart disease and increase brain function.
Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) herbalists use licorice root because of its demulcent properties. It protects the mucous membranes from excessive particle pollution. Small amounts of licorice root should be added to tea recipes and should be drunk for no more than 10–14 days is recommended.
Note: This herb can increase blood pressure, low potassium levels, weakness, paralysis, irregular heart rhythms, and heart attack. People who eat a lot of salt or have heart disease, kidney disease, or high blood pressure are more sensitive to licorice. They can have these problems after eating smaller amounts of licorice.
Marshmallow Root is another wonderful demulcent. It helps to protect those with sensitive mucous membranes. It also cools and soothes the entire system, specifically stress-induced constipation.
Lavender is an herb that helps reduce anxiety and stress. Lavender tea should be made strong; the aroma will help relax and aid breathing capacity.
Echinacea is known for stimulating the immune system and reducing inflammation by decreasing the chances of getting sick while under stress. It can be taken as tea, tincture, or capsules.
Reishi Mushroom — this herb is a Super Hero Herb! It’sIt’s one of the most studied herbs around. It has a long list of healing properties to list here. For our purposes, it boosts the immune system and aids in lung conditions, including asthma and bronchitis. It is an adaptogenic herb that helps reduce the body’s heightened stress response.
Reishi can also be taken long-term in either tincture or capsule form.
Mullein is another herbalist go-to for lung issues. Mullen is best known for being used as a lung tonic for either a wet or dry cough. It can be taken as tea (hot or iced), tincture, or capsules.
Lobelia is a bronchial dilator and antispasmodic, which helps with bronchitis, pneumonia, or a general cough. Lobelia can become toxic in the body and cause serious side effects. This herb should not be taken in large doses or for long periods of time. This herb should be taken in small amounts in tincture form or tea.
Tulsi or Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum spp.) Another favorite of mine. Holy Basil is an adaptogen that helps reduce the feeling of overwhelm and general stress. This herb can be taken daily as a tea or capsule.
Ashwagandha is another herb I take daily to help with an overwhelming feeling. This herb is an adaptogen. It usually comes in a powder and can be sprinkled in drinks such as coffee and milk (e.g., Golden Milk). This herb can also be taken in tincture form or capsules.
Garlic herbal actions are antimicrobial, diaphoretic, hypocholesterolemic, cholagogue, hypotensive, and antispasmodic.
If used daily, garlic helps to support the body in various ways that no other herb can match. It has been effective in antimicrobial, acting on bacteria, viruses, and parasites of the alimentary tract. The volatile oils are excreted via the lungs, making garlic helpful in controlling respiratory infections, such as chronic bronchitis, respiratory catarrh, recurrent colds, and influenza. (Hoffmann 2003)
In general, garlic can be used as preventive medicine against most infectious conditions digestive and respiratory systems. In the digestive tract, garlic is thought to support natural bacterial flora development while killing pathogenic organisms. (Hoffmann 2003)
Garlic also has a wide range of effects on cardiovascular health. It can reduce serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels while raising high-density lipoproteins (HDL) levels. It can act as an effective inhibitor of platelet-activating factor (PAF). (Hoffmann 2003)
I ferment a half jar of finely chopped garlic for six weeks in local honey. If I feel a little stuffy or have a raw sore throat, I’ll take a tablespoon of fermented garlic and honey 3 x day or until the symptoms go away.
Raw Honey has been used as a folk remedy for centuries, and research has shown it has many health benefits and medicinal uses. In some hospitals, they use honey to treat burns and wounds.
For sore throats and stuffy noses, honey in a cup of hot water with lemon and ginger can go a long way in relieving those symptoms. Many herbalists (me including) reach for our jar of fermented garlic and honey on the first hint of a sore throat; however, don’tdon’t give children under one because honey can carry botulism.
Corn Silk (Zea mays) stamen has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Native American Medicine.
Corn silk is taken for depression, inflammation of the prostate, inflammation of the unitary system, kidney stones, congestive heart failure, diabetes, fatigue, heart disease, high cholesterol, jaundice, liver health, and obesity, to name a few conditions.
Most herbalists add corn silk to their cold and flu remedies for calming inflammation and fatigue when sick. Corn silk can be taken as a tea, capsules, and tincture.
Plantain (Plantago spp.) seed husk is mainly known as an unwanted weed in highly manicured lawns in my area; plantain has several health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and blocking microbial growth in wounds and the body in general. Many herbalists add plantain to their teas as a supporting herb to their herbal remedies. Plantain can be used as a tea, capsule, or tincture.
Irish Moss / Sea Moss (Chondrus crispus) This herb has been around for centuries and is known in Ireland, Scotland, England, and Caribbean Islands such as Jamaica. The algae have been used in skincare products to make paper, cure leather, and cheese.
However, herbalists also used sea moss in their apothecaries for centuries to heal burns and boost the immune system and probiotics, to name a few benefits.
According to WebMD, researchers have been doing studies on whether sea moss can slow or stop the progression of Parkinson’sParkinson’s Disease in order adults with some promising results. Other studies have suggested that sea moss can boost the immune system and protect the body from contracting salmonella.
This herb would be considered a supporting herb in any remedy for treating the lungs and respiratory system. It’s important to note that a little of this herb goes a long way. Sea moss can be taken in capsules or taking dried moss, rehydrated in water, and either making it into a gel or whole to a smoothie, soup, or stew. A small amount can go a long way.
Mallow is a demulcent, and its secondary action is an expectorant, making it the perfect primary herb in any herbal remedy. Its primary use is for the irritated throat, dry cough, and bronchitis. This herb can be used as a green in cooking, tea, and tincture.
Many herbs can help support lung health and improve respiratory function. From peppermint to garlic, each herb has unique properties that can help improve lung function. It’s important to note that while these herbs can benefit lung health and respiratory support, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new herbal supplement.
Remember to take care of your lungs; they are essential for survival. By incorporating these herbs into your daily routine, you can take steps to improve your lung health and overall well-being.
If you are interested in further exploring the use of herbs for lung health, my E-book, “Herbs For Lung Health,” is available for free on Living and Lovin Herbs. It includes detailed information about how specific herbs can help support healthy.
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Reference — some links are affiliate links.
Body Into Balance n Heral Guide to Holistic Self-Care by Maria Nowel Groves, 2016 pg. 136–137
Medical Herbalism: The Science And Practice of Herbal Medicine, David Hoffmann, 2003 pg. 505–506
Analysis of Nutrients and Phytochemicals content in Corn Silk (Zea. Mays)
Corn Silk (Stigma Maydis) in Healthcare: A Phytochemical and Pharmacological Review