Your respiratory system is the vehicle for oxygen to enter your body. Unfortunately, it can also be an entry point for pollutants, irritants, dust, mold, fungus, harmful organisms, and other toxins. In order to work at peak capacity, the lungs need to be clean and clear from pollutants that are inhaled daily. When you are looking at herbs to improve the health of your lungs, you have a number of options. You want to learn more about what these herbs contain so that you pick the right ones for the lung issues that you are experiencing. In some cases, you may benefit from two or more herbs, depending on your needs.
How are Herbs Beneficial for the Respiratory System?
Herbs that support lung health typically do so by offering one or more of the following benefits:
• They may be an expectorant — which helps break up and expel chest congestion.
• Soothe irritated nasal passages and airways.
• Relax the muscles near the upper respiratory system to quell a cough.
• Calm the release of histamines.
• Fight the harmful organisms that can produce upper respiratory problems.
• They may be a source of antioxidants and reduce oxidative damage and redness.
Below is a list of herbs that can not only boost lung and respiratory health but can also repair it.
Herb information is courtesy of Dr. Alim El-Bey, who is a Master Herbologist, Iridologist, Reiki Master Teacher, and homeopathic practitioner.
Native to Australia, eucalyptus isn’t just for Koala bears! Aborigines, Germans, and Americans have all used the refreshing aroma of eucalyptus to promote respiratory health and soothe throat irritation. Eucalyptus is a common ingredient in cough lozenges and syrups and its effectiveness is due to a compound called cineole. Cineole has numerous benefits — it’s an expectorant, can ease a cough, fights congestion, and soothes irritated sinus passages. As an added bonus, because eucalyptus contains antioxidants, it supports the immune system during a cold or other illness.
Lungwort is a flowering rhizomatous that actually resembles lung tissue in appearance. However, this natural remedy doesn’t just look the part. As early as the 1600’s, lungwort has been used to promote lung and respiratory health and clear congestion. Lungwort also contains compounds that are powerfully effective against harmful organisms that affect respiratory health.
Although oregano contains the vitamins and nutrients required by the immune system, its primary benefits are owed to its carvacrol and rosmarinic acid content. Both compounds are natural decongestants and histamine reducers that have direct, positive benefits on the respiratory tract and nasal passage airflow. Oregano has so many health benefits that a bottle of organic oregano oil should be in everyone’s medicine cabinet. I recommend you check out this article to learn all the uses for organic oregano oil.
How it works: Whenever dust, molds, pollen, and toxic gases get into your lungs, your body releases histamine to prevent them from doing any more damage. But as a result, your body develops either allergies or allergy-like symptoms. You start sneezing and coughing, produce more mucus than usual, develop nasal congestion, and have difficulty breathing. Oregano can help reduce the severity of these symptoms because it has rosmarinic acid – a natural antihistamine. The herb also contains thymol, terpenes, and carvacrol which can effectively eradicate fungi and different types of bacteria from your lungs.
In addition to its antihistamine, antibacterial, and fungicidal benefits, oregano is a natural decongestant. Research by the ENT Department of the Israel Institute of Technology discovered that oregano – along with other aromatic herbs – improved airflow along the nasal passages. Oregano can therefore assist in clearing out your lungs of any excess mucus.
4. Plantain Leaf
The plantain leaf has been used for hundreds of years to ease cough and soothe irritated mucous membranes. Clinical trials have found it favorable against cough, cold, and lung irritation. Plantain leaf has an added bonus in that it may help relieve a dry cough by spawning mucus production in the lungs. Good stuff!
The Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and even Indian Ayurvedic medicine have cited elecampane for respiratory support and, since the 1800’s, lozenges and cough drops have been produced from elecampane root. The reason? Elecampane has a relaxing effect on smooth tracheal muscles. There are two active compounds in elecampane root that provide the beneficial effect — inulin, which soothes bronchial passage, and alantolactone, an expectorant with antitussive action.
Did you know that horses given lobelia are able to breath more deeply? Its benefits are not limited to equestrians. Lobelia, by some accounts, is thought to be one of the most valuable herbal remedies in existence. Lobelia contains an alkaloid known as lobeline, which thins mucus, breaks up congestion. Additionally, lobelia stimulates the adrenal glands to release epinephrine, in effect, this relaxes the airways and allows for easier breathing. Also, because lobelia helps to relax smooth muscles, it is included in many cough and cold remedies. Lobelia should be part of everyone’s respiratory support protocol!
Chaparral, a plant native to the southwest, has been appreciated by the Native Americans for lung detoxification and respiratory support. Chaparral contains powerful antioxidants that resist irritation and NDGA which is known to fight histamine response. Chaparral is also an herb that fights harmful organisms. The benefits of chaparral are most available in a tincture extraction but chaparral tea may support respiratory problems by encouraging an expectorant action to clear airways of mucus.
Peppermint, and peppermint oil, contains menthol — a soothing ingredient known to relax the smooth muscles of the respiratory tract and promote free breathing. Paired with the antihistamine effect of peppermint, menthol is a fantastic decongestant. Many people use therapeutic chest balms and other inhalants that contain menthol to help break up congestion. Additionally, peppermint is an antioxidant and fights harmful organisms.
9. Osha Root
Osha is an herb native to the Rocky Mountain area and has historically been used by the Native Americans for respiratory support. The roots of the plant contain camphor and other compounds which make it one of the best lung-support herbs in America. One of the main benefits of osha root is that it helps increase circulation to the lungs, which makes it easier to take deep breaths. Also… when seasonal sensitivities flare up your sinuses, osha root, which is not an actual antihistamine, does produce a similar effect and may be help calm respiratory irritation!
10. Licorice Root – Glycyrrhiza Glabra
Licorice is one of the more widely consumed herbs in the world. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it occurs in more formulas than any other single herb because it is thought to harmonize the action of all other herbs. Licorice is very soothing and softens the mucous membranes of the throat and especially the lungs and stomach, and at the same time cleanses any inflamed mucous membrane that needs immune system support . It reduces the irritation in the throat and yet has an expectorant action. It is the saponins (detergent-like action) that loosen the phlegm in the respiratory tract so that the body can expel the mucus. Compounds within this root help relieve bronchial spasms and block the free radical cells that produce the inflammation and tightening of the airways. The compounds also have antibacterial and antiviral effects to them as well, which helps fight off viral and bacterial strains in the body that can cause lung infections. Glycrrhizins and flavonoids can even help prevent lung cancer cells from forming. For people with high blood pressure this should be taken with caution.
11. Coltsfoot – Tussilago Farfara
Coltsfoot has been traditionally used by Native Americans for thousands of years to strengthen the lungs. It clears out excess mucus from the lungs and bronchial tubes. It also soothes the mucus membranes in the lungs and has been shown in research to assist with asthma, coughs, bronchitis, and other lung ailments. Coltsfoot is available in dried form for tea or as an alcohol extract known as a tincture.
The toxic breakdown of therapeutic compounds in cannabis from burning the plant are totally avoided with vaporization. Extracting and inhaling cannabinoid essential oils of the unprocessed plant affords significant mitigation of irritation to the oral cavity that comes from smoking. Cannabis is perhaps one of the most effective anti-cancer plants in the world, shown in study after study to stimulate cannabinoid receptor activation in specific genes and mediate the anti-invasive effect of cannabinoids. Vaporizing cannabis allows the active ingredients to stimulate the body’s natural immune response and significantly reduces the ability of infections to spread. Vaporizing cannabis (especially with very high amounts of cannabinoids) opens up airways and sinuses, acting as a bronchodilator. It is even a proven method for treatment and reversal of asthma.
13. Mullein – Verbascum Thapsus
Both the flowers and the leaves of the mullein plant are used to make an herbal extract that helps strengthen the lungs. Mullein is used by herbal practitioners to clear excess mucus from the lungs, cleanse the bronchial tubes, and reduce inflammation that is present in the respiratory tract. A tea can be made from one teaspoon of the dried herb to one cup of boiled water. Alternatively, you can take a tincture form of this herb.
14. Sage – Salvia Officinalis
Sage’s textured leaves give off a heady aroma, which arises from sage’s essential oils. These oils are the source of the many benefits of sage tea for lung problems and common respiratory ailments. Sage tea is a traditional treatment for sore throats and coughs. The rich aromatic properties arising from sage’s volatile oils of thujone, camphor, terpene, and salvene can be put to use by inhaling sage tea’s vapors to dispel lung disorders and sinusitis. Alternatively, brew a strong pot of sage tea and place it into a bowl or vaporizer.
Spearmint- contains menthol — a soothing ingredient known to relax the smooth muscles of the respiratory tract and promote free breathing. Dried peppermint typically contains menthol, menthone, menthyl acetate, menthofuran, and cineol. Spearmint oil also contains small amounts of many additional compounds including limonene, pulegone, caryophyllene, and pinene. Paired with the antihistamine effect of peppermint, menthol is a fantastic decongestant. Many people use therapeutic chest balms and other inhalants that contain menthol to help break up congestion. Additionally, Spearmint is an antioxidant and fights harmful organisms.
Angelica acts as an expectorant that causes you to cough, which expels mucous and other irritants irritating the lungs. Vitaminstohealth.com claims that angelica helps strengthen the lungs and has been used to aid in the healing of infections.
Cinnamon is warming and can help with chest colds by loosening the mucous and providing warmth to the area. Mix cinnamon with ginger to make hot tea. Cinnamon also aids digestion. Do not use large amounts of cinnamon while pregnant.
Multipurpose ginger helps to remove excess mucous from the lungs when you have bronchitis. It is soothing when used in the initial stages of a cold. Ginger is also good for digestion and helps prevent nausea.
19. Rosemary Leaf
According to the Ultimate Health Research Institute, rosemary leaf is one of the herbs that can clean the lungs. It also helps the flow of blood and other body fluids. Rosemary leaf contains healing vitamins A and C, and minerals calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, sodium and zinc.
20. Honeysuckle Flowers and Chrysanthemum Flowers
Honeysuckle flowers help nourish the lungs and help support the immune system. Use honeysuckle flowers with chrysanthemum flowers for enhanced respiratory cleansing.
21. Fennel and 22. Fenugreek
Fennel helps to calm spasms in the respiratory system. Fennel and fenugreek are both known for cleansing the bronchial passages