By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
There are many contributing factors in the health of your respiratory system, such as the lungs. These factors include diet, genetics, environmental factors, physical activity level, allergies, and more. Today I want to share some of the top herbs for respiratory health which have been used over centuries to treat sore throats, wet and dry coughs, the immune system, and more!
Astragalus Root is a great herb for those who have a weakened immune system or can’t seem to stop catching colds. People who suffer from chronic illnesses, particularly relating to the respiratory system, can try incorporating this medicinal herb into soups and teas to help improve immune system function.
Raw garlic is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and should be a household staple! One study done in 2013 found that participants who consumed raw garlic at least twice per week had a 44% lower risk of developing lung cancer than those who consumed raw garlic less than twice per week. To activate raw garlic, you should lightly crush or chop the cloves and allow them to sit for 10-30 minutes, during which time important enzyme reactions take place to ‘activate’ medicinal properties. You can sprinkle raw garlic over foods like steak or salad.
Ginger root warms the lungs and increases circulation and blood to the lungs which can help with respiratory ailments. Ginger has been shown to be effective at protecting the lungs from inflammation, mediates the immune and allergic response, and is great for the immune system!
Research shows a possible link between green tea and a lower risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), progressive lung diseases that can cause troubled breathing, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Green tea is full of antioxidants and polyphenols which benefit lung function, such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which studies show can help suppress lung cancer cell growth, and theophylline, a ‘bronchodilator’ type of compound which can improve airway function.
Licorice Root is a demulcent herb–meaning it relieves mucous membrane irritation. It has traditionally been used to soothe a cough, heal the mucus immune barrier in the respiratory tracts, and also to prevent and treat bacterial and viral infections. There is even evidence that licorice root may be beneficial to those with COPD by slowing the progression of chronic bronchitis.
Mullein helps unblock the lungs by opening constricted airways, moistening the lungs, removing mucus, and lowering inflammation and irritation. Traditionally, mullein has been used for thousands of years to treat bronchitis, asthma, coughs, tuberculosis, and infections.
Slippery elm contains something called mucilage, which coats the throat, and is another good demulcent. It is commonly used in natural lozenges to soothe a cough or sore throat. The mucilage in slippery elm traps and absorbs water, forming a gel-like substance which coats mucous membranes and can provide pain and irritation relief.
Thyme is antimicrobial and works particularly well for treating the throat and lungs. Thyme is used to fight respiratory infections, and treats a sore throat with its antiseptic properties and ability to dislodge mucus. Thyme is a go-to for coughs and nasal congestion.
Wild cherry is anti-inflammatory with a mild sedative property which makes it useful for treating irritating coughs, like those that keep you up at night.
Remember, preventative health is the key here. Herbal remedies work best when you are doing your best to live a healthy lifestyle in all aspects of your life. To set your lungs up for respiratory success, you will want to avoid drinking, smoking, toxic fragrances, and inflammatory foods. Get outside and breathe the fresh air, and partake in some sort of physical activity each day to keep your lungs healthy, clear, and strong!