Keep your lungs healthy and respiratory infections at bay
As winter approaches and the temperature drops, it’s important to support your respiratory system and boost your immune health to prevent coughs, colds and sore throats.
Discover the best herbs for respiratory health to keep your lungs healthy and respiratory infections at bay.
Herbs for respiratory infections
Respiratory infections can be viral or bacterial and they affect the throat, sinuses and lungs.
Here are 5 herbs that help the body fight respiratory infections:
Garlic has been used medicinally for centuries, both as a food and a herb. It contains a compound called allicin that has antibacterial, antiseptic and antimicrobial properties so it’s highly effective for fighting infections and boosting immune health. When eating fresh garlic, crush or slice it first to activate the allicin within the garlic.
Andrographis is a herb with powerful immune stimulating and antibacterial properties so it supports the immune system when exposed to viruses and bacteria. It also exerts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions, making it an effective herb for upper respiratory infections as it can reduce inflammation and protect cells from damage. Andrographis has shown to reduce the duration and severity of colds/ flu and respiratory tract infections. It can be taken as a liquid tincture; however, it is a very bitter herb so capsules or tablets may be preferred.
Wild Cherry is an excellent herb for coughs, especially bronchitis and whooping cough as it reduces a persistent, tickly cough and can dry up excess mucous. It is also an expectorant which means it has the ability to clear mucous from the airways. Wild cherry is a great herb for kids and is often used in natural cough syrups. It’s best taken as a liquid tincture (as part of a cough syrup or herbal formula) which you can find in a health shop or see a herbalist who can make it up for you.
Thyme contains a naturally occurring compound called thymol which has strong antimicrobial properties, making it effective against bacterial infections. It is great for sore throats, laryngitis, blocked noses, clearing catarrh and relieving coughs (due to its expectorant action). Thyme can be taken as a liquid tincture or capsule for a more therapeutic dose. Alternatively, you can steep fresh thyme leaves in boiling water for 5 to 8 minutes and drink a few cups during the day.
Eyebright is the perfect herb for sinusitis, nasal congestion and respiratory allergies. It contains an astringent compound called tannins that helps dry up mucous and catarrh by toning up the mucous membranes that line the nasopharyngeal cavities (the upper part of the throat and sinuses). Eyebright is best taken as a liquid tincture or in tablet or capsule form.
Lung tonic herbs
Lung tonic herbs are specific herbal remedies that promote healthy lung function, oxygen absorption and respiratory airway support. They can assist with clearing congestion, expelling mucous from the airways and relieving a cough.
Mullein is a demulcent, expectorant and anti-catarrhal herb which means it can soothe inflamed mucous membranes, dry up phlegm and loosen lodged mucous in the chest or throat, making it easier to expel. Mullein is great for stubborn chesty or dry coughs as it opens up the lungs, reducing the tightness and spasms caused by the coughing action. It is best taken as a liquid tincture or drops; however, it can also be taken as a capsule or tablet.
Elecampane has decongestant and antibacterial properties, and is also fantastic for clearing mucous out of the airways. Rich in phytochemicals, Elecampane is effective at reducing mucous secretions, soothing irritated lungs and suppressing the coughing action. It’s often used by herbalists to support those with asthma, bronchitis and whooping cough. You can take Elecampane as a liquid tincture, a capsule or in powdered form to make a tea (the dosage and preparation instructions will be indicated on the packaging). Elecampane is often found in natural cough syrups with other immune herbs.
Marshmallow root is a mucilage herb which means it has the ability to produce a gel-like coating that can protect and soothe irritated tissues and inflamed mucous membranes in the respiratory tract. Marshmallow can relieve a sore throat and dry cough, and also reduce inflammation in the airways. Marshmallow is best taken as a liquid tincture or in powder form mixed with water (follow the instructions as indicated by the supplier). It can also be taken in capsule form or as a tea using the dried herb.
All of the above herbs can be sourced from a health food shop or online from a reputable herbal medicine supplier. Follow the dosage as indicated by the supplier as dosages will differ brand to brand.
For a therapeutic dose (if your symptoms/ condition is moderate to severe), it is best that you consult with a qualified herbalist who will select the most appropriate herbs and dosage based on your needs, after taking a comprehensive case history. Liquid tinctures, tablets and capsules are much more concentrated than herbal teas.
Boost your respiratory health naturally
Keep germs at bay this winter by supporting your immune system and boosting your respiratory health naturally with herbs. To learn more about how you can use herbs to improve your health, take a look at CNM’s Herbs for Everyday Living short course.