We are currently in autumn, a time of year which in Chinese medicine is dominated by the Lungs. This is the perfect time to cleanse and support the lungs. There are many beneficial herbs that are help to support the respiratory system.
Herbs that support lung health typically have the following functions:
- Work as 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
- Calms the release of histamines
- Fight the harmful organisms that can produce upper respiratory problems.
Here are 7 herbs I recommend to my patients to help support Lung Qi (energy) and Lung Yin (the organ itself)
Native to Australia, my home country, eucalyptus promotes respiratory health and soothes a sore throat. It is a common ingredient in cough lozenges and syrups and its effectiveness is due to a compound called cineole. Cineole has numerous benefits — it works as expectorant, eases a cough, and soothes irritated sinus passages. Eucalyptus also contains antioxidants, which support the immune system during a cold or other illness.
Lungwort is a flowering plant that actually resembles lung tissue in appearance. Often, in Chinese medicine, herbs resemble the organ or body part that they treat. Lungwort has been used for centuries to treat breathing conditions such as asthma and in particular chronic bronchitis. Lungwort also contains compounds that are powerfully effective against harmful organisms that affect respiratory health. It is also a powerful antioxidant.
Oregano contains vitamins and nutrients that support the immune system. Its primary function however is its function as a decongestant and its ability to reduce histamine content. These compounds, carvacrol and rosmarinic acid, have positive benefits on the respiratory tract and nasal passage airflow. Oregano is in fact anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral and therefore every home should have a bottle.
The plantain leaf, not to be confused with the fruit, has been used for hundreds of years to ease cough and soothe irritated mucous membranes. Clinical trials have found that it is beneficial for respiratory disorders such as cough and lung irritation. Plantain leaf has an added bonus in that it stimulates the immune system and is a demulcent so forms a soothing film over the mucous membrane in the lungs and bronchi.
Inula Flower- Xuan Fu Hua
Many civilizations including the Romans, Indians and Chinese, have cited the Inula flower for respiratory support. In Chinese medicine it is used to expel phlegm, and odema from the lungs. Since the 1800’s, lozenges and cough drops have been produced from the root of the plant as it acts a relaxant on the smooth tracheal muscles. There are two active compounds that provide the beneficial effect — inulin, which soothes bronchial passage, and alantolactone, which works as an expectorant reduces cough.
Lobelia- Ban Bian Lian
Lobelia, Ban Bian Lian, in Pin Yin, is the half lotus throne dropped by Avalokitesvara, according to Buddhist religion, to have mercy and to protect the people. Lobelia, by some accounts, is thought to be one of the most valuable herbal remedies in existence. It is used to promote urination, reduce edema and relieve toxicity. Lobelia contains an alkaloid known as lobeline, which thins mucus to break up congestion. It also has an effect on the adrenal glands to release epinephrine, this relaxes the airways and allows for easier breathing. Because lobelia helps to relax smooth muscles, it is included in many cough and cold remedies. Studies also show it’s use against certain cancers. A must in the medicinal cabinet.
Chaparral Larrea Tridentate- Greasewood
Chaparral is a very powerful herb. It has a long history as an excellent remedy for lung detoxification and respiratory support. Chaparral contains powerful antioxidants, is a blood cleanser, cancer fighter and immune system supporter. Chaparral is also a herb that fights a variety of viral infections. 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. You should keep in mind that long term use could be harmful to the liver and kidneys.
Peppermint- Bo He
Peppermint, and peppermint oil, contains menthol — a soothing ingredient known to cool and clear heat from the respiratory tract to promote free breathing. Paired with the anti-histamine 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, reduces fever, headaches and red eyes. Another must in the cabinet.
The transitional season of autumn is also known as the flu season. These herbs will help you to support the lungs and stay healthy.