7 Supportive Herbs for Your Respiratory System

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Welcome to part one of a blog series on supporting a healthy respiratory system. Today’s post will be focusing on 7 Supportive Herbs for Your Respiratory System.

There are 3 major parts of the respiratory system: the airway, the lungs, and the muscles of respiration. The respiratory system’s main function is to supply oxygen to all the parts of our body. It does this through breathing. We inhale oxygen-rich air and exhale air filled with carbon dioxide.

Our lungs are always at work. At every moment of the day, they’re constantly transporting oxygen into the bloodstream and transferring carbon dioxide out. They’re delivering oxygen to our cells and filtering the air that we breathe. From wintery months filled with coughs and colds to the pollen-rich months of springtime. Every moment of every day, our lovely lungs are constantly working.

When we want to protect and support our respiratory systems, especially in the case of any kind of viral respiratory infection, we want to think about herbs. Specifically, herbs that have strong immune or antiviral actions as well as herbs for lungs and basic respiratory support.

If you’re dealing with a respiratory infection, cold or flu, suffer from chronic respiratory issues such as asthma or allergies, know that herbs make fantastic allies. And that’s where this blog post comes in.

7 Supportive Herbs for Your Respiratory System

Herbs for Your Respiratory System astragalus

No. 1 – Astragalus  

Astragalus is one of the great tonic herbs of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In fact, this herb may just be the number one Lung Tonic commonly used in Chinese medicine.  Astragalus has long been used for building and strengthening the immune system both before and after an illness.

Astragalus has been traditionally used for centuries to:

  • strengthen and tonify the immune system
  • improve immune activity, specifically by increasing the activity of white blood cells
  • strengthen and tonify energetic system (aka Qi)
  • protect against colds and other contagious illnesses 
  • cultivate a healthy circulatory system
  • help protect against mental and physical stress
  • bring down inflammation
  • tonify the liver
  • boost vitality

When we’re talking about the subject of respiratory health, we can’t forget Astragalus since it is especially good for the lungs. Astragalus works by building up the immune defences, helping to move out catarrh, and working as an anti-inflammatory. It’s great for colds, the flu and any difficulty breathing (such as asthma).

This herb pairs really well with other herbs such as RhodiolaAshwagandhareishi mushroom (or any medicinal mushroom to be honest!). Additionally, it’s marvellous when used with herbs such as elderberry and garlic.

Herbs for Your Respiratory System liquorice

No. 2 – Liquorice

Liquorice, as with many herbs mentioned, has quite the long history of use. It’s widely used to help provide respiratory relief, plus it’s commonly used as a digestive aid and to strengthen the liver and kidneys.
The properties that sum up Liquorice would be:

  • demulcent
  • gentle expectorant
  • anti-inflammatory
  • anti-viral
  • immunomodulant
  • moistening and soothing qualities

Liquorice root is a great option for supporting healthy immune function, particularly for those with autoimmune or hypersensitivity concerns.
It also has quite the affinity for the respiratory system since it supports the mucosa of the mouth and throat. 

Thanks to its moistening and soothing qualities, liquorice helps to increase the production of healthy mucous within the bronchial system. This is one reason why this herb is very useful when suffering from a dry cough or wheezing. I know this may seem counterintuitive to increase the production of mucus, however, the production of healthy phlegm actually keeps the respiratory system functioning well. It prevents the old, sticky mucous from clogging up the respiratory tracts. This herbs demulcent properties help to thin and liquefy the mucus which then also aids in expectoration, aka, the removal of excess mucus.

Easily take liquorice root via tea, infusions or decoction. Liquorice root is also available as a tincture or supplement.

Please consult your doctor before taking liquorice if you suffer from high blood pressure, or even a tendency for high blood pressure or are on medication.

Herbs for Your Respiratory System eucalyptus

No. 3 – Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus has a long traditional use for treating ailments involving the respiratory system. These include sore throats, coughs, colds, congestion and asthma to name a few.

It’s a highly aromatic herb making it great for the lungs and respiratory tract in general. Aromatics tend to create a bit of movement in the GI tract and the respiratory tract when inhaled. That’s why Eucalyptus is fantastic when diffused or inhaled somehow.
Inhaling this herb via steam helps to loosen congestion, calm inflammation and relax nasal passages so you can breathe more easily. 
Rubbing diluted eucalyptus oil on your chest is also a great way to relieve the sinuses and release some congestion.

Have a read over the sister post here to learn how to use this wonderful herb.

Herbs for Your Respiratory System thyme

No. 4 – Thyme

Thyme is a great lung strengthener and helps to treat respiratory tract problems. It’s particularly great for respiratory infections and coughs.
It’s part of the mint family and has antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral, expectorant, astringent and anti-inflammatory properties.

Thyme is easily consumed as a tea, herbal tincture or in infused honey. Equally, it’s great for the steam inhalation treatment mentioned above. 
Another option is to add thyme tea to a small spray bottle and mist the back of your throat. This is fantastic if you have a sore throat.

How To Make Thyme Tea:

Steep 2 tsp dried thyme | or 1 tbsp fresh | or 1 teabag in a cup of just-boiled water for roughly 10-15 minutes. Take time to inhale the steam before sipping.
Feel free to gargle the tea a little if you like before swallowing, and enjoy your herbal infusion.

reishi

No. 5 – Reishi Mushroom

Reishi has a very long history of use in many Asian countries for supporting health and promoting longevity. In fact, it’s been recognized as a medicinal mushroom for over 2000 years!
Both traditionally and currently, Reishi is considered especially supportive of the respiratory and immune systems. Additionally, reishi is considered to be an immunomodulating herb with anti-inflammatory properties. No wonder it’s said to have an affinity for the respiratory tract.

What’s immunomodulating you may ask? Immunomodulators are herbs that help to regulate an immune response. In short, they do this by raising the productivity of antibodies and/or stimulating natural killer cells. Immunomodulant herbs offer strengthening and tonifying benefits to the immune system, and as a result, help to strengthen the body and its resistance to disease. 

Learn more about this herb in my blog post:

cordyceps

No. 6 – Cordyceps Mushroom

On the topic of medicinal mushrooms, we can’t forget Cordyceps. The immune-supportive mushroom Cordyceps is a great lung tonic for respiratory issues, such as asthma and bronchitis as well as coughs. In Chinese medicine, cordyceps is particularly used for dry conditions, including dry coughs and asthma.

I encourage you to have a read over my blog What’s the Scoop on: Cordyceps to learn more about this amazing shroom.

Cordyceps, reishi and the other mushrooms are typically considered tonic herbs. This means that they can be safely consumed daily or just for a period of time.

No. 7 – Elecampane (Inula helenium) root

This root is a fantastic respiratory herb. In fact, elecampane has a very long history of use with many health benefits being recognised and recorded by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Furthermore, Traditional Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine also use this root for bronchitis and asthma. And fast-forwarding to more recent years, Elecampane is commonly used as a respiratory tonic and for coughs and colds.

In particular, elecampane has a specific use of treating respiratory conditions with excessive bronchial secretion. For example, bronchitis, where the bronchial tubes become red and swollen making it difficult to breathe. Additionally, it’s great for irritation of the trachea and bronchi that results in constant and irritable coughing. Elecampane soothes tissue irritation and inflammation that results from coughing.

One of the key players that make Elecampane so wonderful for respiratory health is inulin. Inulin coats and soothes irritation, especially in the bronchial passages. Simultaneously, since it contains volatile oils, it also stimulates and promotes expectoration. As a result, it’s a great expectorant for chronic bronchitis, bronchial catarrh (congestion), and general cleansing of congestion in the lungs.

You’ll find this herb in Yogi Breathe Deep and from Viridian Nutrition.

This is just a handful of herbs that are useful for supporting respiratory health. Honestly, this post could go on and on!

Additional herbs to add to your herbal repertoire include:

Oregano, olive leaf, rosemary, sage, elderberry (and elderflower), Peppermint, pine (e.g Bronchosan), mullein, marshmallow and more.

 Have a read over Part Two to this blog to learn how to use these herbs in your daily life.

Emily Nöth

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*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention. These herbs are not a substitute for life-saving pharmaceuticals like inhalers or EpiPens. Please seek immediate medical attention if your symptoms are severe, such as difficulty breathing.

Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication