Nourish - Herbal Soothers for Your Respiratory System This Winter
Today’s blog post is all about our respiratory system, and in particular, respiratory infections.
Respiratory infections are infections that affect the parts of our body involved in breathing, such as our lungs, sinuses, airways and throat.
Now if you’re a Nourish customer, you’ve probably already got your echinacea supplements stockpiled and your manuka honey in the cupboard. Alas, however, we are all only human after all, and illness can strike, no matter how well we prepared ourselves.
Symptoms of Respiratory System Infections Tend to Be:
- stuffy or runny nose
- sore throat
- dry or wet cough
- breathlessness or wheezing
- tight feeling in the chest
- muscle aches
Upper Respiratory System Infections
Upper respiratory infections are linked to the sinuses and throat. Typically, they’ll be the run-of-the-mill cold, sinusitis (sinus infection), tonsillitis or laryngitis. The flu can set up camp as both upper or lower respiratory infections.
Lower Respiratory System Infections
Lower respiratory infections tend to affect the airways and lungs. Think, chest infection, bronchitis and Pneumonia. Lower respiratory infections are often the more serious ones and have the unwanted desire of wanting to stay with us longer.
These types of infections are spread from person to person via the coughs and sneezes of someone with one of these infections.
Herbal Soothers for Your Respiratory System this Winter
In this blog post, we are covering three herbs that offer up their soothing and relieving properties to help fight against coughs, colds, sore throats and general feelings of winter yuckiness.
I’ll forgive you for immediately thinking about campfires and gooey marshmallows as your first thought.
After all, the name does derive from them. The ancient Egyptians used the sap of this plant and boiled it with honey to make something incredibly similar to today’s marshmallows.
in the 1800s, candy makers in France combine this marshmallow sap with egg whites and sugar to create the first marshmallows we know today.
That being said, that’s not what I’m suggesting in this particular instance – sorry!
It’s actually the roots, leaves and flowers of the plant that we are favouring today. And in fact, for centuries. Traditional medicinal use of the Marshmallow root is traced back as far as ancient Egyptian and Greek times.
This powerful herb has a long history of traditional use as a:
- sore throat soother
- soother for irritated throats
- powerful cough remedy
- cold and flu remedy
- wound healer
- digestive health supporter
- urinary/kidney supporter
Benefits of Marshmallow For Your Respiratory System
You don’t have to look far to find marshmallow when looking at cough syrups or suppressants. Marshmallows are hailed as one of nature’s most effective cough remedies, and for good reason. For centuries, marshmallow root has been used to soothe the mouth, throat, oesophagus, and stomach.
Marshmallow is a demulcent. A demulcent is a mucilaginous or oleaginous preparation that forms a protective and soothing film over the mucus membranes they come into contact with. For example the throat or bowel lining. That’s because it contains mucopolysaccharides. Demulcents such as marshmallow help to coat the throat and soothe soreness or irritation and reduce inflammation of the membrane.
It’s this mucilage also that gives the cough suppressant properties. In particular, marshmallow is very useful at helping with dry coughs. If a tickly, dry and/or spasmodic cough or dry throat is your dilemma, marshmallow is your go to. This herb will help moisten your throat, reduce the inflammation and soothe the coughing outbursts.
I wrote a blog post about:
Have a read over it if you’re curious about which syrup is more suitable for your particular cough.
How to Take Marshmallow
Infusion or Tea
The first thing to mention before we go any further is that the healing properties of marshmallow are destroyed by heat, so cold infusions only!
When making an infusion or tea from either marshmallow root or leaf, always use room temperature water.
Learn more about how to make infusions on my previous blog here:
Marshmallow Cold Infusion
- Find yourself a glass jar e.g a Weck jar and fill it about a 1/4 of the way full with Marshmallow Root
- Using room temperature or warm water (not hot!), fill up the rest of your jar and allow it to infuse for the next several hours. Anywhere between 4-8 hours is good.
- When it’s ready, grab a sieve or piece of muslin cloth and strain your brew. Now it’s ready to drink!
If you are consuming it over the day, pop it in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Marshmallow Root or Leaf Tea
Use 1-2 teaspoons of the herb per cup of warm (not boiling) water. Infuse for 5 – 15 minutes.
Marshmallow in Supplement Form
(see bottom of blog post)
Another great choice to reduce inflammation and help to ease symptoms of respiratory infections is licorice. Licorice also has quite the long history of use. It’s widely used to help provide respiratory relief, and just like marshmallow, it’s also commonly used as a digestive aid and to strengthen the liver and kidneys.
Licorice is traditionally used as a:
- gentle expectorant
- moistener and soother
Benefits of Licorice For Your Respiratory System
Since licorice root has an affinity for the respiratory system, this makes it a definite go to herb for helping to support the mucosa of the mouth and throat.
We have the moistening and soothing qualities or liquorice to thank for helping to increase the production of healthy mucous within the bronchial system. Just as with marshmallow, this is one reason why this herb is very useful when suffering from a dry cough or wheezing.
Perhaps surprisingly, licorice is also a great option for those feeling over consumed by phlegm and mucus (mmmm!).
Although seemingly counterintuitive sounding, our bodies know exactly what they’re doing. In some cases, it’s actually beneficial to increase the production of healthy phlegm in order to keep the respiratory system functioning well. That’s because it helps to prevent the old, sticky mucous from clogging up the respiratory tracts.
That’s where this herb’s demulcent properties come into play. They help to thin and liquefy the mucus which then also aids in expectoration, aka, the removal of excess mucus.
How to Take Licorice
Just like marshmallow, this herb is easy to take as an infusion or tea. Equally, it is great for making decoctions with, tinctures or taken as a supplement.
Please consult your doctor before taking licorice if you suffer from high blood pressure, or even a tendency for high blood pressure or are on medication.
Slippery Elm Bark
We’re on a mucilage theme today, can you tell? Even by the name Slippery elm, you’re probably getting the picture. This herb is another wonder for our mucous membranes and incredibly soothing for our digestive tracts, starting from the mouth all the way to our bottoms!
Native to eastern North America, Slippery Elm is a large deciduous tree with historical (and continuing) use for:
- Respiratory health (coughs, sore throats etc.)
- Digestive health (including ulcers, diverticulitis, IBS etc.)
- Wound healing
Benefits of Slippery Elm For Your Respiratory System
If you’re perusing the herbal cough remedy section of any health shop, you’ll certainly come across slippery elm bark. It’s a very common ingredient in herbal remedies for coughs, colds and even bronchitis. Often it’s combined well with marshmallow root, licorice and herbs such as thyme or elderberry.
The inner bark of this herb is what offers the mucilaginous qualities. Or perhaps in this case, the “slippery” qualities as it’s so aptly named. This high mucilage content is what gives it the term “antitussive”, which means it’s able to help suppress and relieve coughing as well as and other upper-respiratory complaints.
How to Take Slippery Elm
This herb can be taken in supplement form such as BioCare Slippery Elm Intensive (see below).
Additionally, it can be mixed with water (it doesn’t dissolve, it becomes gel-like).
It’s also possible to mix the flour-like substance with water and heat it up to make soft porridge. The mucilage qualities of this herb form a gel when mixed with water to make it similar to a porridge consistency. (Ask in-store about this kind of product).
If you are pregnant, please contact your healthcare practitioner before consuming Slippery Elm.
Herbal Soothers for Your Respiratory System Product Suggestions
This is a high-strength, intensive powder containing slippery elm with gamma oryzanol, licorice, marshmallow & aloe vera extracts.
This blend is designed to soothe and heal the respiratory and upper digestive tract. I did tell you after all, these herbs are a wonder for our mucous membranes and incredibly soothing for our digestive tracts, starting from the mouth all the way to our bottoms!
The combination of licorice, marshmallow and slippery elm all help to protect and support the mucus membranes and soothe inflammation and irritation of the respiratory and digestive tract.
I understand that for some, the texture of slippery elm can be a little too much, so we also have capsules to help you out.
Lubricating spray using extracts of marshmallow root, sage leaf, fenugreek, licorice, plantain, meadowsweet, osha root and cinnamomum.
This product is formulated to help prevent dryness, scratchiness and rawness in the throat.
If you’re up for making herbal syrup yourself, have a read over my blog post:
If you’re not up for that, we stock a few:
I have a blog post on which ones are better for which type of cough here:
If you’re interested in learning more about herbs and natural remedies for the cold and flu season, have a read over some of my previous blogs:
- 7 Supportive Herbs for Your Respiratory System
- 7 Ways to Use Herbs to Support Your Respiratory System
- 5 Ways to use Honey to Fight the Cold and Flu Season
Any questions? Drop into your local Nourish store to chat with our expert team and explore our full range of foods, supplements and skincare. You can also find our full product range in our online store.
*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention.
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