With high levels of pollution in the air and toxins in the food we eat, the number of people suffering from respiratory issues has increased across the world. People tend to use antibiotics to combat these respiratory problems and they have worked to some extent in controlling the symptoms, but they have actually ended up making the bacteria more resistant. In addition to that, antibiotics have not been able to cure the issues of the root, nor have they been able to reduce the recurrence of respiratory illness in people.
The inability of conventional medication to address this issue of increasing numbers of respiratory problems has led people to look for alternative remedies. Herbs offer a good alternative and there are various herbs that can be used for different types of respiratory issues.
It should also be noted that herbs do not work overnight and therefore need to be taken for a longer period of time. You also may have to try different herbs in order to find the one that suits you best.
How Herbs Work
Different herbs work in different ways to help in improving respiratory health. Some work as expectorants that help in expelling foreign material from the sinuses, throat and chest. Some soothe irritable nasal and throat passages and others relax respiratory tract muscles. Some herbs are also a source of antioxidants that help in reducing damage done due to oxidation.
The Best Herbs for Respiratory HealthHere are some herbs that are great for respiratory health and the manner in which they work.
An extremely popular herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, licorice root helps by soothing the mucous membranes of the throat and lungs. The saponins cause the phlegm to loosen, thereby ensuring the herb also works as an expectorant.
Compounds found in licorice root also have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties helping this herb work in multiple ways to improve respiratory health. In fact, some flavonoids and glycyrrhizin present in the herb help in fighting off free radicals formed in the lungs and so can help prevent lung cancer.
Found in the Rocky Mountains, osha root has been used extensively by Native Americans. This root contains camphor which helps increase circulation to the lungs. This increased circulation helps facilitate deeper breathing. Osha root is also effective in fighting off seasonal flare-ups of allergic sinus problems because it works as an antihistamine.
Used by the Appalachians as an asthmador, lobelia contains lobeline that helps in reducing congestion by breaking up mucus. Lobelia extract is also used in many conventional cough medicines since it soothes the throat and respiratory muscles. Lobeline also helps release adrenaline that relaxes muscles in the airways making clear breathing much easier.
Known for its origins in Australia, eucalyptus has been used by Aborigines, Germans and Americans to soothe nasal congestion. Eucalyptus oil is often used in cough lozenges as well. Cineole, found in the leaves, is an effective expectorant and it can also soothe sinus passages. Eucalyptus also contains antioxidants and therefore helps in increasing overall immunity.
A lichen that grows on trees, this herb actually looks like lung tissue. Not only does it look like lungs, it is also beneficial for lungs. This herb has been known to clear congestion more effectively than any other herb.
The essential oils contained in sage leaves give a heady aroma that helps in soothing a sore throat. It is sometimes ingested in the form of a tea and at other times sage vapors are taken via inhalation. Specific oils like camphor, thujone, salvene and terpene help in treating sinusitis as well as work as a decongestant.
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Native Americans have used coltsfoot for thousands of years to increase lung capacity. The herb helps in clearing out the mucus from bronchioles, making proper breathing possible. Instances of people using coltsfoot to cure asthma, bronchitis and regular cough have been documented in many places.
Medical cannabis has been shown in some studies to actually improve lung health and function. Inhaling vapors from this plant helps trigger the natural endocannabinoid system (part of your immune system) that aids in limiting the spread of infection.
According to the Lung Institute, medical marijuana has been found useful in reducing inflammation, improving sleep, easing pain, supporting the immune system, and reducing phlegm. [Reference] Cannabis has also been found to be beneficial in the treatment of some cancers, as well as helpful in managing the side effects of mainstream cancer therapies. [Reference]
Methods of use include inhalation, topical, suppositories, and ingestion via edibles, FECO (full extract cannabis oil), tinctures, oils, and kinds of butter.
This common cooking herb has antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic properties. These are the properties that make it extremely effective at fighting bacteria that attack the respiratory system.
The carvacrol and rosmarinic acid content help boost the immune system and act as an antihistamine and decongestant. The oil extracted from this herb can fight off Staphylococcus, one of the most common bacteria that attacks the respiratory system.
Another herb that has been used extensively by the Native American people for years, elecampane helps in clearing mucus and attacks bacteria that inhabit the lungs and throat. This is one herb that finds a citation in ancient medicine practiced by the Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Indians. The active ingredients that are responsible for the soothing effect are insulin and alantolactone.
A natural cleansing of bronchial tubes, stronger lungs and reduction of mucus is what mullein has to offer. It is often prepared as a tea and consumed.
Additional herbs known to help in keeping the respiratory system healthy include peppermint, plantain leaf, horehound, gingko, ivy leaf, echinacea, wild indigo, white cedar, and nettle leaf.
Home Remedies to Increase Effectiveness of Herbs
While these herbs work on curing the cause of the respiratory issue you have, you could get very effective symptomatic relief using simple home remedies.
- Steam inhalation provides great relief. You could add in an herb like peppermint or eucalyptus in order to increase effectiveness.
- Avoid milk or milk products since they contain lactalbumin that stimulates mucus production.
- Drinking lots of water is also good.
- Avoiding alcohol is recommended since they cause dehydration.
- Drink orange juice and eat foods that contain high levels of vitamin C since it helps fight respiratory viruses.
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