Irritated bronchial tubes, thick phlegm, burning sensations, hacking cough, bronchitis, and coughs due to colds are lung problems that can be successfully treated with herbal medicine and aromatherapy. Of course, serious issues with the lungs require professional or emergency care -- especially if breathing becomes difficult.
Common symptoms like cough and irritated tissue respond better to herbal remedies than serious lung problems like advanced emphysema, COPD, and asthma, although aromatherapy and home remedies can help relieve painful symptoms associated with these conditions when nothing else helps.
Essential oils are really useful when treating lung problems. The healing properties of essential oils are delivered right to the affected lung tissue during breathing. Essential oils, the basis of aromatherapy, help open bronchial passageways and make breathing easier. They also bring pain relief and healing to the lungs.
This lady enjoys deep breathing exercises. Her lungs appreciate it, too.
There are many conditions and diseases that involve the lungs. Asthma, tuberculosis, cystic fibrosis, collapsed lung, apnea, pulmonary edema, pneumonia, and cancer are some of the most common. (According to the American Lung Association, lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women.)
Symptoms of lung problems include coughing, chest pain, blood, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, unexplained fatigue, and rapid weight loss. Causes include tumors, infection, smoking, air pollution, vitamin A deficiency, and suppressive over-the-counter cold and congestion remedies that don't allow the lungs to function properly.
The lungs are located inside the rib cage and are made up of spongy tissue. They bring in oxygen from the air and expel carbon dioxide (which is a waste product of cell metabolism) from the body. The lungs contain air sacs called alveoli where the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchanges take place. The lungs also filter out small blood clots formed in the veins and act as a surrounding cushion for the heart.
The body's nervous system controls breathing. Nerve cells also sense irritants such as pollen, smoke, vapor, dust, or mucus and produce a coughing response. Coughing causes air to be rapidly expelled from the lungs hopefully removing the offending substance. Coughing can be a good thing when the lungs need to get rid of phlegm, smoke, and food particles.
A mucous cleansing diet is great for the lungs and includes lots of citrus fruit, apricots, peaches, plums, fresh juices, lemon water, vegetables, salads, brown rice, yogurt, herbal teas, fish, and seafood. Anyone with lung problems should avoid all dairy products except yogurt. Dairy is known to cause excess mucus and congestion.
Many herbs are considered excellent remedies for lung problems. Licorice, marshmallow, pleurisy root, thyme, coltsfoot, catnip, elecampane, ginkgo biloba, rosemary, comfrey, and mullein are all good choices whether alone or combined.
Mullein is a favorite remedy for lung conditions and grows wild in the North Georgia Mountains. Mullein leaves and flowers are used to treat bronchitis, colds, flu, emphysema, and laryngitis. Mullein tinctures, teas, and syrups help bring up sticky phlegm. Mullein is used to fight bacteria and helps inhibit the spread of flu viruses. Wild-harvested mullein can be purchased from our Payne Mountain Farms online store.
In cases of chronic respiratory problems, mullein should be combined with mulberry bark, cowslip root, elecampane, viola, anise, or thyme. Mullein is considered a mild sedative and an excellent expectorant. When using mullein to treat coughs due to colds, combine with horehound and lobelia.
When using mullein in tea form, use one cup of water to two teaspoons of dried, crumbled leaf and flowers. Steep fifteen minutes and then strain through a fine cloth. Drink three to four cups of mullein tea per day. As with all herbs, many doses throughout the day are best. Honey can be added to improve flavor.
Chest and lung problems sometimes occur after a traumatic emotional experience. Grief and sorrow can greatly affect the lungs. Chest infections tend to strike when we feel down-and-out or depressed. A gentle chest massage can do much to soothe and heal in these cases. Use good carrier oil like almond oil with eucalyptus oil, lavender, rosemary, or tea tree essential oil for best results.
With asthma, a person's lungs become inflamed. The airways become narrow and produce mucus which can make breathing difficult. Asthma attacks are scary! Although herbs can help in mild cases, asthma should be treated by a healthcare professional. Severe asthma attacks require emergency care.
Oil of mustard is a given remedy for asthma. Dilute with vegetable oil and rub on the chest with gentle circular motions. Some old timers swear that smoking leaves of the mullein plant can help. Most herbalists agree that aromatherapy, hot steamy showers, and even a cup of hot tea can help stop mild attacks. Many people with asthma use prescription medications along with herbal remedies to keep their attacks under control. Coffee, green tea, and ginger can also help.
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Bronchitis is caused by colds, smoking, pollution, and other lung irritants. Symptoms include wheezing, cough, burning, and chest pain. Many times the cough produces thick yellow phlegm and the patient may have a fever. Bronchitis causes an increased chance of respiratory infection so antibiotics are often prescribed by mainstream healthcare providers.
Inhaling eucalyptus essential oil vapors can reduce pain and loosen mucus. Put 10 drops in a bowl of steaming water and cover head with a towel while breathing in the steam for 10 minutes. Mullein tea is also a time honored remedy for treating bronchitis. Drink a cup three times a day to soothe membranes. An herbal chest rub can also bring relief. Mix 10 drops each of eucalyptus essential oil, peppermint essential oil, and thyme essential oil or rosemary essential oil. Add this to one fourth cup of olive oil and gently massage into the throat and chest area. Tea tree or sandalwood essential oil may be substituted for any of these essential oils.
Use herbal teas, cough syrups, aromatherapy, and chest rubs to treat bronchitis.
Calm a bronchitis cough with plantain tea. Plantain is a cough suppressant and fights bacteria. Steep fresh plantain in hot water until cool then drink as needed. Wheezing can be relieved with thyme essential oil. Breathe the vapors for a couple of minutes whenever wheezing is present.
Horehound, elecampane, horsetail, and hyssop are also good for lung conditions. They can be made into syrups to soothe irritation and to heal lung damage. Elecampane is considered a good expectorant and lung tonic. It is restorative and warming which benefits weak lungs.
Take an infusion, tincture, syrup, or suck on horehound candy. Horehound can be combined with elecampane, angelica, or hyssop for excellent results. Cowslip is another powerful expectorant good for loosening old phlegm and easing dry coughs. Take a decoction, tincture, or syrup and combine with bloodroot or licorice for extra strength.
Thyme leaves are useful as an antiseptic and expectorant for phlegm and dry difficult cough. Take an infusion, tincture, or syrup and combine with mulberry bark or horsetail. Thyme is also excellent in a chest rub when mixed with hyssop or peppermint.
In all cases of bronchitis, a cleansing diet is recommended. Avoid dairy products, reduce fat and salt, and drink lemon juice throughout the day. Green drinks, onion, garlic, and honey are also helpful. A cough syrup can be made by combining chopped onion with a half cup of honey. Leave on low heat for an hour and strain. Take 1 tablespoon every two hours. Cayenne, ginger, ginseng, or bayberry may be added for extra strength.
Everyone that suffers from bronchitis should stay out of smoky environments, avoid inhaling smoke, avoid cold air, and get plenty of fresh air and sunshine. Deep breathing exercises, hot saunas, brisk rubdowns, and chest and back massages are recommended to loosen mucus. Witch hazel compresses are also an excellent treatment; alternate with hot and cold compresses for best results. The American Lung Association has some great tips for keeping your lungs healthy.
Reflexology has also been shown to help painful fits of bronchitis. Massaging the very middle of the instep of the foot can bring relief.
Lemon and honey can help treat coughs and set the lungs on a path to recovery.
Many herbs are well known for their ability to soothe a cough. Herbal cough syrups, lozenges, and teas have been used throughout history and many existing herbal recipes are tried and true. Horehound, slippery elm, mullein, wild cherry bark, lemon juice, and honey are the most common ingredients in cough remedies although other herbs are also useful.
Hyssop is useful in the treatment of coughs associated with bronchitis and is best combined with mullein, plantain, or white horehound. Sage, ginger, cloves, peppermint, and rose hips are also recommended additions for added strength. Try different combinations depending on what is available and what works best for you. Sometimes sandalwood essential oil can help heal bronchitis when nothing else seems to work.
Coughing is a common symptom of upper respiratory infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. There are many types of coughs including coughs due to colds, chronic coughs, dry coughs, cigarette coughs, productive coughs, nervous coughs, hacking coughs, and whooping coughs. Coughing is usually the body's way to get rid of phlegm. When coughing becomes so severe that breathing becomes difficult, seek emergency help.
Marshmallow is a proven demulcent and expectorant. Take an infusion, tincture, or syrup made from the flowers or leaves. Combine with a phlegm reducing herb like white horehound for an effective herbal medicine.
Anise is an excellent expectorant that brings up mucus and relaxes hard spasms. Anise is good for any dry, irritating cough and can be combined with thyme or hyssop for extra strength. Make tea from the herb or take in tincture form three or four times a day. You can also buy anise essential oil and use it in chest rubs. Do not use essential oil without diluting first with a good carrier oil.
Wild cherry bark is a powerful cough suppressant and is used for dry, nervous coughs or coughing associated with a sore throat. Combine in syrup form with licorice, garlic, onion, and slippery elm. Wild cherry bark brings relief so that the patient can get a good night's sleep.
A cough with a fever is best treated with yarrow and angelica. Mullein is good for congestion and to protect the lungs from lasting damage. Elder flowers and berries are often used for coughs due to sinus infection.
A hacking smoker's cough can be temporarily relieved with a mix of two tablespoons honey, two tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of water. Take a teaspoon of mixture as needed.
Dry hard coughs benefit from inhaling steam infused with cypress, hyssop, eucalyptus essential oil , or chamomile essential oil. Mix essential oils or the fresh herbs in a bowl, pour on hot water, lean over bowl, and make a tent with a towel. You can also use a few drops of essential oil in a hot bath.
Blend any good carrier oil live olive oil with sandalwood essential oil, eucalyptus essential oil, frankincense essential oil , and myrrh essential oil. Gently rub on chest and back to bring relief from coughing spasms and pain.
Sometimes a gargle or throat spray can help. Echinacea, yellowroot, or any of the herbs listed above can be made into tea, cooled, and used as a gargle or spray. Mix in a few drops of tea tree essential oil for added strength.
Chronic coughing and congestion can often be relieved with a change of diet. Milk and dairy products should be avoided due to their mucous forming properties. Patients should drink lots of fruit juice, eat sprouts on a daily basis, and add green peppers, broccoli, and cherries to the diet. Supplements such as royal jelly, ginseng, propolis, Vitamin C, and zinc may also help.
In cases of lung infection where yellow or green phlegm is being coughed up, avoid commercial cough-suppressants. They can drive infection deeper into the lung tissues. Coughing is a way for the lungs to clear bacteria and foreign matter from the body. Coughs should not be suppressed in most cases. The only time to use cough suppressants is when the patient really needs to get some rest or there is dry, hacking cough causing throat irritation.
Kicking the smoking habit is a must if you are diagnosed with emphysema.
Sometimes called Smoker's Disease, emphysema is caused by smoking cigarettes, inhaling secondary smoke, or breathing in air pollution. Bad diet, allergies, heavy metal poisoning, and poor circulation are sometimes contributing factors. Symptoms include chronic bronchitis, shortness of breath, post-nasal drip, congestion, frequent colds, coated tongue, blue lips, bad breath, lack of energy, and frequent hacking cough, especially when speaking or exhaling.
Emphysema reduces oxygen intake and can lead to heart failure. The best way to avoid emphysema is to never smoke tobacco. Smokers should quit as soon as possible. It is not easy to get off of tobacco, but it can be done. Emphysema is usually fatal if the patient continues to smoke. If patient stops smoking, the lungs can recover if damage is not too severe. The first step is to want to quit smoking. Many towns have free health clinics that offer tobacco cessation programs. Here in Blairsville, we have Healing Hands Community Clinic. They offer a free smoking cessation program that really helps. Second hand smoke can also damage the lungs. Never smoke around babies, children, the elderly, or anyone that is sick.
Vaping may also cause lung disease such as popcorn lung. If you experience wheezing, dry cough, shortness of breath, or any other breathing problems, quit vaping immediately. If condition doesn't improve, see your healthcare provider.
Herbs can help heal, soothe, and protect the lungs. Ginseng, licorice, comfrey, garlic, anise, mullein, and fenugreek are suited for treating emphysema. A combination of wintergreen essential oil and eucalyptus essential oil make a soothing steam bath. Eucalyptus essential oil can often bring temporary relief just by sniffing the vapors. Basil essential oil, hyssop essential oil, and thyme essential oil may also provide good results.
Mullein tincture is a tried and true remedy for colds, coughs, asthma, emphysema, and other lung conditions. Mullein leaves are thick and spongy like lung tissue.
It is easy to make mullein tincture. Harvest healthy, clean mullein leaves. Tear into pieces and put into a quart jar. Do not pack the pieces down too tightly. Next pour vodka over the plant material until completely covered (a few ounces of water may be added if desired). Keep in a dark cabinet and gently shake every day for 2 weeks. Keep the plant material pushed down into the liquid. (If you forget to shake it and mold appears, throw it all away and start over.) After two weeks have passed, strain the liquid into another jar. Add fresh plant material and repeat the process for two more weeks. Strain and pour tincture into a tightly capped container and store in a cool dark place.
This extra -strength mullein tincture will keep for two years in the refrigerator. Mullein tincture may be combined with bee balm tincture and sweetened with honey for use as a soothing cough syrup. An average adult dose is one tablespoon 3 or 4 times a day with a little extra given at bedtime. Vodka tinctures are not recommended for children due to their alcohol content. For individuals with alcohol dependencies, other herbal remedies may be more suitable.
Diet is especially important when treating emphysema and should include sea food, green drinks, and carrot juice. Vitamin E, vitamin C, beta carotene, B vitamins, and other anti-oxidants are useful dietary supplements. Avoid red meat, caffeine, and dairy products. Exercise can greatly reduce symptoms of emphysema. Swimming or walking can bring good results. Yoga is another option that can teach controlled breathing techniques.
If you want to quit smoking, visit Lung.org for more information.
COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States. COPD is a term that covers several lung conditions including chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. With COPD, the lungs have been damaged -- the little sacs that fill with air become less elastic and quit deflating leaving empty space. This makes breathing very difficult. COPD gets worse over time and there is no cure.
All of the herbs that improve lung function, including mullein, eucalyptus, and other time tested remedies, can be used to relieve symptoms of COPD.
The following video explains more about the lungs and COPD:
* If blood is present when coughing, seek emergency help. Always consult with a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedy especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking other medications.
* Note - the information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
** Most of the articles in this online herbal encyclopedia were first published by the North Georgia News in a weekly column titled Every Green Herb (by Janice Boling).
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