Love Your Lungs: Nutritional Support

By Staff


Millcreek Herbs clinical herbalist Merry Lycett Harrison says osha root (ligusticum porterii; also called Porter’s lovage or bear medicine) is her “go-to” herb for lung cleansing.

As Navajo legend goes, bears eat this herb as they come out of hibernation to stave off parasites and harmful infections. It’s an antiviral, decongestant, expectorant, stimulant, diuretic and carminative (aids in gas exchange between stomach and small intestines).

Boil in a cup and a half of water and inhale the steam, then drink the tea. Strain the woody root off and save, as it is the herb that keeps on giving, and can be reused again and again.

Other herbal concoctions for the lungs, as recommended by Harrison and also by Marinda Bowen, BSRN of the Natural Apothocary:

  • Garlic: Helps lungs from becoming congested. Infuse warm butter or olive oil with garlic and drizzle over food.
  • Licorice root: The master fluid balancer, used to moisten dry membranes. Great for dry scratchy throats or dry lungs. Add the root to tea, or just chew on the root. It’s sweet!
  • Marshmallow (the herb, not the candy) and slippery elm: Both are mucilaginous. Place a heaping teaspoon of either herb in room-temperature water for about an hour. Sip this gooey concoction to reduce throat irritation.
  • Mint/ginger/cayenne pepper: Sip a tea of this mix to turn on the fire hose of mucous secretion, the key to kicking out irritants on bad air days. Use dried or fresh, organic when possible.
  • Pleurisy root: The magic membrane moistener, used traditionally for acute lung conditions—pleurisy, non-spasmodic asthma, dry pulmonary cough, bron­­chitis, influenza and pneumonia.
  • Coltsfoot: Good for asthmatic conditions, where tightness is present. Steam inhalation and tea.
  • Elecampane Foot: It is a great expectorant to push congestion out of the lungs.
  • Mullein Leaf: A mild sedative, mullein soothes a variety of upper respiratory disorders. Make into a tea.

Find these herbs at Natural Law Apothocary, Dave’s Health and Millcreek Herbs.

Breathe Easy tea

This Traditional Medicinals organic non-GMO product is commonly avail­­- able. Bi Yan Pian extract, the main ingredient, is a traditional Chinese formula that includes eucalyptus, ginger, peppermint, fennel and licorice. This blend gives your senses a wakeup call and your lungs a chance to relax!

—Anna Albertson

Orange peels

Orange peels have many natural uses and lung cleansing is one of them. They are packed with beneficial compounds and nutrients that help the lungs cleanse themselves and have histamine-reducing properties. Orange peels are also rich in flavanones which are powerful antioxidants.

Not only do orange peels provide effective support against respiratory diseases, eating orange peels provides vitamin A, tons of vitamin C (a well known immune system booster), enzymes and fiber and pectin, which aid in digestion.

The signature citrus smell of orange peels comes from an aromatic compound, d-limonene, studied for its anti-tumor activity. It can neutralize gastric acid and dissolve gallstones, as limonene is a solvent of cholesterol.

Choose only organic oranges. Make a tea from the peels. Grate the peel  into salads, tea, yogurt or onto fish. Add to soups, stews or  smoothies. Slow-cook with chicken or duck.

—Caitlin Haws

Essential oils

Eucalyptus oil is the most commonly used essential oil for lung health. It can be a potent antiseptic, expectorant and decongestant—which is why we find so many over-the-counter allergy and cold medicine featuring this ingredient.

You can also inhale bergamot or peppermint to help open up your bronchial passages and help eliminate the presence of bacteria in your lungs. Peppermint’s expectorant qualities soothe upper respiratory congestion caused by asthma, bronchitis, allergies, colds and flus.  Lavender helps eliminate infection in the lungs and, combined with eucalyptus, have been known to kill up to 70% of staphylococcus bacteria in the lungs.

Inhalation is the way to go with these herbs.  Diffusers are a great option, but you can also boil essential oils and inhale directly—just make sure to keep your eyes closed!

Some diffusers worth trying: MONQ—the personal essential oil diffuser that works like vaping but contains no nicotine, tobacco or artificial chemicals; I keep doTERRA’s “Breathe” essential oil roll-on in my purse at all times; or try Utah’s own Young Living Essential Oils—check out their AromaDomes & Diffusers.

—Caitlin Haws

Castor oil pack

Castor oil is not just to swallow. You can put it on your body, too. As a folk medicine, it is said to draw out toxins from inside the body and cleanse the lungs of pollutants when used in a castor oil pack.

You won’t find definitive scientific studies on this one, just indications that people have been doing castor oil packs since at least the ancient Egyptians and in China and India before them.

The FDA has recognized castor oil as safe and effective. If you’re willing to experiment, try it. It’s inexpensive and remarkably relaxing (though very, very messy). And it just might actually break up congested toxins and clear them out of the body.

—Megan Murri

Check out instructions for making your own castor oil packs.

View the full “Love Your Lungs” article here.

This article was originally published on February 7, 2017.