Remedies for fighting air pollution and promoting respiratory health
Our lungs supply our bodies with oxygen, which is necessary for survival. But as you breathe in oxygen, you also take in a lot of pollutants which are harmful to your respiratory health.
A person with a sensitive respiratory system will react to inhaling pollutants and exhibit immediate symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and teary eyes.
Even people without immediate sensitiveness will succumb to the negative effects of air pollutants in the long run. For instance, Asthma a condition that causes swelling in the respiratory tract and interferes with normal breathing, is one of the conditions prevalent in people who live in areas with heavy air pollution.
Why use herbal remedies
There are plants all around us that can help us to fight the negative effects that air pollution can have on the human body. Herbs, or medicine that contains herbal compounds, have the following general benefits:
- Easing chest and nasal congestion,
- Soothing airways that are irritated,
- Suppressing symptoms such as sneezing, coughing and swelling of the glands,
- They have antihistamine and anti-oxidant qualities,
- They are harmful to toxins that cause problems in the upper respiratory system.
Most herbs that are promoted for their health benefits today have been in use for centuries. They include:
Potter’s Encyclopedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations considers Lobelia as one of the most important discoveries of herbal medicine. It contains an alkaloid named Lobeline, which helps to ease congestion. Due to its anti-spasmodic quality, it’s used in over the counter medicine for treating bronchitis, resulting in deeper and easier breathing.
Traditional communities such as the Aborigines of Australia have long used the leaves of the eucalyptus tree to create infusions that when inhaled, will ease congestion, colds and fevers.
Eucalyptus owes its healing properties to cineole, the active ingredient responsible for easing coughs, fighting congestion and soothing sinus irritation. Several studies have been conducted to support the use of eucalyptus as natural medicine. One such study, performed in 2008 by NYU Langone Medical center concluded that sinus complaints reduced when 200mg of cineole was taken thrice a day.
Most over the counter cough and congestion treatments contain eucalyptus. It can also be bought as a supplement or an oil.
Since the 1600’s, lungwort has been used for treating respiratory illnesses and for clearing airways. Its high mucilage content makes it quite useful for treating chronic bronchitis. It can also be used to treat asthma and coughs when combined with herbs like coltsfoot.
Oregano is mostly known for its use in the kitchen. Besides having nutrients that boost the body’s immunity, it also contains two compounds, carvacrol and rosmarinic, which have anti-histamine and decongestive properties. By rubbing a small amount on the temples and forehead, a mixture of Oregano Oil and olive oil can be used to relieve sinus headaches.
5. Plantain Leaf
Plantain leaf (Plantago major) was used by Anglo-Saxons as far back as the 1500s to treat a lot of ailments including respiratory complications. It’s used in modern medicine today and can be found in balms and medication meant for soothing the respiratory system, managing cardiovascular problems and treating rheumatism.
Clinical trials conducted in Germany concluded that plantain leaf is helpful for reducing irritation of lung tissue and reducing coughs. This has led to its wide adoption in Germany as an ingredient in respiratory medications.
Elecampane has long been used by the Chinese, Indians, Greeks and Romans to relax and sooth tracheal muscles. The herb owes its healing properties to inulin, a soothing compound, and alantolactone, which is an expectorant. When the linings of the bronchial tubes are swollen and red, this can make it hard to breath. Inulin soothes the tubes, while alantolactone cleanses the congestion, making it possible to breathe.
The menthol contained in peppermint soothes the respiratory tract for freer breathing. As peppermint is also an anti-histamine and anti-oxidant, it’s effective for decongesting and also fights organisms that are harmful to the respiratory system.
8. Osha Root
The roots of the Osha herb contain camphor, phytosterols, saponins and other oils which make it one of the greatest remedies for supporting lung function. The herb increases circulation of air to the lungs, making it possible to breathe deeper. Its antihistamine properties will also calm irritated sinuses and soothe other respiratory irritations.
Though the air pollution situation seems dire, promoting respiratory health is still possible, thanks to the remedies discussed above. Though the use of inhalers and other respiratory and cardiovascular medications might still be necessary, frequent use of the above herbs has been seen to reduce the dependency of such medication in the longer term.
Whether you’re already suffering from pollution related illnesses or are just interested in keeping your lungs clean, you can take these and many other herbs as tea blends, supplements or as ingredients in over-the-counter medicine. If they grow in the environment around you, you can use them for topical application or through inhalation. Some of the herbs are also safe for ingestion as food.
Note that if you are using any prescription medicine, you should seek the advice of your doctor before you take alternative herbal remedies. Furthermore, we recommend that you combine the use of the above remedies with a good quality pollution mask that also protects against bacteria and viruses!