Protect your lungs now with herbs
It is high time that we paid dedicated attention to the plants and their foods and extracts that can fortify, decongest, protect and rejuvenate the lungs.
When there is an aberrant and invasive virus on the loose that is indiscriminately and rampantly infecting the human respiratory system, we need to consciously use every wholesome tool available to us.
Plants have been on this earth for much longer than humans (though not as long as viruses), and have perfected anti-viral mechanisms and substances to defend themselves.
It makes very good sense to make intelligent use of botanically chelated bio-chemicals to augment our own healing capacity.
The virulent COVID-19 virus is not a living organism, but a DNA (and RNA) encoded protein molecule that is covered by a protective layer of lipid (fat) and is absorbed by the cells of the human ocular, nasal or buccal mucosa.
The virus is actually quite fragile; the only thing that protects it is this thin outer layer of fat so by dissolving it, the protein molecule disperses and breaks down on its own.
It is highly advisable to sip hot/warm herbal teas regularly throughout the day - the virus molecules remain very stable in external cold.
The heat melts the fat layer on the protein spike of the virus, disabling it before it can meet with a human receptor cell to invade, mutate and take over.
The throat is one of the first areas to be infected and the virus can sit in there for a few days before reaching the lungs.
Myrrh in tincture form has the most beneficial antiseptic cleansing action on the mucous membranes, so it is wise to gargle the throat regularly and thoroughly with myrrh in warm water.
How the virus attacks the lungs
This virus has a menacing mission to directly target the lungs and infect specific cells, hijacking them to actually change their genetic code and convert them into aggressor multiplier cells.
This causes dysfunction from mild to severe and eventually a cascade of complications, especially amongst those who are vulnerable, immune compromised or predisposed to pulmonary disease (the latter group sadly is an increasingly large segment of many populations, who are at serious risk of severe pulmonary damage or death).
This type of virus kills the cilia, which are the tiny hair-like protrusions from the lung cells that move in waves to remove mucous and detritus up out of the lungs.
This can cause a build up of waste and fluid, leading to a type of pneumonia or more likely Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome and essential oxygen cannot be utilised.
This is where plants in fresh, dried or essential oil form can be of significant help to decongest and clear any congestion that compromises lung resilience.
Some herbs are specifically cilia-protecting and mucous-lifting such as rhodiola, barberry, olive leaf and cordyceps. Protecting the cilia, goes a long way in protecting the lungs from injury.
Severe hypoxia (not getting enough oxygen) often occurs in the cells that are affected of the afflicted person.
Herbs that are rich in berberine are highly recommended to prevent hypoxia-induced oxidative damage and increasing the efficiency of oxygen utilisation.
These herbs include: barberry, golden seal, oregon grape and turmeric.
Berberine-containing plants have been traditionally used in different parts of the world for the treatment of inflammatory disorders, skin diseases, wound healing, reducing fevers, affections of eyes, treatment of tumours, digestive and respiratory diseases and microbial pathologies.
Viruses such as this one attach to the ACE-2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme) on the surface of the respiratory cell.
This enzyme is part of the system that is crucial to the functioning of most organs in the body.
Some herbs such as elderberry, liquorice, rhubarb root, horse chestnut, ginkgo biloba, hawthorn berries and skullcap actually protect and increase the presence of this enzyme system that gets invaded by viruses such as Covid-19. They are also known to block viral attachment to ACE-2 linkages.
A healthy immune system is crucial
The good news is that the human immune system is a remarkable self-activating defence system.
In response to the invaded cell’s chemical messengers, called the cytokines, a healthy immune system will kick in to send an army of immune cells to combat the infection and heal the tissues. This particular virus however could most likely overwhelm a compromised immune system.
Thank goodness herbs and their extracts are so very helpful for enhancing our immunity.
Despite there being only a few antiviral pharmaceuticals, the only real treatment that Western medicine has developed for viral infections are vaccines, which generally take more than a year to develop. Unfortunately, viral pathogens seem to have an intelligence that enables them to continually rearrange their genome so each flu season or viral outbreak, new vaccines are required. COVID-19 is a particularly virulent, resistant ‘super virus’ that is still not fully understood nor recognised by the human defence system.
It can ravage the lungs and cause serious damage so that even in those who recover, this can take years to repair.
Perhaps even worse, the copious antibiotics and allopathic medications that are prescribed so readily slowly but surely undermine the body’s ability to heal itself and restore its innate homeostasis of self defence.
We are not defenceless, herbal help is at hand
This does not mean however that we are left defenceless and without some very effective ways to build robust immunity and increase our respiratory resilience.
The plant world can provides us with valid means for improving respiratory function and vigour to withstand aggressive viral assault.
Using plants and their oils to maintain the body’s defences goes a long way in avoiding infection, which is paramount for healthy respiration.
If given the chance, the human body is capable of great feats of self-defence, as long as we provide a balanced, nutrient-rich diet in combination with a lifestyle that is healthy in thought and in action.
Food is our Medicine
We should all know by now that a plant-based diet, with plentiful fresh leafy greens and colourful vegetables and fruits, is the key to optimal health.
Even a predominantly plant diet will be more conducive to maintaining vitality and immune resilience.
It would also be wise to avoid or reduce intake of congestive material such as meat, dairy, refined grains, sugars and fats, which proliferate mucous accumulation.
When mucous accumulates and stagnates, it becomes a toxic substance which is called ama in Ayurveda.
In addition to taking preventative measures - eating healthily and getting plenty of sleep - many herbs and herbal products can effectively boost our defence systems.
Herbs are better assimilated in our bodies in whole form as teas, tinctures or elixirs, rather than in pill form.
There is no known cure for Covid-19, however pertinent use of the pulmonary plants and their oils can greatly enhance the physiology and ecology of breathing.
It is our ability to breathe that must remain strong and dynamic.
Viruses are a part of humanity
Humans have always had to adapt to viruses and indeed there are about a dozen or more known corona viruses, of which only seven are known to infect people.
Viruses do not ‘exist’ outside of petri-dish solutions or a living body.
They cannot function without a host cell that manufactures them and encodes them and viruses cannot replicate without a host cell.
Cells produce different viral strains depending on the condition of the tissue involved.
Just like there are good and a bad bacterium, the human body already inherently has 320,000 viral strains and each cell contains the viral protein makeup to manufacture each strain when the body calls for it. Their primary function is to dissolve dead matter.
Resilience will not go astray
There is a school of thought that exposure to corona viruses without vaccinating will eventually strengthen our resistance to them or perhaps communities will develop herd immunity.
Over time, the same virus can remerge, mutated and more resistant to infiltrate the lungs of the same population vaccinated or not.
These pathogens are sophisticated at modulating human cytokines to achieve their own ends, by circumventing many of our immune responses to facilitate entry into the body.
Vaccines may be necessary to stop the corona virus in its tracks, but is it only a short-term fix?
A short-term cure doesn’t mean long term healing
A short-term cure doesn’t mean long-term healing
Even if we don’t get infected with COVID-19 or come through the pandemic unscathed, it makes very sound sense to build a strong constitution of immunity and respiratory resilience.
This includes increasing our ability to resist and recover from the next round of colds and flus that are becoming increasingly more severe and dangerous.
It is quite likely that other such insidious viruses could arise out of the miasma caused by the earth’s and humans’ corrupted ecosystems.
We can wait around feeling helpless for the correct vaccine to be produced, or we can choose to actively augment our own immunity with botanical protocols that have been proven effective for thousands of years.
Our Body innately know plants
In fact, tens of thousands of years of experimentation, observation and trials have gone into the rich universal tradition of herbal medicine that includes ethno-shamanic herbal wisdom. A co-evolution with plants defines the very origins of herbal medicine. Humans have learned to tolerate a wide range of plant chemicals, being hard-wired for a dynamic interaction with secondary plant metabolites.
When ingested as a whole plant, the entire broad range of nourishing and restorative plant constituents, including the minor ones, are utilised by the body, mitigating the intensity of some of the more intense actives.
Our bodies recognise and make good use of the bio-chemicals in plants because we have evolved with them over millennia.
Proof is in the living
It is highly probable that within the plant world there awaits different types of treatments that could be invaluable in the global thrust towards resolving the Covid-19 pandemic.
Just because a plant hasn’t undergone a limited series of pharmacological experiments for a period of time on a narrow sector of animals/people; does not mean it has no healing potential.
Indeed we have benefited greatly from medical science and therapeutic drugs however, let us not overlook the many medical mistakes and some even disastrous that has caused much suffering over the years.
The herbalist who uses plants and their extracts does not need scientific validation, when they have the time-honoured accumulative wisdom of human experience.
THE FOLLOWING herbs address the myriad therapeutic actions necessary to provide effective lung support and treatment and were successfully used to improve respiration for millennium.
When investigating the condition of the lungs, don’t forget their relationship to the other eliminatory organs.
Ineffective excretion by the liver or kidneys of end or by-products of carbohydrate or protein metabolism will throw burden on the lungs. Sluggish kidneys can often cause catarrh in the lungs. The Chinese stimulate the kidneys to rid the lungs of mucous in the first stages of colds and flus. Vitamin C works along the same lines by increasing diuresis.
So when there is lung catarrh check the liver, kidneys and colon and use the appropriate herbal protocols to cleanse them.
This list is by no means exhaustive.
Expectorants: Help expel phlegm
Mullein, elecampane root, peppermint, coltsfoot, aniseed, fennel, hyssop, nettle, chamomile
Anti Catarrhal: Decongest
Elderflower, elecampane, spearmint, peppermint, nettle, catnip, coltsfoot, lungwort, sage, uva ursi, sage, mullein, anise, eucalyptus, horseradish
Anti Infective: Fight Infection
Echinacea, calendula, peppermint, yarrow, golden seal, liquorice, rosehip, garlic, oregano, thyme, basil, olive, golden rod, clove, meadowsweet
Antispasmodic: reduce spasms
Valerian, skullcap, lemon balm, passionflower, hops, chamomile, peppermint, cramp bark, St John’s Wort, medical marijuana,
Anti Tussive: Stop coughing
Coltsfoot, gingko biloba, linden flower, marshmallow, valerian, plantain, wild cherry, vervain, wild yam, horehound
Demulcent: Soothe irritations internally
Comfrey, plantain, marshmallow, corn silk, chickweed, chamomile, slippery elm, vervain, fennel, raspberry leaf
Respiratory Immune tonics
Echinacea, Ashwagandha, astralagus, elderberry, elderflower, yarrow, liquorice, skullcap, peppermint, chamomile, mullein, horehound, tumeric
Lymphatics: Stimulate Lymphatic system
Red Clover, dandelion, calendula, peppermint, fennel, cleavers, echinacea, devils claw, goldenseal, skullcap, thyme, epilobium
Analgesics: Reduce pain
White willow bark, meadowsweet, wild yam, verbena, peppermint, yarrow
Ginger, black pepper, chickweed, gotu kola, hawthorn, cayenne, gingko biloba, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, osha root
Febrifuge/Diaphoretic: Promote perspiration/Reduce fever
Feverfew, yarrow, andrographis, barberry, blessed thistle, black pepper, basil, ashwagandha, plantain
Warming diaphoretics: angelica, hyssop, sage, thyme and ginger.
Cooling diaphoretics: peppermint, lemon balm, catnip, elderflower, and chamomile.
A word about fevers
Most people are familiar with fevers that are part of the body’s response to bacterial or viral infections - raising the temperature helps make the body less hospitable to pathogens and helps with the immune response.
There are technically two types of diaphoretics: those that help produce sweat by stimulating circulation, and those that allow sweating to take place by relieving surface tension of the nerves and pores in the skin.
Herbalists like to refer to these as ‘warming’ and ‘cooling’ diaphoretics, respectively, although the main difference is that the first type tends to cause a more powerful sweat on their own than the second.
Both can be paired with a warm bath or layers of blankets to give an added boost to body temp and sweat-assist. Some herbs will promote an obvious sweat while others work more in the background - but don’t expect to gush sweat.
Hot compress herbs
Ginger, chamomile, sage, elderflower, comfrey, thyme, elecampane or eucalyptus can be used by brewing a tea and soaking a cloth in the warm brew. This warm, moist compress is placed on the chest to encourage circulation, expectoration and the removal of pathogens.
Herbal medicine draws distinction between healing of the body and ‘curing’ it, which is a systematic clearing of disease symptoms in the biological body rather than its causes.
Herbal medicine recognises that the human body has the innate ability to heal itself; the external support from the right plant can enhance the body’s own healing mechanisms, supplying the raw building blocks it requires to recover equilibrium in the least invasive way.
Herbal medicine is ultimately preventive medicine; medicinal herbs not only nourish but also cleanse the body of poisons and supporting immunity in a balanced, holistic way.
Respiratory Essential Oils
Essential plant oils are aromatic volatile molecules that, like Prana, are carried into the nose via the air when we breathe.
They are intrinsically rich in Prana themselves and inextricably linked to the breathing process, so naturally they are nature’s way of healing and rejuvenating respiratory function so that we may enjoy optimal health and well being.
It becomes increasingly more obvious why aromatherapy can be a first port of call in any healing regime and why we should always have them on hand - especially if we are prone to pulmonary disorders.
Powerful breathing allies
Antispasmodic oils such as peppermint or thyme will relieve a tight, restrictive cough or when there is loss of elasticity in the tissue or spasm of the respiratory passageways.
Essential oils such as ginger or rosemary stimulate circulation to keep the respiratory tissues well bathed in blood. Indirectly, they tone and assist the whole glandular and excretory processes to make sure the inner environment is clean and in harmony. In this context, oils do indeed synergistically tend to the integrated body systems, as a whole, rather than exclusively the focused dysfunctional area.
Much of the aromatic pharmacopeia is perfectly suited for helping us to breathe:
Eucalyptus, basil, aniseed, black pepper, clove, cedarwood, chamomile, cypress, fennel, fragonia, frankincense, ginger, lemon, pimento, lemon myrtle, manuka, myrrh, oregano, pine, hyssop, kunzea, lavender, myrtle, cajeput, niaouli, peppermint, thyme, rosemary, sage, sandalwood, spearmint, tea tree, lemon tea tree.
Suitable applications include: diffuser, inhalations, compress, massage, baths and ointments/salves, elixirs/syrups.
Releasing what does not serve us
If we examine the metaphysical causation of disease in the body, we learn that the lungs are very much the ‘seat’ of unresolved grief.
When we employ certain essential plant oils such as rose, frankincense or chamomile, for instance, along with conscious breathing we are able facilitate a more effective ‘letting go’ of past loss, pain and disappointment, emotions that we tend to hold on to so closely to the lung/heart thoracic area of the body.
Releasing the chest of such ‘old’ debilitating burdens frees up the breathing and often the chronic respiratory condition will dissipate.
Following the flow of the breath enables us to become more anchored into the present moment to control the mind that stands like a wall between reality and us.
IMPROVING our breathing capacity and incorporating breathing exercises into our daily regime has never been more important.
Most pathological changes in tissues can be prevented if the environmental milieu of the cells is constantly rich in oxygen.
Most humans don’t breathe well
The percentage of people who breathe correctly is quite small, and the result is shown in contracted chests, stooped shoulders and an increase in the diseases of the respiratory organs.
Good breathing and regular exercise are clearly some of the best preventative measures for the respiratory system.
While we take breathing for granted, conscious and proper breathing plays a central role in many spiritual paths.
To ensure healthy lungs, the inner environment must be in harmony with an unpolluted outer environment; air quality is the key - as any contaminants will disrupt the ecology of the lungs. Impeded breathing can lead to a host of problems, from bronchitis to cancer.
The body is breathed
The anatomy and physiology of the respiratory system is a complex and beautiful embodiment of integration and wholeness.
Supplying the cells of the body with oxygen is the responsibility of the respiratory and circulatory systems. Breath is a function of our autonomic nervous system; the control system that acts largely unconsciously and regulates bodily functions such as the heart rate, digestion and respiratory rate.
Breathing is the only organ function that can be consciously controlled; however through conscious breath, the heart can actually be influenced (as research on long-term meditators has revealed).
The act of breathing is performed involuntarily without us having to give it any thought.
Cultivating conscious breathing
The human body is a complex spiritual instrument and breath control lies at the heart of all yogic and meditative practice.
By regulating our breathing and bringing it under control, it will foster a calm spirit and when it is under control, the heart will be at peace. When breathing is spasmodic, the heart will be troubled.
So before attempting anything, it makes very good sense to regulate the breath to relax the body, soften the temperament, quieten the mind and calm the spirit.
The art of yogic breathing, known as pranayama, is an integral part of yoga practice, opening our awareness to the vastness of ultimate reality.
Most yoga schools teach a variety of breathing exercises, however there is one essential skill to develop that can benefit everyone health-wise; and this is to simply use the diaphragm (the main breathing muscle in the body) independently of movements in the spine.
The belly expands to the front and the sides during inhalation.
Breathing from the midsection of the torso slows down and deepens respiratory patterns.
People suffering from coronary disease are usually all thoracic (upper chest) shallow breathers with a more rapid breath rate and can surely benefit from diaphragmatic breathing.
Breath - gateway into divine Nature
Breathing provides a sure pathway into the heart area; the lungs cradle the heart chakra.
When we breathe with intention we ground ourselves to consciously connect our physical and energy bodies to the earth. Breathing becomes a vehicle of spiritual experience, the mediator between body, mind and the world.
The mysterious and potent life force carried in atmospheric air that animates all human, animal and plant life is called Prana.
The same unifying and enlivening energy that runs through the world pushing sap up trees, runs through our veins.
The Prana within our human body is part of the cosmic breath of the universal spirit that can be fanned into a more vibrant force to spiritually empower our entire human composition.
Physical health depends upon correct breathing
Breathing is spiritual ecology in action; it is the only physical vehicle for the internal prana to draw its replenishment from the external Prana and by becoming aware of it and aligning ourselves with its motions, we become happier and healthier during our brief embodiment on earth. Each human inhale draws in Pranic nourishment from the cosmos just as the plant draws in minerals already chelated within the earth’s soil, sunlight, rain and carbon dioxide to feed and distribute within its growing form.
Elemental energy enters the system through photosynthesis and is incorporated into plant tissue. Our inhalation can be like sipping fine nectar, savouring each nuance and gift that it brings to our body.
Each exhalation is satisfyingly detoxifying, as it eliminates the wastes such as carbon dioxide, toxins, tensions and pains; this is a shedding of what is no longer required.
Clearing detritus to make space for the gifts of the next inhale in the constant and involuntary rhythm of inflowing and outflowing breath that we have made conscious act.
Always breathe through the nose
This has many advantages because the tiny hairs in the nasal passage act as a natural filter for dust particles, pollen, germs, and other nasties and they also help keep the nasal tract moist.
Nasal breathing warms up the cold air before it enters the lungs and minimises the likelihood of developing sinus congestion.
By contrast, breathing through the mouth can cause dryness in the mouth and a congested feeling in the forehead and the Yogic masters say that it leads to disease.
Deep in the lung tissue there are immune system cells (macrophages) that swallow up particles that have made it past the cilia.
IT IS PERTINENT to practice increased awareness of the breathing process now with a subtle exaggeration. We do not want to be intubated with a respirator to do the job for us that does not necessarily promise survival.
During inhalation, the diaphragm is contracted, which increases the volume of the lung cavity and our diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles both descend toward our feet.
During exhalation, the diaphragm is relaxed, which decreases the volume of the lung cavity and our diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles both ascend toward our head.
Knowing this, we can use the natural movement of the pelvic floor and breath to augment what is happening naturally.
Sit in a comfortable position and deeply inhale.
Air fills the lungs, fills the belly, we sit up a bit taller, our rib cage expands, our chest puffs up and so on.
The diaphragm, the dome-shaped muscle at the base of the lungs and ribcage contracts and pulls down, allowing the lungs to expand and subsequently air flows inward.
The intercostal muscles, situated between rib bones, also contract and pull the ribcage outward, increasing the lung volume.
Sit in a comfortable position and deeply exhale.
The lung volume decreases as the ribcage moves inward, our shoulders may drop, our back and spine relax and so on.
The diaphragm relaxes, reforming a tight concave dome, pushing the lungs upward and pushing air up and out.
The intercostal muscles relax, allowing the ribcage to compress, also pushing the air out by decreasing lung volume.
Capture some healing sunlight
Twenty minutes of sunshine, preferably on a bare chest, triggers our body to manufacture vitamin D, which is vital for healthy immune response. This pleasant practice also stimulates the release of over 200 microbials that fight fungi, parasites and viruses.
Breathe Free Herbal Tea: Starring respiratory rescuers for immunity and recovery. Contains mullein, thyme, peppermint, spearmint, echinacea, elecampane root, liquorice root, gingko biloba and coltsfoot.
Elderberry Resilience Elixir: Featuring many immuno-stimulant herbs in a soothing honey base.
Also worth reading: Sense and sensibility - essential oils during times of strife