Your respiratory system is constantly working. All day, every day, it is the vehicle for oxygen to enter your body. Unfortunately, it can also be an entry point for pollutants, irritants, dust, mould, fungus, harmful organisms, and other toxins. The constant exposure to impurities can take its toll.

Fortunately, whether you’re experiencing the effects of inhaling toxins, or simply want to ensure your lungs are always at peak performance, nature has provided a number of herbs and botanicals that provide deep nutrition for the respiratory system.

How Are Herbs Beneficial for the Respiratory System?

Herbs that support lung health typically do so through one or more of the following actions:

  • Soothing irritated nasal passages and airways
  • Acting as an expectorant that helps break up and expel chest congestion
  • Relaxing the muscles near the upper respiratory system to quell a cough
  • Calming the release of histamines.
  • Deterring the harmful organisms that produce upper respiratory issues
  • Providing a source of antioxidants to reduce oxidative damage and redness

9 Best Herbs for Lung Cleansing And Respiratory Health

1. Eucalyptus

Native to Australia, the tree leaves of the eucalypts are used for gastro-intestinal concerns, wound healing, fevers, and respiratory issues. Many have used the refreshing aroma of eucalyptus to promote respiratory health and soothe throat irritation.

Eucalyptus is a common ingredient in cough lozenges and syrups and its effectiveness is due to a compound called cineole. Cineole has numerous benefits — it’s an expectorant so it can ease a cough and congestion, and soothes irritated sinus passages. As a bonus, because eucalyptus contains antioxidants, it supports the immune system during a cold or other illness.

2. Lungwort

Lungwort is a flowering rhizomatous perennial herb that resembles lung tissue in appearance. However, this natural remedy doesn’t just look the part. As early as the 1600s, lungwort has been used to promote lung and respiratory health and clear congestion. Lungwort also contains compounds that are powerfully effective against harmful organisms that affect respiratory health.

3. Oregano

Although oregano contains the vitamins and nutrients required by the immune system, its primary benefits are due to its carvacrol and rosmarinic acid content. Both compounds are natural decongestants and histamine reducers that have direct, positive benefits on the respiratory tract and nasal passage airflow. Oregano oil also blends well with other healthful oils.

4. Plantain Leaf

The plantain leaf (Plantago major) has been used for hundreds of years to ease cough and soothe irritated mucous membranes. Clinical trials have found it favourable against cough, cold, and lung irritation. Plantain leaf has a bonus in that it may help relieve a dry cough by spawning mucus production in the lungs.

5. Elecampane

The Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and even Indian Ayurvedic medicine practitioners have cited elecampane for respiratory support and, since the 1800s, people have made lozenges and cough drops from elecampane root.

The reason? Elecampane has a relaxing effect on smooth tracheal muscles. There are two active compounds in elecampane root that provide the beneficial effect — inulin, which soothes the bronchial passage, and alantolactone, an expectorant with an antitussive action.

6. Lobelia

Did you know that horses given lobelia can breathe more deeply? Its benefits are not limited to equines however. Lobelia, by some accounts, is thought to be one of the most valuable herbal remedies in existence. Lobelia contains an alkaloid known as lobeline, which thins mucus, and breaks up congestion. Additionally, lobelia stimulates the adrenal glands to release epinephrine; which in effect, relaxes the airways and allows for easier breathing. Also, because lobelia helps to relax smooth muscles, it is included in many cough and cold remedies.

7. Chaparral

Chaparral (Larrea tridentata) — also called creosote bush — is native to the southwest United States and has long been appreciated by Native Americans for lung detoxification and respiratory support. Chaparral contains powerful antioxidants that resist irritation and NDGA (nordihydroguaiaretic acid) which is known to influence histamine response. Chaparral is also a herb that fights harmful organisms. The benefits of chaparral are most available in a tincture extraction, but chaparral tea may support respiratory concerns by encouraging an expectorant action to clear airways of mucus.

8. Peppermint

Peppermint and peppermint oil contain menthol — a soothing ingredient known to relax the smooth muscles of the respiratory tract and promote free breathing. Paired with the antihistamine effect of peppermint, menthol is a fantastic decongestant. Many people use therapeutic chest balms and other inhalants that contain menthol to help break up congestion. Additionally, peppermint is an antioxidant and fights harmful organisms.

9. Osha Root

Osha (Ligusticum porteri) is a herb native to the Rocky Mountain area and has historically been used by the Native Americans for respiratory support. The roots of the plant contain camphor and other compounds which make it one of the best lung-support herbs in America.

One of the main benefits of osha root is that it helps increase circulation to the lungs, which makes it easier to take deep breaths. Also, when seasonal sensitivities flare up your sinuses, osha root, which is not an actual antihistamine, does produce a similar effect and may help calm respiratory irritation.

Supplementing With Lung Support Herbs

All of the above herbs are available in various forms such as nutritional supplements and tea. Additionally, many people grow herbs in their garden and simply consume them as food. If you grow them yourself, you can rest easy knowing the source is a good one. If not, it can be difficult to know if nutritional supplements use herbs that are organic, contain pesticides, are ethically harvested, given clean water etc. These are not factors for which you can or simply should assume the best. Always ask questions and verify that you’re getting the best product possible.