for the respiratory system:
- Aid the activity of the mucous membranes and ensure that gas exchange
through these membranes can occur,
- Activate the secretions of the lung tissue so that the air is sufficiently
moistened and the membranes protected,
- Augment neurological responses regulating the breath,
- Tone up the circulation and ensure that blood bathes the tissues
- Stimulate the whole glandular and excretory processes to ensure a
clean and harmonious inner environment.
Several herbal actions are of value to proper respiratory
These tonics specifically nourish and tonify the respiratory functions and
processes. Pulmonary tonics work directly on the lungs and chest and are
particularly effective in treating congestion. They assist in healthy regeneration.
They have a general strengthening, toning and healing effect on the respiratory
processes and functions. Tonics may be used over long periods of time to
protect and buffer from stresses and give support for healthy and vital
Plantain - tonifies mucous membranes; reduces phlegm; soothes
inflamed and painful mucous membranes; anti-catarrhal herb which decreases
mucus by inhibiting fluid mucus secretion; may relieve wheezing and
coughing, hayfever, asthma, allergies; a major cough remedy that reduces
the urge to cough (English plantain or narrow leaf plantain may be more
effective as a cough remedy than broad leaf plantain ); dissolves mucus;
inhibits bacterial growth and inflammation; useful also as a demulcent
and has antibiotic effects.
Chickweed - helps heal lungs of most any inflammation; moistens
phlegm and aids in its expectoration; relieves sore throats; strengthens
the tissue lining of the lungs; has a significant nutritive component
and is of benefit in chronic deficiency conditions with exhaustion;
gently dissolves thickened lung and throat membranes; emulsify and neutralizes
toxins and weakens bacterial cell walls making them vulnerable to disruption.
Violet - useful for chest inflammation; excellent soothing
expectorant for relieving harsh, irritating coughs and chest infections;
reduces feverish colds and is a gargle for sore throats; decongests
the lymph, loosens constraints; circulates the energy and generates
strength; breaks up and removes respiratory congestion; reduces inflammation
in the lungs and mouth; calms nervous coughs; clears lingering effects
of coughs; nourishes and gently alters the functioning of nerves, lungs
and immune system; good when mucus discharge is thick, yellow, sticky,
and rattling; useful for inflamed throat and bronchial surfaces; good
for conditions with difficulty breathing and shortness of breath.
These herbs facilitate the removal of mucus from the lungs and often they
provide a tonic for the whole respiratory system. Expectorants encourage
passage up the bronchial apparatus of phlegm and other material in the lungs.
The mucociliary escalator that brings up bronchial secretions may be overloaded
or impeded. Excessive mucous secretion (catarrh) leads to overloading of
the mucociliary escalator with resulting congestion in the lungs (bronchitis,
pneumonia). The removal of phlegm may be impeded because mucous secretion
is checked and or thickened as part of an inflammatory, hypersensitivity
or nervous reaction. This results in tight, dry, irritable conditions as
is seen in nervous, irritable, dry or tickly coughs or asthma.
Stimulating expectorants- irritate the bronchioles, causing
expulsion of material. Congestive or wet conditions call for stimulating
expectorants that act to stimulate the activity in the mucociliary escalator
and thus leads to a more productive cough. The fine hairs (cilia) of the
ciliated epithelium push the mucous in waves up towards the outside.
Stimulating expectorants may also liquefy viscid sputum so
that it can be cleared by coughing. Many of these have a vegetable gum
that have the ability to loosen accumulation of phlegm which collects
in the lungs, sinus cavities, and in the bronchial passages. Once loosened
they are coughed up in a natural process.
Respiratory stimulants act on the nerves and muscles of the
respiratory system. They encourage the loosening and subsequent expulsion
of mucus. Stimulants in general cause the vital signs to quicken, raising
pulse, respiration, and nerve alternates. They may raise the body temperature.
They feel as if they produce energy, yet they only ease the flow.
Hyssop - prevents stagnation of bronchial secretions; has anti-viral
activities; frees congestion due to an excess amount of mucous; useful
for irritable coughs; a good stimulating decongestant for colds, flu,
catarrh, sinus problems, coughs, bronchitis, asthma and pleurisy.
Horehound - a well known throat and lung remedy; works to treat
coughs and croup and to expel phlegm from the respiratory bronchial
system; affects the respiration directly by dilating vessels; used for
acute and chronic congestive bronchial conditions especially with an
Thyme - has a significant disinfectant and germicidal effect
in conditions of the upper respiratory passages; helps dissolve and
remove congestive obstructions; relieves spasms; makes an excellent
remedy for coughs whether they are caused by nerves and anxiety or an
infection such as bronchitis, pneumonia, pleurisy; has a relaxing effect
on the bronchial tubes relieving asthma and whooping cough; its stimulating
action increases the production of fluid mucus and helps liquefy phlegm;
the ability to be both relaxing and stimulating as is needed makes it
a particularly beneficial herb as a restorative for the lungs; particularly
useful for dry, hacking coughs; given internally it is eliminated via
the alveoli of the lungs and is concentrated at the site where its effect
is required; its spasmolytic action on bronchiolar spasm is an important
characteristic of thyme.
These herbs act by reflex to soothe bronchial spasms and loosen secretions.
They are especially helpful with dry, irritated, coughs in hot conditions.
The primary action of respiratory relaxants is to relax the tissue of the
lungs, which will be most useful in any problem connected with tension and
over-activity. The easing of tension promotes the flow of mucus and allows
expectoration to occur. They soothe bronchial spasm and loosen thick mucus.
Coltsfoot - best standard remedy to have on hand; alleviates
the urge to cough by coating and protecting inflamed bronchial mucous;
dissolves and discharges phlegm; sedates the cough reflex and resolves
wheezing; is useful with persistent coughs; it is the remedy of choice
in chronic cases particularly with chronic emphysema and with persistent
morning coughs; contains a bitter principle; ( Bitters are indicated
in chronic catarrhal conditions with constantly recurring acute irritation,
particularly with the elderly , in asthmatic conditions, and with those
who have been exhausted by protracted cough. The bitter principle stimulates
gastric secretions, as well as the autonomic nervous system and the
vasomotor sphere. This tonic effect is very healing in chronic conditions.)
Coltsfoot contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids and excessive, long-term
use should be avoided. Those with liver weakness or conditions of the
liver should avoid the use of Coltsfoot. In practical therapy the amount
of pyrrolizidine found in dried plant is so small as to be disregarded.
Mullein - mucilage contents help heal and alleviate inflammations
of the mucous membrane of the upper respiratory tract and inhibits the
absorption of allergens through the membrane surfaces; contains saponines
which dissolve phlegm and encourage expectoration; one of the best known
cough herbs; used in the treatment of lung disease, coughs, consumption
and hemorrhage of the respiratory organs; has sedative properties that
quiet inflamed nerves, relieves pain, and is soothing to any inflammation;
relieves spasms in the lungs; strengthens sinuses and allows for free
breathing; not usually used for acute catarrhal conditions best for
sub-acute states and chronic bronchitis where there is considerable
Most important cough remedies contain saponines although
not all saponin containing plants are cough remedies. Plants containing
volatile oils also act as expectorants. There are also a group of plants
that act as expectorants but through a different mechanism. These plants
have emetic properties that increase the secretion of gastric juices in
the digestive tract. This stimulation of the gastric mucosa has a reflex
effect on the bronchial mucosa, via the gastrobronchial vagus reflex leading
to hyper-secretion of sputum. In this way a plant acting on the stomach
has an effect on the lungs. Spices encourage expectoration by stimulating
secretor activity in the salivary and gastric glands. By triggering a
gastro-pulmonary vagal reflex this route acts on the bronchial glands.
This results in increased production and liquefaction of bronchial secretions
facilitating expectoration. Highly seasoned foods using pepper, curry,
garlic are of benefit in chronic bronchitis while bland foods encourage
Demulcents are herbs rich in mucilage (a natural gum substance found in
herbs which is soluble in water, creating a sticky goo which adheres to
the skin, mucous membranes and connective tissue and is able to soothe and
lubricate for a long time) to soothe and protect irritated or inflamed tissue.
Demulcents relieve, lubricate and soften irritated or inflamed mucous membranes
and reduce the spasms that cause coughing. They are very soothing. They
contain a high amount of vegetable gum, which allows them to lubricate any
surface that they come into contact with. Demulcents are useful for coughs
with very acute catarrh with inflammation and irritation. Acute inflammatory
conditions are best treated with mucilaginous agents that act as demulcents
(soothing agents allaying inflammation). In acute inflammatory conditions
expectorants are not as helpful. Expectorants work better in sub-acute states.
In phases of acute irritability demulcents are more effective. Demulcents
often have other complementary actions. For example, licorice reduces inflammation
and spasms and expels phlegm as well as soothing the bronchials.
Marshmallow - has one of the highest mucilaginous contents;
heals mucous membranes in the lungs; absorbs toxins; helpful for dry,
Licorice - lubricates inflamed, ulcerated respiratory tissue;
reduces inflammation, spasms and expels phlegm. ( Licorice is counterindicated
for those with high blood pressure.)
Common Mallow - contains mucilage and malvin; can be used as
a gargle and in compresses to reduce irritations in acute inflammatory
Plantain, mullein, Comfrey, violet, fenugreek and Coltsfoot
are other good demulcents.
These herbs help the body to destroy or resist pathogenic
microorganisms. They also serve the important function of helping the
body strengthen its own resistance to ineffective organisms and resolve
illness efficiently. Some contain chemicals that are antiseptic or specific
poisons to certain organism. Most act to aid the body's own immune responses
and functions. Many of these anti-microbials contain volatile oils that
pass through the lungs and are exhaled. Steam inhalation of these herbs
are effective against lung disease. Anti-microbials are used when there
is the presence of green or yellow phlegm indicating the possibility of
Echinacea - an excellent immune tonic; increases T-lymphocyte
activity; activates white blood cell response by stimulating production,
speed of maturation and aggressiveness of white blood cells; also increases
chemotaxis of the white blood cell helping them get to the area of stress
faster; stimulates lymphatic drainage; stimulates monocytes to help
prevent infection; stimulates macrophages to clear up debris; increases
overall immune system alertness and activity; promotes lung defenses;
prevents lung infection.
Lavender - volatile oils in lavender account for the major
part of its medicinal action; its powerful antiseptic volatile oils
are active against bacteria including diphtheria, typhoid, streptococcus
and pneumococcus; it relieves colds, coughs, bronchitis, pneumonia,
sore throat, flu, tonsillitis, and laryngitis; its decongesting and
expectorant action hasten the expulsion of phlegm from the chest, making
it a useful remedy for asthma.
Rosemary - contains volatile oils which are antiseptic with
antibacterial and anti-fungal properties which enhance the functions
of the immune system; useful for relieving colds, sore throats, flu,
coughs, and chest infections, wheezing, bronchitis, whooping cough,
and excessive catarrh; the warming and stimulating effects of rosemary
help clear phlegm from the head and chest; its relaxing effects help
relieve spasm in the bronchial tubes in asthma.
These herbs soothe inflammations or directly reduce the inflammatory
condition of the tissue. They work in a number of different ways. They
can inhibit the inflammatory reaction directly or support and encourage
the body's natural processes for reducing inflammation.
Pine - an excellent remedy for the lungs; liquefies and helps
to expel bronchial phlegm and clears the head of congestion; its antiseptic
and anti-inflammatory action is recommended for colds, coughs, flu,
sore throats bronchitis and pneumonia; helps to relieve asthma and harsh,
Ginger - has a stimulating and expectorant action in the lungs;
expelling and relieving catarrhal coughs and chest infections; acts
as a tonic on the mucous membranes; has an inhibitory effect that blocks
the release of important inflammatory mediators thus interfering with
the formation of a whole range of inflammatory prostaglandins that lead
to imbalance inflammation in the body; it does not interfere with the
enhancement of the formation of the body's own natural anti-inflammatory
Comfrey - has a significant anti-inflammatory action partly
due to the presence of rosmarinic acid and other phenolic acids; a powerful
healing agent in cases of bronchitis and irritable cough; soothes and
reduces irritation while helping expectoration. Caution: Comfrey contains
isolated pyrrolizidine alkaloids which can be toxic to the liver. It
is unclear if they are toxic in the context of the whole plant, as they
are present in minute amounts, often being completely absent from samples
of dried aerial parts. The highest concentrations are in the root and
is not recommended for internal use. The aerial parts (leaf and stalk)
are considered safe. Those with liver weakness or disease should avoid
the use of Comfrey
Antispasmodics ease muscle cramps in general and prevent
and ease spasms.
Chamomile - has a marvelous ability to relax smooth muscles
throughout the body; its relaxant effect on the bronchial tubes helps
to reduce bronchi-constriction in asthma; its relaxing and balancing
effect helps to deal with emotional problems underlying many allergies;
it is a natural antihistamine and has an antiallergic effect by reducing
the body's response to allergens and by reducing the severe allergic
Lobelia - a powerful antispasmodic which stops spasms of the
respiratory system; alleviates irritability of the pulmonary nervous
system; one of its compounds, lobelia has been shown to stimulate the
respiratory center within the brain stem, producing stronger and deeper
breathing; it relaxes the muscles of the smaller bronchial tubes opening
the airways thus stimulating breathing and promoting the coughing up
of phlegm; useful for asthma, especially bronchial asthma, and chronic
Wild Cherry - calms the respiratory nerves and allays cough
and asthma; useful for all catarrhal conditions, especially those with
hardened accumulation of mucus; relieves harsh spasmodic coughing, wheezing
and throat dryness; ideal for treating the lungs as it regenerates lost
vitality, strengthens the lungs, clears toxins, and speeds recovery.
These help the body to remove excess catarrhal buildups, whether
in the sinus area or in other parts of the body.
Fenugreek - softens and dissolves hardened masses of accumulated
mucus; loosens and expels mucus accumulated in the bronchial tubes and
helpful in treating lung infections; helps to promote healthy lung function
by promoting free flowing blood circulation and proper lymphatic drainage.
(Caution: Do not use during pregnancy as it may stimulate contractions.)
Elder - tones the mucous linings of the nose and throat increasing
their resistance to infection; useful for chronic congestion, allergies,
ear infections; can reduce the severity of hay fever if taken for several
months; makes a good remedy for the onset of upper respiratory infections
including colds, tonsillitis, laryngitis and flu; cleanses the system
by elimination of toxins; its decongestant action helps reduce and remove
phlegm and relieves bronchial congestion in chest infections and asthma;
as it relieves catarrh its relaxing effect calms bronch-spasms.
Red Clover - contains one of the best mucus clearing agents;
often used for bronchitis and can be taken to help cleanse and soothe
bronchial nerves; its antispasmodic qualities make it a useful remedy
for whooping cough, and spasmodic coughs.
THE STRENGTHENING EFFECT OF
The self-regulatory mechanisms of the body are strengthened
and fostered when taking herbs. Herbs in general do not undermine the
body's own processes and functions in favor of a resolution of a purely
symptomatic nature. Herbs work to induce the support of the body's own
natural mechanisms to counteract and resolve the problem.
When needed and appropriate heavy duty chemicals make it
possible to achieve local and immediate results. In the long term, however,
over-reliance on drugs and antibiotics can weaken the body's own natural
defense mechanisms causing them to be curtailed and ultimately breakdown
after being bombarded time and time again with isolated chemical agents.
After a round of medications and antibiotics the person is
left with depleted resources a weakened system and depleted bacterial
flora. They must deal with the job of ridding themselves of many unwanted
toxins and chemical residues and the rebuilding of weakened systems. Using
herbs strengthens the entire organism and works without leaving any residue
of unwanted chemicals or lingering side effects. In working with herbs
you normally bring yourself into close relationship with your body and
work creatively with your own natural healing forces to bring health and
All of the above mentioned herbal products are available
from Evenstar Herbs. Find what
you need in our Evenstar Herbal
Products Catalog. We have a special section of Herbal products
for colds and flu.