The Lungs

Our lungs have constant exposure to the environment in which we live.  Given their critical role in providing oxygen to cells throughout the body as well as expelling carbon dioxide, the lungs are intimately involved with agents in our environment.  The lungs emphasize the importance of air quality in our lives, but they also move us toward greater health by playing an important part in immune and detoxification functions.  Complex and under-appreciated, they both serve as barriers against toxins entering the bodies, and respond to those which manage to get past safeguards. 

Herbs for Lung Health

In addition to any lung cleansing program you might undertake, lung supporting herbs should be used. For chronic lung conditions, some of these herbs can be used on a regular basis.

The following herbs can be used in teas and cooking, ground and made into a paste that is spread on your chest, or inhaled using a steam infusion.

  • Black Peppercorns:  Stimulate blood flow and enhance circulation, aiding the elimination of toxins through the blood. Grind some pepper at every meal.
  • Chlorella: Eliminates toxins by cleansing the body of heavy metals.
  • Comfrey: Detoxes and soothes the lungs; good for dry coughs.
  • Cordyceps: This Chinese tonifying herb brings antioxidants into your body.
  • Extract of Turkey Tails Mushroom: Supports the lungs by reducing phlegm.
  • Fenugreek: Dissolves mucous and helps clear up lung infections.
  • Ginger root: Loosens and expels phlegm from the lungs. If you tend to be phlegmmy, drink ginger tea every day.
  • Grindelia: Soothes the lungs and enhances respiratory activity.
  • Horehound: Dilates the lung's arteries and relieves congestion.
  • Lobelia: Relaxes the small muscles of the lungs.
  • Long Pepper fruit: Stimulates circulation in and around the lungs.
  • Lotus root: This Chinese herb has been used for centuries to support healthy lung function.
  • Lungwort Lichen: Relieves symptoms associated with bronchitis, asthma and other lung infections.
  • Mullein leaf:  Alleviates symptoms of asthma and other respiratory conditions.
  • Pleurisy root: Expels phlegm from bronchial and nasal passages; stimulates the lymphatic system.
  • Rosemary: An excellent herb for the lung, rosemary helps reduce inflammation; increases oxygen flow in the bloodstream; relaxes the muscle tissue in the lungs, thereby opening up air passages.
  • Sweet Violet Flower and Leaf: Relieves the symptoms associated with lung inflammation.
  • Wild American Ginseng Root: Soothes, moistens and cools the lungs.

Foods to Avoid for Lung Health

It is also advisable to avoid certain mucous producing foods while doing a lung cleanse or as a general rule if you suffer from chronic lung issues.

  • gluten
  • dairy products
  • cold foods

Role of the Lungs in Filtering Toxic Air

The lungs aid the body's detoxification response by expelling metabolic wastes that build up in basic metabolic functions. The most widely recognized is carbon dioxide, which is removed from the blood and expelled through the breath. In addition, the lungs, like the liver, have the ability to transform toxins into water-soluble forms, that can be processed by other systems. According to Jacqueline Krohl, M.D., a coauthor of The Whole Way to Natural Detoxification: The Complete Guide to Clearing Your Body of Toxins, the lungs can also metabolize toxins. "The lungs contain enzymes from the mixed function oxidase family," she writes, "enabling them to metabolize drugs and xenobiotics to more-water soluble chemicals, which can then be excreted by the kidneys." (Pg. 30)

The lungs have three basic methods of protecting themselves from impurities in our air – epithelial barriers, enzyme systems and immune responses.

  1. Epithelial barriers are groups of immune cells that can identify invasive agents and attack them. Together with lymphocytes they destroy foreign substances.

  2. Destructive inflammatory enzymes known as proteases respond to inhaled particles. Proteases, in turn, trigger the release of anti-proteases, which protect the delicate air sacs of the lungs. Smoking destroys the balance between the protease and the anti-protease enzymes. Antioxidant enzymes are also released to counteract free radicals from the environment.

  3. Finally, immunoglobulins, including IgA, IgG and IgE, all patrol the respiratory tract, defending it from microbes and tumor cells.