Whether it's inhaling dust and harmful particles that are a part of the work environment, using harsh cleaning products around the house or simply being subjected to the many toxins and molds that people encounter throughout daily life, one thing is certain: It can take a toll on the respiratory system. Add to this the many people who are already suffering from respiratory complications like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and it can add insult to injury.
The American Lung Association estimates that COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States and that asthma affects millions of Americans. (1, 2) However, many respiratory conditions like these can be managed naturally by turning to herbs that cleanse and nurture the lungs and help make breathing easier.
Oregano contains carvacrol and rosmarinic acid, compounds that act to reduce histamine and help airflow through the nasal passage. (3) It's a natural decongestant that also happens to work as a flavorful addition to meals, so it's a great choice on both fronts.
Peppermint and peppermint oil
The menthol that's found in peppermint helps relax respiratory tract muscles, which eases breathing difficulties. (3) It also acts as an antihistamine, working to loosen congestion.
Lungwort has very strong antioxidant properties; in fact, studies have found that, compared to 20 different herbal extracts, lungwort tested among the highest for its antioxidant abilities. Its acids have been said to be extremely effective in protecting the lungs and aiding in proper chest function, and it also has expectorant qualities. (4)
Several cultures have enjoyed the health benefits of eucalyptus through the years due to its ability to reduce throat irritation, open sinus passages and combat congestion. One key compound in eucalyptus, cineole, is responsible for these soothing traits, making it a helpful herb that significantly eases breathing. (3)
Touted as an ideal way to cleanse the lungs and help resolve conditions that produce substantial mucus discharge, elecampane root contains inulin, a phytochemical which diminishes bronchitis secretions and coats bronchial passages. (5) Health experts recommend using elecampane to relieve shortness of breath, saying that it's particularly helpful for those with asthma.