I wanted to take a moment to share some key herbs found at many grocery stores that are historically known for supporting the respiratory system. There are a couple of critical factors that help determine if I will consistently utilize herbs with my family. They are: 1) if they are easy to find locally, 2) if they are shelf stable and will last a long time, and 3) if they are affordable.
Additionally, in terms of respiratory wellness during seasons of frequent exposures, the herbs I reach for are known for supporting the following areas: inhibition of viral replication, supportive of the inflammation response, supportive of overall healthy respiration, and supportive of that lifegiving superhero that we call the liver.
Respiratory Support: Thyme
I’ve written about thyme on my blog before because I really love this aromatic herb and appreciate its abundant nutritive and medicinal properties. It’s easy to grow and is a powerhouse when it comes to supporting the body and lungs through viral illnesses. The magic of thyme can be harnessed in a few ways.
The first way I like to consume thyme is probably not for everyone’s taste buds, but I actually really enjoy it. You can take a handful of the fresh or dried plant from any grocer’s produce section and steep as a tea. Sweeten it with honey and drink it as often as you can.
Alternatively, you can also get the benefits of thyme with steam inhalation, or by adding a decoction of thyme to a warm foot bath. Do this by boiling a few quarts of water in large pot. Turn off the heat and add a handful of thyme. Cover the pot. Drape a blanket or towel over the head to trap the vapor. Take the lid off and breathe deeply. This can be repeated as often as you wish throughout the day.
For a thyme foot bath, follow the same steps to steep the fresh thyme in a pot and after 1-3 minutes, pour it into a larger bowl of warm water. You can actually get some of the benefits of both the steam and the feet absorbing the decoction by covering yourself with a blanket. I learned this trick from Katia LeMone, one of my herbalism teachers, who often shares how cozy and fun doing this with your kids can be.
Packed with Vitamin C and a good source of Vitamin A, thyme has natural antibacterial, antiviral and expectorant properties that can expedite healing. It’s also a good source of copper, iron and manganese. It combats infection and improves immunity by increasing the production of white blood cells.
Inflammation Support: Licorice Root
Licorice Root can be found as a primary ingredient in Throat Coat Tea by Traditional Medicinals, along with a lot of other really fantastic respiratory and throat restorative herbs. I focus on licorice as a key herb that can help regulate inflammation short term.
In addition to being an anti-inflammatory herb, licorice is considered a vulnerary herb, which means it promotes the healing of wounds or irritated tissues. It is also hepoprotective, which means it helps support normal liver function and protects the liver from damage. Licorice has antiviral and antibacterial proprieties, and has expectorant, anti-asthmatic, gastroprotective actions. All good things in times of illness. (1)
Note, licorice is contraindicated in those who have high blood pressure, heart failure or kidney disease, so definitely talk with your practitioner if you have any concerns on this one.
Antiviral Support: Yerba Santa.
I heard Sam Coffman, founder of the Herbal Medic Academy and one of the amazing herbalists I’ve had the opportunity to learn from the past few years, once say if you have one herb on hand for respiratory wellness, make it Yerba Santa. This is a key ingredient, along with many other useful respiratory herbs, in a tincture called Kick Ass Sinus, by WishGarden Herbs. You can find it at many grocery stores or order it online. The taste is strong, but it’s doing good supportive work that’s worth it.
Support the Liver and Kidneys: Dandelion
When we’re under the weather, we really want to make sure we support the organs whose primary function it is to help the body move out pathogens, toxins, and waste products. Dandelion root and leaf in a tea form is a great option that is gentle, supportive and I really like to have it as a tea made by Traditional Medicinals.
Last but definitely not least, garlic and onion are fantastic kitchen herbs with powerful antioxidants and antiviral components. You can read more about their usefulness here.
Take care and stay well – and when that’s not an option, help support your body with nature’s many offerings.
Note: I am not a medical professional and my post is not intended to treat or advise anyone medically, but rather to provide education about how herbs have been historically used. Check with your practitioner if you have any questions or concerns about these herbal helpers.
1) Tilgner, Dr. Sharol Marie MD. Herbal ABCs: The Foundation of Herbal Medicine, pages 62, 70, 100, 104-107.
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