Note: I am not a medical professional and my post should not be construed as medical advice, but rather as an educational resource about the ways different herbs and foods have been historically used. Check with your practitioner if you have any questions or concerns. Always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional regarding any medical or health related diagnosis or treatment options.
Today 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 life-giving superhero that we call the liver.
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. A good source of both Vitamin C and Vitamin A, thyme has reported natural antibacterial, antiviral and expectorant properties that can expedite healing. It’s also a good source of copper, iron and manganese. It is reported to help combat infections and improve immunity by increasing the production of white blood cells. (1) (2)
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 benefits with steam inhalation, or by adding thyme tea to a warm foot bath. Do this by boiling a few quarts of water in large covered pot. Turn off the heat and add a handful of thyme. Cover the pot and allow the herbs to steep a few minutes. 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 a few minutes, pour it into a larger bowl of warm water. You can actually get some of the benefits of both the steam and through 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 doing this with your kids can be.
Licorice Root can be found as the 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 used to help regulate inflammation short term.
In addition to having reported anti-inflammatory properties, 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. (3)
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.
I heard Sam Coffman, founder of the Herbal Medics Academy and one of the herbalists I’ve had the opportunity to study with, say recently during a course called “Herbal Management for Acute Viral Infections” that if you have one herb on hand for respiratory support in these times, make it Yerba Santa. Historically, Yerba Santa is best known as a decongestant useful for supporting the lungs and sinus. As an expectorant, Yerba Santa can help loosen phlegm and bring it out of the respiratory tract. (3) 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 respiratory supportive work that’s worth the effort. I put a few pumps in a small glass of water when I take it.
When we’re under the weather, we really want to make sure we support the organs whose primary functions are 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, and supportive. I really like to have it as a tea made by Traditional Medicinals, which is available at many grocery stores. (4)
Onion, Garlic, Lemon, Ginger, Honey
Last but definitely not least, some wonderful supports are already likely sitting right in our kitchen cabinets. Garlic and onion are fantastic kitchen herbs with powerful antioxidants and antiviral components. You can read more about their usefulness here. Additionally, honey, lemon and cayenne tea is one of my favorites when I need to support my body. Adding a few slices of fresh ginger to the hot water add even more antiviral benefits. (6)
I hope this post gives you some ideas to consider as we walk together into winter. Take care and be well – and consider supporting your body with some of nature’s many offerings!
- Tilgner, Dr. Sharol Marie MD. Herbal ABCs: The Foundation of Herbal Medicine, pages 62, 70, 100, 104-107.
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