“For each body structure there is a herb or herbs with an affinity to that region, tissue or organ “
Matthew Wood The Earthwise – Herbal Repertory
Welcome to the first blog of 2020!
I returned from my holiday to what was a New Year of devastation with bush fires, loss of human, animal, plant and insect life. After feeling so sad and helpless my heart goes out to all those who have lost homes, loved ones and whole communities in these devastating fires. Not to mention the 1 1/2 billion animals, birds and insects who have perished and my heart just breaks. We are now also facing poor air quality rivaling cities like Dehli and Mexico City. Because of this ongoing poor air quality in Sydney it motivated me to write a blog about what many of us are currently worried about…Our LUNGS & RESPIRATORY HEALTH!
AND as if we did not have enough to worry about, a virus causing a pneumonia like disease from Wuhan in China is creating havoc around the world with a never before seen strain of coronavirus (a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses from the common cold to SARS). It is thought to have originated from an animal source (possibly snakes) and has been named “2019-nCoV” which is thought to spread in a similar way to the flu but is thought to be less virulent than SARS and may have less aggressive symptoms according the WHO (position statement here).
So you may find a little information about the usefulness of herbal medicine comes in handy!
But first a little refresher into our Respiratory System…
The respiratory tract really starts with the trachea that long tube that descends down into our ribcage and into two branches like a tree called the bronchus which then fan out to ultimately end in the alveoli (little sacs) which you could think of like leaves* on a tree, where the exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide and water occurs. These tubes are kept moist by mucus and open by surfactants. Mucus is secreted to protect and moisten the ‘mucus membranes’ (hence the name) in the respiratory tract. For instance from a herbal medicine point of view the herbs Marshmallow or Mullein are indicated if there is too little mucus, whereas Elecampane may help if there is too much mucus as it helps to remove the mucus but soothes the mucous membranes at the same time which is known as having an ‘expectorant” action.
The lungs are also surrounded by the pleural cavity and pleural membranes with synovial fluid in between (just like between your joints) which help the lungs move smoothly during respiration. Respiratory spasms can occur in the chest muscles or the vagus nerve which stimulates the diaphragm and movement of the lungs. Dorothy Hall, a well known Australian Herbalist, used the iron in nettles to stimulate haemoglobin production, which in turn will stimulate oxygen uptake and lung capacity. And we can use Nettles in the same way in a herb mix. In fact here is another quote from Matthew Wood:
“Chlorophyll, the molecule that takes the energy of sunlight and makes it into plant energy through photosynthesis, is responsible for the green colour of leaves*. It is identical to haemoglobin except that it has a magnesium ion, where the latter has iron. Hemoglobin creates the red colour of blood, so the distinctive characteristics (green leaf and red blood) of these two kingdoms –plant and animal – are determined by these amazing molecules.”
Green Chlorophyll in Nettle tincture, seaweed, chlorella or green leafy vegetables may also be useful in helping us support our lungs this fire season.
Here are some of my favorite herbs for the lungs that are relevant to us now with the increase in atmospheric smoke from bush fires and the poor air quality. Unfortunately we may be exposed to it on a more regular basis at least for a few more months.
MY FAVOURITE LUNG & RESPIRATORY HERBS
Ribwort (Plantago lanceolata) – A common weed known as plantain which can be used topically as a poultice to heal wounds and ease insect bites. It soothes irritated and inflamed airways, is useful for any particulates in the lungs (like smoke, ash or fibers). It can help improve lung health and is specifically used for lung weakness contributing to asthma and can reduce coughing episodes.
Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) – The leaves are primarily used for all respiratory symptoms like catarrh, bronchitis and irritating coughs. It is extremely soothing for any mucous membrane irritation and is demulcent in its action. It is also an anti-inflammatory like Ribwort and is a soothing expectorant when you need to remove excess mucous and/or foreign particles or soothe the lungs from coughing due to smoke inhalation.
Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus) –It is an ideal herb for toning the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract, reducing inflammation and stimulating mucous production and increasing expectoration (which will help remove foreign particles). It is specific when there is a hard sore cough such as in bronchitis as it soothes with its demulcent activity. It can also be used when there is inflammation of the trachea such as in croup. Externally it is often used in ear oil for ear infections for its anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties (we sell this in clinic & our online shop too).
A few other herbs I love to use for lung support are Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Ivy Leaf (Hedera helix), Propolis tincture, Elderberry syrup, Goldenrod (Solidago Canadensis) and Thyme (Thymus vulgaris). And there are many more that may be useful depending on the presentation. This is why individual herbal medicine can be so effective as each remedy is mixed individually for you. You can buy one here or pop in any day!
These herbs can help soothe inflamed airways, reduce excessive coughing and bronchial spasms, have anti-bacterial/anti-viral effects and support the immune system. They can be also used to treat general coughs, bronchitis, whooping cough, catarrh of the respiratory tract, sore throat, fever, tonsillitis, cold and flu. Elderberry is a fantastic herb for Immune Support! Read about it here.
For any questions please shoot us an email You can buy directly from our webshop here or simply call us for a chat on 02 9979 9888 and we can help! You could also book a free Apothecary Appointment HERE>
We also stock Australian Bush Flower Essences and there is a wonderful mix called Solaris Essence which we can mix up for any emotional fear or distress associated with heat, fire or sun. it contains the essences of Mulla Mulla, She Oak and Spinifex. These mixes work well for children and animals in particular.
Stay Well !
BHSc(CompMed), ADNat, DNut, DRM, CERTSHAMHERB, MATMS
Dorothy Halls Herbal Medicine – Dorothy Hall. Lothian Australia, 1988
A Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs – Kerry Bone. Churchill Livingstone, USA, 2003
Phytotherapy Essentials: Healthy Children – Optimising Children’s Health with Herbs – Rob Santich & Kerry Bone. Phytotherapy Press, Australia 2008.
The Earthwise Herbal Repertory – The Definative Practitioner’s Guide – Matthew Wood with David Ryan. North Atlantic Books, USA, 2016.
The New Holistic Herbal – David Hoffman. Element, UK, 1990.