As the cooler months approach we face the possibility of another surge in the cases of COVID 19. Our article in July’s edition of ‘Bay‘ magazine looked at methods to strengthen your immune system; this month we are covering how to improve the health of your lungs.
Whether or not you have a pre-existing lung condition, now is a good time to pay attention to the condition of your lungs; there are always improvements that can be made. Increasing your lung capacity and encouraging the removal of any stagnant mucus will strengthen and improve the resilience of these vital organs, bringing improved oxygen supply and providing a sense of confidence in your body’s own strength.
At the Clinic we find that many people breathe using only a small percentage of their lungs. Breathing into the upper chest can start out as a response to stress, but often becomes a habitual pattern. This reduces the lung capacity and actually makes us feel more stressed, which in turn depletes our immune response too.
It takes some regular practice to re-establish a healthy abdominal breathing pattern but it’s well worth the effort; regulation of the nervous system, decreased blood pressure, improved digestion and sleep cycles, anti-inflammatory effects and enhanced moods1 are just some of the positive outcomes.
As a result of the COVID 19 pandemic we have several ‘breath related’ posts on our website which you are welcome to access (see end of this article for details).
‘Systema’ is a unique form of martial art from Russia that uses awareness of breath as the foundation of the training. One simple technique that can be easily incorporated into daily life is the ‘Triangle breath’ which is performed whilst walking. This practice helps to strengthen the lungs and oxygenate the body and reduce stress.
To begin: Take 5 steps whilst inhaling through the nose, on a slow and continuous in-breath that lasts the duration of the steps. The next 5 steps are taken whilst holding the breath and finally take 5 steps on a continuous exhale. Try to walk at a steady pace throughout.
Once you find this easy: Extend the number of steps you take whilst inhaling, holding the breath and then exhaling. Build up to taking 10 steps for each part of the process.
Do you breathe through your nose or mouth? Nasal breathing filters, warms and moistens the air we breathe, making it the correct condition for lung health. In addition, the sinuses produce nitric oxide which has antimicrobial activity as well as acting as a potent vasoldilator – increasing the oxygen uptake in the lungs. Every breath you takethrough the nose comes ready loaded with lung enhancing and protective chemicals.
HERBS FOR LUNG HEALTH Inula helenium (Elecampane)
Inula helenium is a warming lung tonic. It cleanses toxins from the body, stimulates the immune and digestive systems and encourages the removal of mucus from the lungs. Stagnant mucus is a fertile breeding ground for bacteria and can predispose to the development of pneumonia if the lungs are compromised, so its removal is paramount.
Historically, it was highly valued for treating advanced chest diseases and has a long record for clearing old coughs, especially of tuberculosis. One of Elecampane’s common names ‘Horseheal’ originated from its use by veterinarians in treating lung disorders in horses.
Today the root is used across the world, in western herbal medicine as well as in both Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. It is used to treat respiratory problems including asthma, bronchitis, catarrh and chest infections.
Inula is a gentle but effective herb that is suitable for all ages and is particularly useful when feeling run down. It is a tonic herb and is best taken over a period of several months – the longer you take it the better it works.
Along with Hydrastis canadensis, a strong acting anti-viral and antibacterial herb utilised in the First World War, Inula is one of the four herbs we use in a formula to support patients with symptoms of COVID 19, with good results.
If you have a medical condition, are pregnant or breastfeeding, please consult a practitioner before taking herbs medicinally.
To encourage the removal of mucus from the lungs try 2 drops of thyme essential oil (look for an organic quality brand if possible – we recommend Tisserand) in a bowl of hot water. This should be hot enough to produce plenty of steam, but not so hot that it burns your face. Place a towel over both your head and the bowl so that the vapour is trapped inside. Sit for ten minutes breathing in a relaxed manner. You can place your hands on your abdomen, sensing the rise and fall, to encourage deeper breathing.
Posts on breathing techniques can be found on our website: April 2020 – ‘Immunity and the Lungs’ and May 2020 – ‘Breathing Awareness’.
The Herbal Clinic. 32 King Edward Road, Swansea SA1 4LL
MEILYR JAMES BSc(Hons) DBTh DAcu AcuC Dir MGNI Registered Medical Herbalist, Iridologist & Acupuncturist
T: 01792 474356 W: herbalclinic-swansea.co.uk E: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Lehrer PM., Gevirtz R. Heart rate variability biofeedback: how and why does it work? Frontiers in Psychology. (5):2014; 756.