Magnesium for asthma
Mild-to-moderate asthma has been shown to improve markedly by supplementing with magnesium. In a high-quality trial of 55 men and women, those taking magnesium showed significant improvement in lung function and quality of life compared with those taking a placebo.8
Suggested dosage: 170 mg magnesium citrate twice a day
Eucalyptus for bronchitis
If your cold has turned into a persistent, hacking cough, you may have bronchitis—an infection of the main airways (bronchi) of the lungs. A simple and effective remedy for this is eucalyptus, which contains the compound cineole, known to have mucolytic (mucus-busting), bronchodilating (bronchus-relaxing, so allowing them to expand) and anti-inflammatory effects.
In one study, patients with bronchitis taking cineole capsules showed significant improvement after just four days compared with those taking a placebo.1
You can sample the power of cineole for yourself by adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a bowl of hot water and doing a steam inhalation. Simply drape a large towel over your head and shoulders, and breathe in the steam from the bowl for five to 10 minutes, or until the water cools down.
An excellent alternative for an irritating cough is thyme, the key ingredient in Buttercup Bronchostop cough pastilles and syrup, available from pharmacies online and in stores.
Exercise for COPD
Gentle exercise can be beneficial for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the term used to describe a group of lung diseases, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema, that constrict the airways, making it increasingly hard to breathe. In one small pilot study, a two-month exercise programme performed in a pool filled with hot spring water improved symptoms considerably in patients with COPD.6
Yoga and tai chi can also be help COPD sufferers and may even slow its progression.7
Coltsfoot for emphysema
Emphysema is a progressive disease of the tiny air sacs in the lungs that causes shortness of breath and coughing. Both the flowers and leaves of the herb Tussilago farfara (coltsfoot)—the name, derived from the Latin ‘tussis’ for ‘cough’, and ‘ago’, meaning ‘to act on’, gives a clear indication of its traditional use—can be used to make an infusion, or ‘chest tea’. It’s the herbal remedy of choice in chronic cases of emphysema and also silicosis (a chronic condition often found in miners, caused by inhaling large quantities of silica dust over many years).
To make an infusion of the leaves and flowers, add 1–2 teaspoons to a cup of boiling water, let it steep a bit, then drink it several times a day,3 with no honey added to avoid interfering with its beneficial effects.
It’s also a good idea to make the tea before you go to bed and place it in a Thermos flask by your bedside, so it’s ready to drink when you wake in the morning. (With emphysema, the cough is often at its worst first thing in
Salt for bronchiectasis
Non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis is a long-term lung disorder where the airways of the lungs become abnormally widened, causing breathlessness and persistent ‘wet’ coughing. There are few effective treatments available, but a completely natural one involving salt shows promise.
Halotherapy (from the Greek word ‘hals’, meaning salt) involves sitting in a room coated with salt crystals and pumped full of salty air. It’s designed to mimic the naturally occurring salt caves in Eastern Europe, said to improve symptoms of various respiratory conditions. According to one study, it’s beneficial for a variety of lung-related conditions, including bronchiectasis.2
Halotherapy centres and therapeutic ‘salt caves’ can be found all over the world. Visit The Salt Cave website (www.saltcave.co.uk) to find a location near you.
Oregano for lung infections
For bacterial or fungal lung infections, try Origanum syriacum (wild oregano) oil. It contains the active ingredients thymol and carvacrol, which have scientifically confirmed antimicrobial and antifungal properties.4 When oregano essential oil was tested against 25 different strains of bacteria, it was found to have significant antibacterial effects.5
Oregano oil supplements are widely available, but before taking it, it’s best to consult a registered naturopath or medical herbalist, who can recommend a suitable dosage for you. Also, be aware that some people may have an allergic response to it.
Eat fruit & veg for healthy lungs
If you need another reason to make sure you get your recommended five-a-day, think about your lungs. A research scientist at the Department of Environmental Health of the University of Washington in Seattle has found that regularly eating fruit and vegetables reduces the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other lung disorders. It can also improve lung function in people who already suffer from COPD.1
Eating plenty of fruit and veg also seems to protect against developing lung cancer,2 so this is something else you can do—besides not smoking—to keep your lungs healthy.
But make sure the fruit and veg you eat are organic. Produce grown organically contain much higher levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants and health-preserving polyphenols than conventionally grown foods.2
Bottle-blowing for asthma caused by exercise
I came across this simple technique over the course of my experimental work leading up to my doctoral thesis. After recruiting 212 test subjects with exercise-induced asthma, I asked them to blow into pint beer bottles every four hours for four months. By the end of the study, all of them had shown steady improvement in their forced expiratory volume (FEV)—a standard marker of lung function—and all had reduced the monitored use of their puffers. And around 65–70 per cent of the improvement was still evident at the end of the six-month follow-up—with no more blowing into bottles necessary.