Nov 9, 2012

Herbs for the Pulmonary System

     There are many ways to classify herbs, which is why the vocabulary of herbalists is so rich with descriptive terms like expectorant, demulcent, stimulant and nervine. Here are the categories that deal with respiratory conditions. Anticatarrhal herbs heal the chronic inflammation of respiratory mucous membranes. They prevent the buildup of excess mucus. Examples include cayenne pepper, sage, goldenseal, mullein, ginger, echinacea and garlic.

      Antispasmodic herbs relax cramping muscles.

      Pulmonary antispasmodics have a special affinity for the respiratory system and are most helpful in treating asthma. Lobelia and wild cherry bark are examples. Demulcent herbs are by definition soothing. They coat irritated, inflamed tissue with mucilage and reduce coughing by relaxing bronchial tension. Examples include Iceland moss, lungwort, plantain and pleurisy root. Expectorant herbs stimulate the removal of mucus from the lungs, and they often have a tonic effect on the whole respiratory system. Some expectorants work by irritating the bronchioles, speeding the ejection of mucoid material; others work by relaxing or soothing bronchial passages, reducing spasms and relieving dry, irritating coughs.

       Stimulating expectorants include horehound and elecampane; relaxing expectorants include coltsfoot, lobelia and mullein. Nervines are relaxing herbs that strengthen and nourish the nervous system. They are useful in treating asthma and hay fever, and they help anyone suffering from a respiratory problem that prevents rest and sleep. Hyssop, motherwort and lobelia are respiratory nervines. Tonic herbs nurture the system and help the body correct whatever is out of balance. Pulmonary tonics offer special benefits to the lungs and respiratory system; examples include elecampane and mullein. A specific for a particular condition is an herb known for its beneficial effects, such as mullein or lobelia for asthma or Ma huang (ephedra) for hay fever. Specifics can be used alone or combined with other herbs, in which case they act as the blend's active ingredient.