Herbs for Treating Lung Conditions

Patricia A. Cassano of Cornell University reported, “The difference in lung function between people who consumed above-average amounts of four major antioxidants and those who consume lower-than average amounts “was approximately equivalent to the difference between nonsmokers and people who have smoked a pack [of cigarettes] a day for 10 years” (Hu G, 1998). Therefore, take antioxidants and eat plenty of carotenoid-rich carrots, tomatoes, winter squash, apricots, red peppers etc. To deal with lung conditions, make a formula from one or more of these categories, based of course, upon signs and symptoms.

• When the lungs are too dry, there will be symptoms of dry mouth, tongue and perhaps dry cough. Construct a formula by choosing from lung-nourishing herbs which soothe, such as wild cherry bark (Prunus species), raw rehmannia root, glehnia root (sha shen or Adenophora tetraphylla), ophiopogon root (mai men dong or O. japonicus), apricot seed (xing ren or Prunus armeniaca), licorice root, wild asparagus root, Irish moss (Chondrus crispus), slippery elm bark, and marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis).

• If the lungs are very weak, there will be symptoms of shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, inability to inhale and exhale fully, and an increased susceptibility to upper respiratory infections. Here it is important to strengthen the lung energy with herbs from both the blood nourishing and immune groups. Use herbs like as astragalus root, cordyceps mushroom, schizandra berries, amla fruit, ginseng root and American ginseng root. The standard Ayurvedic tonic chyavanaprasha is also very useful.

• For simple mild lung inflammation, use herbs such as boswellia gum, scute root or turmeric root.

• If there is hotter inflammation or infection in the lungs, there will be symptoms like fever, sore throat, red tongue with a yellow greasy coating, sticky sputum, and difficulty in breathing. Choose from herbs that reduce inflammation and/or fight infection – in addition to scute root, turmeric root, and boswellia gum,  use chrysanthemum flowers, echinacea, tulsi, forsythia fruit, isatis root and/or leaves, andrographis leaf  (A. paniculata), vasaca leaf (Adhatoda vasica), oregano leaf, honeysuckle flower (jin yin hua or L. japonica) morus bark (sang bai pi or M. alba) and coptis rhizome (huang lian or C. chinensis).

• If there is dampness and mucus in the lungs, there will be congestion, wheezing, a heavy sensation, cough, craving for hot drinks, and a thick greasy coating on the tongue. Herbs that reduce mucus in the lungs include pinellia tuber, garlic bulb, tangerine peel, bromelain, trichosanthes fruit (gou lou or T. kirilowii), osha root (Ligusticum porteri), vibhitaki fruit, yerba santa leaf (Eriodictyon californicum), she gan rhizome (Belamcanda chinensis) and fritillaria bulb (chuan bei mu or F. cirrhosa).

• If there is tension or spasm in the lungs, it needs to be relaxed. The premier TCM herb for this is ephedra (see cautions in the herbal encyclopedia sectin). In TAM it is vasaca leaf (Adhatoda vasica) and in Western herbology it is lobelia. Licorice root, apricot seed, aguru wood, fritillaria bulb, khella seed (Ammi visnaga) and fresh skunk cabbage root tincture (Dracontium foetida) are also of great use. All of these must be prescribed by a qualified medical herbalist.