Natural Remedies For Cough, Lung Infections, And Bronchitis

Plants and herbs have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Probably even you remember the time when your mother or grandmother would make you a natural remedy for your cough or other sicknesses you encountered as a child. 

Even today, most of the modern drugs are derived from compounds, or inspired by compounds found in plants. For instance, aspirin is created after the naturally occurring polyphenol found in the bark of the white willow (and other plants), called salicylic acid.

Over the last few decades, the use of herbal medicines and phytonutrients has been increasingly expanding, and many people are now turning to natural therapies for the treatment of various health conditions. The World Health Organization states that about 60 percent of the world’s population depends on traditional medicine and even 80 percent of the population in developing countries almost entirely depends on traditional medicine practices and herbal medicine as a part of their primary health care needs and culture. 

What triggers lung infections?

The lungs can become irritated when nerve endings in the airways come into contact with substances such as pollen, dust, bacteria, and viruses. We are exposed to these substances everywhere, but especially when indoor air quality is poor. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the air in homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than outdoor air, especially during the cooler months when individuals spend more time indoors than outdoors. Indoor air pollution can come from mold, dust mites, substances that release gases into the air, air fresheners, laundry sheets, personal care products, etc. 

When you breathe in, particles from the air enter the nose, but not all of them, since the nose is an incredibly efficient filter, and the larger particles are stopped by the tiny hairs that line the nose. However, smaller particles such as viruses and bacteria are able to pass by these tiny hairs and enter the lungs. Once in the lungs, mucus is produced to capture the particles, which is then moved upwards and out into the throat. 

In some cases, these small particles can reach the air sacs and the lower part of the airways where there are no cilia to move mucus-trapped matter up and out of the lungs. If this happens, as the first line of defense, are released special cells called macrophages. These cells swallow the foreign particles and then more themselves up towards the cilia where they can be expelled from the body. 

During this whole process, the lungs can become extremely irritated, leading to inflammation of the sinuses (sinusitis), trachea (tracheitis), or bronchi (bronchitis).

If you suffer from any of the following symptoms, it is very likely that your respiratory system is compromised: 

  • Dry cough 
  • Wet cough 
  • Excess mucus
  • Nasal congestion
  • Pain or pressure behind the face
  • Runny nose
  • Scratchy or sore throat
  • Sneezing

12 natural remedies for cough and other lung infections

INVEST IN YOUR HEALTH

1. Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

What it does: demulcent (helps soothe irritations of the membranes lining the throat), sedative expectorant (used for dry coughs to increase respiratory fluid), antibacterial.

Main benefits: Mullein can help with a dry or wet cough, lung weakness, asthma, bronchitis, respiratory constriction, and chest colds. It helps remove excess mucus from the lungs and soothes the mucus membranes via its emollient properties. The flowers and leaves of the mullein plant contain natural saponins, which make a cough more productive in releasing and expelling phlegm from the walls of the lungs. 

How to use it: Mullein can be taken as a tea, or in tincture or capsules. To make a tea, add 2 teaspoons dried mullein leaves and flowers to 1-2 cups of boiled water. 

2. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

What it does: Anti-spasmodic (natural cough suppressant).

Main benefits: Valerian calms spasmodic coughing and muscle tension. It is great for those with wheezing and shortness of breath and dealing with those stubborn coughs that won’t go away as you are trying to sleep at night. It is also a natural relaxant, so it will help put you to sleep if you’ve been having trouble sleeping during a cold or flu. 

How to use it: Valerian can be taken as a tea, tincture or in capsule form. When taking capsules or tincture, follow the instructions according to the supplier who you buy it from. For tea, steep one teaspoon of the dried root in one cup of hot water for 10 minutes. Strain and drink. 

3. Elecampane (Inula helenium)

What it does: Stimulant expectorant (decrease the thickness of the secretions in productive coughs).

Main benefits: The roots and rhizomes (underground stems) of inula species traditionally are used to treat coughs and inflammation in the mucus membranes of the respiratory tract. Elecampane contains inulin, a detoxifying phytochemical that soothes and coats the bronchioles of the lungs to help them relax. As a result, coughing and wheezing are relieved. In Ayurvedic medicine, Inula species are used as a lung tonic in treating asthma. 

How to use it: Elecampane is often taken as a tea. The dosage is 1/2 ounce of fresh root to every pint of water. If you’re using dried root, use about half as much as with fresh. The root should be boiled in water for 3 to 5 minutes, and then left too steep for 15 to 30 minutes. 

4. Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

What it does: Demulcent (helps soothe irritations of the membranes lining the throat), stimulating expectorant (decrease the thickness of the secretions in productive coughs), antiviral.

Main benefits: Licorice root is both a demulcent and expectorant. On one hand, licorice helps loosen and eliminate phlegm. On the other hand, licorice also is great for protecting the mucus membranes from excessive particulate matter and soothes an irritated throat. It also possesses antiviral properties to protect the body from invading viruses and boost immunity. 

How to use it: Licorice root can be taken as a tea, tincture or in capsule form. If you’re taking a tincture or capsule, make sure you follow the instructions on the packaging of the company you purchase from. If you’re making a tea, add one tablespoon of dried licorice root to one cup of water. Bring to a boil in a pot, and then bring the heat down to simmer. Let simmer for 10 minutes, and then take it off the heat to cool. Pour in a cup and enjoy!

5. Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

What it does: Demulcent (helps soothe irritations of the membranes lining the throat) and sedative expectorant (used for dry coughs to increase respiratory fluid), antibacterial.

Main benefits: Tussilago is quite literally the translation for “cough dispeller” and is often used as a demulcent against persistent coughs like smoker’s cough, bronchitis, asthma, and whooping cough. This herb acts as both a demulcent, and expectorant, and is a very popular cough remedy. According to studies, coltsfoot is also active against several Gram-positive bacteria and other microbes like Candida albicans and Hemophilus influenza.

How to use it: It is recommended to moderate your intake of coltsfoot to avoid any adverse effects. If you drink coltsfoot tea, stick to 1-2 cups (240-475 ml) per day. For tinctures, use only as directed.

Note: Always make sure the coltsfoot you purchase are free of PAs (pyrrolizidine alkaloids). Also, it is not recommended for pregnant women or breast-feeding, and children. 

6. Marshmallow root (Althaea Officinalis)

What it does: Demulcent (helps soothe irritations of the membranes lining the throat).

Main benefits: As a demulcent, marshmallow root helps to protect the sensitive mucus membranes in not only the respiratory tract but the digestive tract, too. The high mucilaginous content of marshmallow root makes it useful for treating coughs and colds. The root appears to act as an enzyme to loosen mucus and inhibit bacteria. Its antitussive properties and mucilage abilities allow it to decrease irritation of the throat, reduce swelling in the lymph nodes, speed up healing time and reduce a dry cough. It has also been found to be effective in relieving coughs due to colds, bronchitis, or respiratory tract diseases with formation of mucus. 

How to use it: The best way to use marshmallow root is to make it into a tea. Add 1 tablespoon of dried marshmallow root to one cup of warm (not boiling) water. Stir, and then let sit for 15 minutes. 

7. Plantain (Plantago major)

What it does: Demulcent (helps soothe irritations of the membranes lining the throat), antibacterial.

Main benefits: The moistening properties of plantain make it an ideal natural remedy for coughs that are chronic or acute. One of the best applications for plantain is when you have that nagging, dry, hacking cough that persists on long after your upper respiratory infection has healed. In fact, studies have found plantain leaf very effective in easing bronchitis, even in children.

How to use it: One of the best ways to use plantain for cough is to make it into a tea. Steep 1-2 tablespoons dried plantain in 1 cup of hot water for 10-15 minutes. Plantain tea doesn’t have a strong taste, but you can add some raw honey to the tea for extra soothing effects. 

8. Lungwort (Pulmonaria Officinalis)

What it does: Demulcent (helps soothe irritations of the membranes lining the throat), antibacterial.

Main benefits: Lungwort has been used around the world for a variety of respiratory ailments, including coughs, colds, catarrhal problems and bronchial detoxification. The University of North Carolina classifies lungwort as a herb useful for reducing irritation and providing soothing properties. The high mucilage content of lungwort is known to be helpful for respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis, and laryngitis. This herb also contains antibacterial properties which act against bacteria responsible for chest infections.

How to use it: Lungwort is available as teas, capsules, and tinctures. Short term or infrequent use of lungwort is generally considered safe. Add one tablespoon of dried lungwort herb to 1 cup of boiling water and let it steep for 10 minutes. This warm drink should be drunk 3 times per day to reduce inflammation of the respiratory tract.

9. Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)

What it does: Anti-viral & antibacterial.

Main Benefits: Traditionally, echinacea has been used to help prevent upper respiratory infections related to the flu and common cold. Also, it has been found as a useful remedy in treating COPD. According to studies, individuals with COPD had shorter and less severe COPD flares when supplementing with echinacea than those who did not supplement.

How to use it: Echinacea can be taken as a capsule, tincture, or it can be made into a tea. To make a tea, place one tablespoon of dried echinacea into one cup of hot (not boiling) water. Let the tea steep for 15 minutes, and then strain and drink. If you don’t have time to drink tea, echinacea tincture or capsules might be more useful.

10. Sage (Salvia officinalis)

What it does: Stimulating expectorant (decrease the thickness of the secretions in productive coughs).

Main benefits: Sage contains essential oils that provide many benefits for those dealing with lung problems and other respiratory diseases. Traditionally, sage has been used to treat sore throats, coughs, and colds, for thousands of years. The essential oil of sage is composed of volatile compounds including camphor, terpene, thujone, and salvene, which can be put to use by inhaling the vapors from the sage tea or sage oil to combat lung disorders and sinusitis. 

How to use it: Sage can be used as a tea or breathed in through vapor from a diffuser or steam bath. To make a steam bath, drop 3-4 drops of sage essential oil into every 150 milliliters of hot water you use. Drape a towel over your head, and breathe in the vapors for a couple of minutes. 

11. Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

What it does: Stimulating expectorant (decrease the thickness of the secretions in productive coughs), antibacterial, antiviral.

Main benefits: Oregano contains volatile oils and two of the most important volatile chemicals which give its expectorant activity are carvacrol and thymol. These oils help loosen phlegm and make it easier to cough up and because of this, it has been used to help ease chest congestion, as well as symptoms that come with the flu and cold. The oil of oregano is also commonly used to treat bacterial infections (like mold and staphylococci bacteria) and in some cases, it was even shown to be more effective than prescription antibiotics. 

How to use it: You can make oregano tea by using dried or fresh leaves. To make tea, bring 1 cup of water to a boil, and pour the boiling water over 2 teaspoons of dried oregano in a tea strainer. Let the tea steep for 2-4 minutes, remove the strainer and sip. Also, you can use the oil of oregano by diluting 1-2 drops of high-quality oregano oil with warm water. 

12. Thyme (Thymus spp.)

What it does: Stimulating expectorant (decrease the thickness of the secretions in productive coughs).

Main benefits: In Germany, thyme is officially approved for the treatment of coughs, upper respiratory infections, whooping cough, and bronchitis. The leaves of the herb contain cough-calming compounds that work to relax tracheal and ileal muscles and decrease inflammation. According to one study, thyme can help relieve coughing as well as short-term bronchitis. The leaves contain compounds called flavonoids that relax the throat muscles involved in coughing and lower inflammation. 

How to use it: The easiest way to use thyme is by making tea from it. You can make a thyme tea by steeping 2 teaspoons of crushed, dried thyme leaves in a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes, and then strain. 

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