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Our lungs are bombarded every day with car exhaust, cigarette smoke, paint fumes and other pollutants. Because of these irritants, many of us are susceptible to respiratory diseases such as bronchitis, asthma and emphysema. A large number of over-the-counter and prescription remedies are available to help treat symptoms. Natural remedies are gaining popularity. A study done at The University of the West Indies-St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago states: "Most users perceived that herbs were efficacious, and in some instances, more efficacious than conventional medicines."



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Although this herb is controversial because of its potential to raise heart rate and blood pressure, there is no question that it can be effective in treating pulmonary ailments. Pharmaceutical companies have used the main constituent (ephedrine) in prescription and over-the-counter cold remedies since it was isolated from the whole herb in 1924. The Ephedra sinica plant has long been used in tea and/or tincture (dissolved in alcohol) form for breathing problems caused by congestion and inflammation of the lungs. It has strong decongestant and anti-inflammatory properties. Adverse effects are more often associated with using ephedrine combined with caffeine in weight-loss supplements.


Grape Seed Extract

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According to a study done at Ohio State University's Heart and Lung Research Institute, grape seed extract showed promise in repairing body tissues. The study found evidence that it helped to speed the healing process dramatically. "It helped the body make more of a compound used to regenerate damaged blood vessels, and it also increased the amount of free radicals in the wound site. Free radicals help clear potentially pathogenic bacteria from a wound." This supplement is readily available over the counter.


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This fuzzy herb is touted as an all-around effective treatment for respiratory illness. You may find it under its scientific name, Verbascum. According to Kahlee Keane, a contributor to HerbalRemediesInfo.com, "Verbascum's high content of mucilage and saponins renders this herb ideal for the treatment of respiratory ailments, from coughs and colds to emphysema, asthma and whooping cough. In addition to the soothing effect imparted by the mucilage, it possesses good antibiotic properties."

The most direct and effective way to use this herb is to inhale smoke made by burning it. Some roll the crushed herb into cigarette papers. There is little concern about cancer because it contains no tar or nicotine, which are the carcinogenic ingredients in cigarettes. You also can simply burn the leaves in a fireproof bowl and inhale the smoke as it fills the room. Some prefer to steep the leaves and drink it as a tea. You will need to strain this mixture to remove the fuzzy hairs that cover the leaves. Mullein can be purchased in drop or tablet form at health food stores and online.

Ginkgo Biloba

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You may have heard of this herb’s memory-boosting qualities, but that’s just one of its many uses. Whether you use it in tea, tincture or capsule form, Ginkgo has been shown to prevent free radical damage in the organs of the body, including the lungs. Stanford University's HOPES website explains that the flavenoids found in Ginkgo biloba protect cells from a process called lipid peroxidation. This is basically free radicals "stealing" electrons from cells, causing damage. Ginkgo has been the subject of many published studies and is regulated by the FDA. Large doses of Ginkgo can result in headache, dizziness or nausea, so remember the rule about not taking too much of a good thing.


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This type of button mushroom has been used in China for centuries to boost immunity and fight bacterial infections, including bronchitis. This can be simply included in your diet or steeped in a tea. The Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center site has published the results of a study that shows the benefits of the Reishi mushroom. The beneficial constituents are beta-glucan polysaccharides and triterpenes. These can boost levels of microphages T-cells, which strengthen the immune response. If you have allergies to molds and mushrooms, you should avoid this remedy.

About the Author

Theresa L Johnston

Theresa L Johnston is a Southern writer with expertise in alternative medicine, gardening and behavioral and women's health issues. She has been published at http://www.ehow.com, in "The Mostly ARTzine," and has edited several newsletters. She has written procedures manuals, call scripts, and youth group curriculum for her various employers over the last 10 years.