While ya’ll are stocking up on toilet paper, I’m over here buying and stocking up on herbal allies. In all fairness, I did invest in a bidet. Clean assholes are important, I guess. That said, there are some herbs that are very useful to have when pathogens come around, especially ones that we don’t have an immediate solution for. Will they cure or prevent disease? No. Will they help? For many, most likely. What do you have to lose? Worst case scenario you added some nutrients to your body. Herbs are plants with nutrients after all (i.e. thank you oregano and basil and cinnamon and garlic, etc).
Now, I’m not a doctor. If you have allergies, are immunocompromised, or have an auto-immune diagnosis you should do your research and talk to your physician before trying any herb to see if they are a right fit for you. Herbs are GRAS (generally regarded as safe), but anything can be toxic to the right person, including water.
All the herbs I’m going to talk about come via recommendation from @she_is_of_the_woods on IG (specifically for respiratory health). While I know a lot about supplements and herbs, I am missing the physical touch and application aspect that she has, which in my opinion is the most important. I’m good at the research side of things. If you want to learn more about herbs, go check out her page. She doesn’t hold information hostage for profit and teaches you how to take herbal allies and make them into usable products. She’s inspired me to make my own remedies.
Side note: Elderberry is included in this post, but not because it is recommended for use, but because it IS NOT. I repeat, it IS NOT RECOMMENDED for lung focused pathogens. Stay tuned to learn more.
Also, note that none of the below herbs have research showing safety for pregnant or nursing women. While I know what ones I would feel safe using, or did use, that doesn’t mean they are safe for you.
4 Herbal Allies to Have on Hand for Lung Health
Historically, it’s been used as an expectorant, for congestion, and for dry coughs. It has always been well known to help with pulmonary function. Mullein helps to loosen the mucous and phlegm in the lungs that is clinging to the wall tissue. It also gets the lymphatic system moving, which is where your immune system casually hangs out. Ever had a sore throat and your glands swell? That is part of your lymph system and white blood cells, etc., fighting whatever is in your system. Mullein can be used as a tea, infusion, fomentation, tincture, salve, etc. You can find research here.
Astragalus is well known as an immune booster. Limited research has demonstrated that it helps to increase your white blood cell count. Research done in mice has shown that it kills infections caused by viruses and bacteria. It also helps with circulation, kidney function (important for what is happening currently as this coronavirus targets kidney’s), and allergies. And guess what else? The lungs. It is great for respiratory health. You can mix the root into soups and other stove top concoctions. It can be used as a tea, infusion, fomentation, tincture, etc. Here is most of the scientific data gathered for Astragalus.
I don’t even know where to start with this fungi. There’s SO much it is helpful for. Particularly, it’s fantastic for immunity: immunity meaning that it builds the core of the immune system – it doesn’t stimulate it. That’s a key factor, here. People with autoimmune disorders typically don’t want to stimulate their immune system for obvious reasons. Reishi (and Cordyceps, below) help to build true resilience to incoming threats. For instance, while I was researching all manner of things during my Dad’s cancer treatment (he had triple-hit non-hodgkin’s lymphoma), I found out that reishi has been used in conjunction with chemo because it helps keep the immune system intact without countering the effects of the chemo.
It allows for a faster recovery and a healthier immune system (significantly more healthy), mitigating the severity of the side effects. There’s also all kinds of research involving reishi and other pathogens or diseases. I’ll link some below, but you can go to pubmed.gov and type in Ganoderma lucidum, reishi’s scientific name, and it will pull up 1,761 results. Reishi can be put in shakes, foods, teas, tinctures, balms, salves, etc. Mushrooms have an earthy taste, so keep that in mind if that’s not your thing. You can easily mask the flavor with applesauce, yogurt, or otherwise.
Cordyceps has a very similar effect on the immune system as reishi, but in particular, it is great for lung health, energy, and adrenal health. It allows for better delivery of oxygen to the cells, so many athletes use it to help their performance and endurance. The combo of reishi and cordyceps is one of my all time favorite formulations. I usually take Cordychi from @hostdefense, which is a blend of the two. Because medicinal mushrooms are so helpful for core immunity, I don’t feel like I need to delve too deep into this science. It can be used the same way as reishi. Here is some immune health research and general research.
Why Elderberry is NOT the Best Option for Respiratory Conditions
I’m sure most ya’ll know about this one or at least have heard of it. Elderberry is well known for being effective against pathogens, especially if it is in the system BEFORE an invasion (this is KEY). New research suggests that it is even beneficial for use during illness, reducing the duration of cold and flu viruses, including their symptoms, BUT caution needs to be taken if your immune system is in hyperdrive – hyperdrive meaning you have autoimmune conditions OR you are currently sick with a RESPIRATORY pathogen and your immune system is already active.
In short: Elderberry and respiratory infections DO NOT mix well.
It is okay if you have elderberry in your system BEFORE YOU GET SICK, but if you feel anything start to settle in your lungs – you will want to discontinue using it. While it does boost the immune system, which is awesome and helpful, elderberry can do harm in this case. Elderberry works via a boost in cytokine immune function. Cytokines interact with ACE2 receptors in the lungs. This is commonly called a “cytokine storm”. When this happens it can cause damage to the lung tissue and is the primary reason for death from respiratory infections currently. From Sino Biological:
“When the immune system is fighting pathogens, cytokines signal immune cells such as T-cells and macrophages to travel to the site of infection. In addition, cytokines activate those cells, stimulating them to produce more cytokines. Normally, this feedback loop is kept in check by the body. However, in some instances, the reaction becomes uncontrolled, and too many immune cells are activated in a single place. The precise reason for this is not entirely understood but may be caused by an exaggerated response when the immune system encounters a new and highly pathogenic invader. Cytokine storms have potential to do significant damage to body tissues and organs. If a cytokine storm occurs in the lungs, for example, fluids and immune cells such as macrophages may accumulate and eventually block off the airways, potentially resulting in death.”
Luckily, there are medications that help slow down this response in an effort to reduce the damage to lung tissue. Young people can recover from this much more easily than the elderly or immunocompromised. I don’t say all this to scare you. Elderberry is really relatively safe and even safe for kids. It is something we use in my household on the regular and are CURRENTLY taking. We just need to exercise appropriate caution in this case. Using Elderberry before you are sick is effective AND supportive of immune health.
If you have any more questions, you can catch me on IG @thesemihippie. Shoot me a DM or reach out to Aaronica. She’s also a wealth of information.
This article was written by Nichole Carver from @thesemihippie on IG. Nichole is part of a blended family of six (seven if you count the dog, which she does). Together, her and her husband Adam have twin boys Dean and Jude (8), Viktor (7), and Violet (5) + Zahra (the pooch). She loves all things natural, herbal, eco-friendly, and outdoors. Nichole loves to read, research, garden, and draw as time permits. She has worked in the natural product industry for over 12+ years at the time of this posting. Currently, she runs the marketing department, but also helps to formulate, market, and prove efficacy of products.