Do you ever pause and notice the incredible ability your body has in utilizing oxygen? We breathe air in and then our lungs produce it into energy to run our body. Because of our body’s incredible wisdom and abilities, we don’t have to pay much attention to this great function until something goes wrong. Fortunately, Ayurveda shows us the best ayurvedic herbs for lungs.
But first, it’s important to understand how the lungs function.
How the Lungs Function
Because the lungs are constantly working to inhale and exhale air, and supply us with energy, they require a lot of lubrication. The lungs’ primary function is to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream, carried around and distributed into the body to be used. Afterward, the used oxygen (CO2) is brought back to the lungs and then exhaled out of the body.
According to Ayurveda, the lungs and the upper trunk are the kapha dosha site, which is why most respiratory conditions result from imbalanced kapha. This imbalance is seen in mucus congestion, phlegm, pneumonia, swollen glands, wet cough, or lung nodules. However, with major organs like the lungs, all three doshas are often involved by the time they relocate and manifest into disease. Vata can cause dryness and hard blockages, resulting in dry cough, asthma, broken voice, allergies, or wheezing. Pitta can bring inflammation and cause infection, yellow/green spit, blood in saliva, or bronchial issues.
The Best Ayurveda Herbs for Lungs
The following herbs are generally useful for lung health and to boost immunity. Be aware of each herb’s energetics as some may be more balancing for a specific condition than others. For example, thyme is very heating and may not be the best herb if you experience inflammation in your lungs.
Vasaka / Vasa
Vasaka, known as Adhatoda vasica, is one of the most popular Ayurvedic herbs for the lungs. This popularity is partly because of its ability to stimulate the bronchial system, helping to eliminate excess phlegm from the chest and throat. Moreover, vasaka is bitter, astringent, light, dry, and cooling and is best for kapha and pitta dosha. Vasaka is beneficial for coughs and asthma and a powerful supporter for the bronchial system. It can help remove excess kapha from the throat and chest, promoting relaxed, deep breathing.
Although not a single herb, Chyawanprash is one of the best nourishing tonics for overall immunity, and supporting healthy lung function. The unique abilities of Chyawanprash are its specific combination of herbs and anupans (carriers) which allow the medicinal nutrients to reach deeper into the tissues of the body. It is a classic Ayurvedic formula consisting of 35+ herbs and spices that deliver optimal support to all major organs in the body, including the lungs.
Discover more on why Chyawanprash is good for cold and cough.
Mullein is useful as an expectorant and vulnerary, helping to improve cough and diarrhea. It carries a bitter, sweet, and astringent taste, with cooling energy, making it great for kapha and pitta dosha.
Licorice root is one of the best Ayurvedic herbs for the lungs because it is a demulcent, meaning that it provides relief to the mucus membrane. It is heavy and moist and can be hugely beneficial for vata and pitta conditions. Licorice is sweet and cool and helps soothe irritated mucous membranes, reduce inflammation and ease coughs. Thoroughly chewing on a twig of licorice or drinking licorice tea can offer quick relief.
A renowned Ayurvedic herb, Tulsi or Holy Basil, is a powerful antioxidant and one of the best Ayurvedic herbs for the lungs due to its ability to cleanse and clear out toxins. Tulsi is light, warm, and bitter. It’s main action is as a cough suppressant and expectorant, making it great to treat coughs, colds, and asthma. Many traditional homes in India often keep a tulsi plant in their house to help clear out negative energy, further pointing to its long renowned cleansing abilities.
Thyme is very warm, light, and dry. It is an excellent herb for vata and kapha because of its hot qualities and is often used to treat coughs and asthma. Thyme is a natural expectorant and antiseptic which helps expel mucus build-up. You can prepare thyme in tea by steeping a tsp of thyme in just boiled water for 10 minutes.
Pippali (Long Pepper)
Long pepper, also known as pippali, has a strong affinity for the respiratory system. Pippali is light, oil, sharp, and warm. However, it is not as hot and dry as black pepper. Therefore it is an excellent relief for excess mucus in the sinus without drying out the mucus membrane too much. Pippali is also a dipana and carminative, which stimulate agni and relieve gas. The support of proper downward flow that pippali delivers directly benefits the lungs because it creates a proper respiratory system flow. You can take pippali internally by boiling 10-12 peppercorns in milk to offer relief.
Bayberry is one of the best Ayurvedic herbs for the lungs. It is warm, light, and dry, alleviating excess mucus build-up in the lungs, chest, and throat. Bayberry is commonly used to treat cough, asthma, and sinusitis. It’s also a popular herb in many nasya formulations as it provides relief and clarity in the nasal passageways.
A warm and pungent herb, clove is a powerful expectorant, helping to relieve coughs. Clove is light, dry, rough, and heating, making it a useful herb for vata and kapha dosha. Similar to pippali, clove is also a dipana, which stimulates agni encouraging proper downward flow.
In conclusion, the best Ayurvedic herbs for the lungs all work towards alleviating and expelling congestion in the lungs, chest, and throat. In addition, the stimulation of agni which encourages a downward flow of energy clears conditions in the respiratory system, supporting adequate lung function.
Clare Michalik, Ayurvedic Practitioner, @Clareminded