‘Sigh of Relief’: Best Lung Supplements
September 29, 2021
When you think of your respiratory system, you probably think of breathing – pulling air into and out of your body. However, this system’s function goes far beyond just moving air.
Your body is critically dependent on the external environment – both as a source for obtaining substances it needs to survive and as a dumpster into which it can discard its waste.
In this Healthy Insight:
- What Do The Lungs Do?
- The Diaphragm’s Role in Lung Health
- Common Lung Issues
- Herbs for the Lungs
- Vitamins for the Respiratory System
- Minerals for Lung Health
- Tips for Lung Maintenance
What Do The Lungs Do?
The trillions of cells making up your body require a continuous supply of oxygen to carry out their vital functions. You can survive without food about five weeks, without water about five days, but without oxygen only about five minutes. The cells use oxygen for the metabolic reactions that release energy from nutrient molecules and store this energy.
At the same time, these metabolic reactions release carbon dioxide. Since an excessive amount of carbon dioxide can be toxic to cells, quick, efficient elimination is vital.
The Diaphragm’s Role in Lung Health
Your lungs are specifically responsible for bringing in fresh air with the assistance of a major muscle, the diaphragm. The diaphragm expands and contracts as you breathe in and out. As you can see, there’s a lot going on with your respiratory system, yet it goes on silently and continuously day and night. Since breathing is essential, many individuals choose to use lung supplements for lung health.
Common Lung Issues
- Out of breath
- Shortness of breath
- Mucus buildup
- Chest discomfort
Herbs for the Lungs
- Honorable mentions: peppermint, osha root, lungwort, astragalus, plantain leaf, eucalyptus
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) and the Lungs
Also known as yellow puccoon or orangeroot, goldenseal is native to the Appalachian area of North America where its roots and leaves were a favorite herbal remedy among indigenous peoples. Today goldenseal is available in teas, extracts or capsules, ranks among the most popular herbal remedies in the world for its immune system support. With naturally occurring alkaloid compounds, it’s often the go-to herb for upper respiratory or lung issues. You will frequently find it paired with echinacea.
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) and the Lungs
Over the years mullein’s been used for everything from making candle wicks to warding off evil spirits. Among herbalists it’s best known as a lung soother that moisturizes lungs, comforts dry, unproductive coughs, and eases lung tightness.
The mullein plant looks woolly and lives for only two years. During its second year, it sprouts a tall stem with yellow flowers and grows to about four feet in height. Ancient cultures, including Greece and India, have used the leaves, flowers and roots for a variety of health concerns. Colonists introduced the herb to North America where it was quickly adopted by the indigenous people. A member of the Scrophulariaceae family, which also includes eyebright and foxglove, its botanical name is Verbascum thapsus and common names include candlewick, bunny’s ears, velvet dock, flannel plant, and lungwort. Mullein is often included in respiratory or lung supplements.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and the Lungs
Not to be confused with the black candy from your childhood, licorice is a sweet herb used for thousands of years. In fact, it’s one of the most widely used medicinal plants in the world, popular for soothing mucous membranes in the respiratory system and especially the throat. Scientists now know that its effectiveness is due mainly to its components such as glycyrrhizin, glycyrrhetinic acid and flavonoids. Like mullein, licorice is often included in specialty respiratory and lung formulas.
Nettle (Urtica dioica) and the Lungs
Nettle (also known as stinging nettles – you’ll know this if you touch it!) grows wild in meadows and open fields. But it’s the sting that indicates its ability to protect your health. Nettle contains more than 20 different naturally occurring chemical constituents, known to provide natural support for your entire body. While it’s been studied for a variety of issues from head to toe, it’s most popular for lung health.
Vitamins for the Respiratory System
Vitamin D and the Respiratory System
By now we all know the importance of vitamin D in calcium absorption and immune health, new studies, however, show it’s important for lung health too. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with a decrease in lung volume (in animal studies), potentially exacerbating existing lung issues.
Vitamin D is particularly vital to those living in northern climates where the sun’s rays are not as intense and winters are long and dark. Wherever you live, absorption of vitamin D declines with age, making supplementation a good choice. Food sources of vitamin D include salmon, tuna and egg yolks.
Vitamin E and the Respiratory System
Vitamin E refers to a group of fat-soluble compounds, including eight antioxidants, four tocopherols and more. It is found in the largest quantities in your blood and tissues, making it especially beneficial for your heart and circulation. We’re now learning vitamin E benefits lungs too, especially the vitamin E form called alpha-tocopherol. This is the kind found in sunflower and olive oils. The type of vitamin E in canola or corn oil (gamma-tocopherol) can actually harm lung capacity, so be careful about which for you buy. Food sources of vitamin E include almonds, avocadoes and spinach.
Please note that both Vitamin D and Vitamin E are fat-soluble, meaning they can build up in your body and create problems. Always check with your doctor before adding these, or any vitamins, minerals or nutrients to your daily health routine.
Minerals for Lung Health
Magnesium and Lung Health
Magnesium may support lung function, but certain medications may interfere with your body’s ability to absorb it. Check with your doctor.
Calcium and Lung Health
Certain medications may cause you to lose calcium, which may affect lung function. Check with your doctor.
Tips for Lung Maintenance
- Stop smoking
- Exercise frequently
- Breathe deeply
- Stand and sit upright
- Avoid indoor irritants
- Avoid outdoor pollutants
- Get vaccines as recommended
With recent heightened awareness of respiratory, sinus and lung issues, it’s now more important than ever to support this hard-working system. A few simple changes today could help you continue to breathe easy for life.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Individual results may vary.