5 herbs and plants that can help improve your respiratory health

Right now, more than ever, caring for your respiratory health is top of mind. Thanks to pollution and smog, as well as bacteria and viruses swirling around, your lungs, nose and throat could be going through the wringer. Here are the herbs and plants that you can add to your diet to bolster it now.

1. Vasaka

Vasaka has been considered very therapeutic in Ayurveda for respiratory health, says nutrition consultant Sangeeta Khanna. Vasaka, also known as Malabar Nut, is a potent plant revered in ancient wellness texts for its curative properties. “The leaves are rich in phytochemicals such as tannins, saponins, alkaloids, flavonoids and have anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and expectorant benefits which soothe sore throat, clear nasal congestion and sinusitis, control asthma triggers, relieve upper respiratory throat disorder,” says Khanna. It works to soothe bronchial inflammation, loosening phlegm and thinning bronchial secretions. You can look for vasaka supplements or prepare a tisane by brewing vasaka leaves in hot water to ease respiratory infections.

2. Ginger

There are benefits of keeping ginger handy in the pantry and generously using it to flavour your soups, smoothies and stir-fries. Known for its exemplary anti-inflammatory properties, grated ginger juice—when had with amla and aloe vera—is considered a natural immunity shot. On its own, ginger helps to break down mucus, improving lung health as then expelling air becomes easier. “This root has anti-inflammatory properties, and it effectively soothes the throat pain induced after persistent coughing. A concoction made with ginger or ginger tea has a very soothing impact on the throat” says Sweedal Trinidade, senior dietetics officer, PD Hinduja National Hospital and MRC, Mumbai.

3. Plantain leaf

Plantain is a common herb that grows close to the ground. It is traditionally used topically to soothe bug bites and irritated skin. In hilly areas, it almost grows wild and is often a part of local cuisines and home remedies to counter common cold and sinusitis. Khanna affirms that the leaves are soothing and are used by nutritionists and naturopaths when curating recipes for healing lung ailments from the inside out. “Because plantain naturally contains mucilage, and has moist cooling properties, its leaves help to ease irritation and dryness of the mucous membrane, while also helping to tighten, and tone the mucus lining. Use it cooked in soups,” she says.

4. Eucalyptus

It relaxes bronchial muscles and calms the parasympathetic nervous system. According to Payal Kothari, integrative nutritionist and gut health coach, eucalyptus its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits, making it a good remedy for congestion. To clear up a blocked nose and release phlegm immediately, power a regular steam inhalation with a few drops of pure eucalyptus essential oil. The oil reacts with mucous membranes, thinning it and ultimately helping loosen it so that you can cough it up. Kothari recommends misting your pillow with eucalyptus oil for some peaceful sleep. It’s important to note that eucalyptus oil should always be inhaled, never ingested.

5. Peppermint

Modern research points out its role in improving lung function. Menthol, present in the mint family, displays antispasmodic activity. It works as a decongestant, which means it helps to soothe swollen membranes in the nose and loosen mucus that gets stuck in the respiratory pathway. Kothari suggests using fresh or dried leaves to make yourself herbal teas. You can also add some peppermint leaves with ginger, tea and spices and sweeten with honey, giving a nourishing twist to the classic masala chai.

The article was first published in Vogue


  • Aparrna Gupta

    Transitioning from crafting stories for The Asian Age and Bombay Times to setting beauty trends in Verve, Aparrna Gupta’s journey has always revolved around resonant storytelling. Her prowess in content creation is unparalleled, with articles featured in renowned publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel India, Lifestyle Asia, Elle, and Femina. She also excels in content ideation, trend identification, mood board creation, and product styling. Her expertise has proven invaluable to homegrown brands, enabling them to authentically connect with their audience.

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