Lung Health, Your Immune System & the Wrath of Winter
(How to stay healthy and vibrant through the holiday season)
The cold, dry air of the winter months mingles with seasonal infections and molds to create a perfect storm that inflicts many with annoying lung conditions. From chronic, dry coughs to thick mucus-filled chest congestion, the winter weather has a way of attacking the lungs and keeping people gravitating towards cough suppressants, warm tea, and plenty of blankets. It is not pure coincidence that winter can be unfriendly to our lungs. Cold air is dry air and the lungs are the first organs to feel like a parched land during this dry season. Not only is the outside air hostile, but many homes also have gas-forced furnaces and wood-burning stoves circulating dry air throughout our living spaces. This indoor air quality can often be compromised as furnaces spread mold and dust, and wood-burning stoves spew dirt and soot. To make matters worse, bacterial and viral invaders seem to thrive in colder air, explaining the seasonal increase in colds and flus. No wonder the lungs feel imprisoned during the winter months, longing for their own oasis. One key to avoiding complications and illness is to keep your immune response strong and ready for the challenge!
Echinacea, a native of North America, is widely used to prevent, or provide early treatment for colds. Preclinical studies lend biological plausibility to the idea that echinacea works through immune mechanisms. Numerous clinical trials have been carried out on echinacea preparations: it appears that the extracts shorten the duration and severity of colds and other upper respiratory infections (URIs) when given as soon as symptoms become evident.”16
Astragalus is an herb that is well known for supporting the immune system during times when it is stressed. Astragalus has the unique ability to support a healthy inflammatory response within the lungs as well as provide antioxidant support. Therefore, astragalus can work to support respiratory tissues from the damaging effects of dry air and air contaminants. Astragalus products are derived from the roots of Astragalus membranaceus or related species, which are native to China. In traditional Chinese medicine, astragalus is commonly found in mixtures with other herbs, and is used in the treatment of numerous ailments, including heart, liver, and kidney diseases, as well as viral infections, and immune system disorders. Western herbalists began using astragalus in the 1800s as an ingredient in various immune tonics.
Elderberry, or European elder, grows up to 30 feet tall, is native to Europe, but has been naturalized to the Americas. The flowers and berries of this powerful plant, officially known as Sambucus nigra, are used most often medicinally and contain a variety of flavonoids which have been found to possess a variety of biochemical and pharmacological actions, including antioxidant and immunologic properties. According to ethnobotanical surveys, Sambucus nigra is one of the plants most commonly used for medicinal purposes in the world. Its pleasant taste also makes it useful in liquid formulas for children’s immune support.
A strong immune system and proper hydration will go a long way in complimenting the actions of these herbs. Immune-supporting nutrients such as vitamins C, D and E as well as zinc are beneficial adjuncts. Drinking plenty of water and running a home humidifier can help keep the lungs moist and working optimally. Warm beverages such as tea can serve a dual purpose in hydrating the body and providing a warm vapor which, when breathed in, will help moisten the nasal passage. It is also advantageous to keep air contaminants at a minimum by dusting more frequently and cleaning out furnace vents. Air purifiers may be helpful in older homes that are predisposed to mold contamination. During the remainder of this cold season, you may not have to suffer through annoying coughs and tight lungs. Keeping a few helpful herbs on hand, some supportive nutrients, a clean home, and hydrating your body will be the ticket to breathing easier as you wait for the arrival of warmer days.
Contains a combination of natural compounds, botanicals and mushroom extracts in order to support the immune system and help build the body’s natural defenses against various microorganisms and stressors. This highly effective blend of compounds is appropriate for children and adults, and can be utilized for short or long term immune support. Echinacea, green tea, astragalus, andrographis and goldenseal are standardized to ensure the best quality and reliable delivery of the active components in these botanicals.
Roxas, M. and Jurenka, J. Colds and influenza: a review of diagnosis and conventional, botanical, and nutritional considerations. Altern Med Rev 2007;12(1):25-48.
Sinclair S. Chinese herbs: a clinical review of Astragalus, Ligusticum, and Schizandrae. Altern Med Rev. 1998 Oct; 3(5): 338-44.
Wang X.H., Jia H.L., Deng L. and Huang W.M. (2014). Astragalus polysaccharides mediated preventive effects on bronchopulmonary dysplasia in rats. Pediatric Research. 2014 Oct;76(4):347-54.
PDR for Herbal Medicines, 1st Ed. Medical Economics/Thompson Healthcare, 1998.