How to take care of your lungs during wildfire season according to Chinese medicine
It is all over the news, it is all over the West coast of the USA: wildfires are raging, and the air quality is hazardous.
Here are a few tips on how to protect your lungs during this time.
Lungs in Chinese medicine are related to the breath, immunity, grief, and skin.
Air Purifiers & Air Filters
Staying indoors as much as you can is common sense, however the tiny size of the particles in the air means that they make in indoors too. You might even notice the smell of smoke inside your house. What to do about that?
If you can, purchase an air purifier with a true HEPA filter inside. Those are able to catch the microscopic particles that come from pollution and wildfires, and reduce the pm2.5 index inside your house.
If you really are ready to invest some serious $ in some high quality filters, I recommend the brands IQAir, and Air doctor. These filters last for years, and are also efficient at catching the tiniest compounds possible. If this is out of your budget, consider smaller cheaper ones. But one cannot be too cautious with our lungs.
Increase Intake Of Anti-oxydants
Headaches, sinus ache, itchy throat and cough... all those are signs of inflammation caused by the smoke. Consider the following supplements to fight inflammation
Vitamin D3 : up to 1000mg/day. Vitamin D3 has been shown to improves lung function in patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder.
NAC (N-Acetylcysteine) : an amino acid that has been proven to reduce inflammation in the lungs in people suffering from asthma (1)(2)
Increase your intake of anti-oxydant foods such as goji berries, blueberries, pecans, artichoke, elderberries, kidney beans, cranberries.
Foods That Moisten The Lungs
With dryness and wind usually prevalent during the fall season, it is generally recommended to moisten the lungs from the inside. Add the wildfire and the smoke and you're really going to want to follow this. Eat foods that generate fluids and moisten the lungs such as :
PEARS | Pears are cold in nature, they are known to regenerate body fluids and therefore quenches thirst. They also calm the heart, lubricate the lungs, relieve restlessness, promote urination, clear heat, detoxify, moisten dry throats, dissolves mucus & relieve cough.
APPLES | Several studies have shown that eating two to five apples a week can reduce the risk and severity of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is believed that the flavonoids in apples, especially khellin, can help open up airways.
FIGS | Chinese medicine classifies dried figs as a neutral food (yin yang balanced). They moisten the lungs and relieve coughs. Moreover, figs invigorate the spleen, cleanse the intestines, expel toxins and reduce swelling.
TREMELLA MUSHROOM | Also known as silver ear mushroom, it is one of the most moistening foods out there. Its content in water friendly Hyaluronic Acid are huge/
You can read more about the health benefits of tremella mushroom here.
Herbal Teas for Lung Health during fire season
Lungs need moistening and tonifying during the fall. See our article about fall season herbal teas here. For fire season specifically, we can get a little more specific:
MULBERRY LEAF 紫苏叶 | Disperses and scatters Wind-Heat and is usually used for viral or bacterial throat infections ; Calms the Liver and clears the eyes; Clears Heat from the Lungs, stops coughing and moistens Dryness.
LICORICE ROOT 甘草| Moistens the Lungs, resolves Phlegm and stops coughing, Clears Heat and relieves Fire toxicity, tonifies the Spleen and augments Qi, Moderates spasms and alleviates pain
LILLY BULB 百合| Nourishes Yin, moistens the Lungs, clears Heat and stops coughing, Clears Heat from the Heart and calms the Spirit, Nourishes Stomach Yin and harmonizes the digestive system. You can find them at the Asian supermarket, or if you have a green thumb, in your garden. (Do not eat if you are unsure!!!!)
GINSENG ROOT 人参 | Ginseng is a very popular tonic herb, considered especially nourishing to the lungs, skin and stomach. It also has a moistening quality and cools the lungs, making it particularly useful for those with a dry cough. American ginseng is recommended over Asian ginseng for this purpose, as American ginseng is considered a yin tonic that is cooling in nature. Asian ginseng is a yang tonic that tends to be hot in nature.
Western Herbs :
MULLEIN | Mullein is a great medicinal for the lungs. It soothes inflamed or infected lungs, and prevents coughing until infection or inflammation is broken. It helps in coughing out the stagnant mucus, breaks up congestion and promote “effective” coughing.
MARSHMALLOW ROOT | A small study from 2005 found that an herbal cough syrup containing marshmallow root was effective in relieving coughs due to colds, bronchitis, or respiratory tract diseases with formation of mucus.
CHAMOMILE | After drinking Chamomile tea, you can use the tea bags for compresses over the eyes to calm redness, itchiness and irritation.
(1) Blesa S, Cortijo J, Mata M, Serrano A, Closa D, Santangelo F, et al. Oral N-acetyl cysteine attenuates the rat pulmonary inflammatory response to antigen. Eur Respir J. 2003;21(3):394–400.
(2) Blesa S, Cortijo J, Martinez-Losa M, Mata M, Seda E, Santangelo F, et al. Effectiveness of oral N-acetyl cysteine in a rat experimental model of asthma. Pharmacol Res. 2002;45(2):135–140.
(3) Srivastava, Janmejai K et al. “Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future.” Molecular medicine reports vol. 3,6 (2010): 895-901. doi:10.3892/mmr.2010.377