Herbs for Respiratory Function


There are many herbal remedies for improving respiratory health. In this post we present nine herbal remedies, from around the world and across time, and briefly explain the respiratory health benefits of each. These herbs can be enjoyed as food, drinks and inhalants. To get the most benefits we recommend using all nine of them and in various forms because they work in different ways and with different compounds. 



Black Elderberry. Some experts recommend elderberry to help prevent and ease symptoms for cold and flu.

  • used for respiratory tract viral infections due to immunomodulatory properties
  • antiviral activity due to high concentration of flavonoids
  • extracts shown in vitro antibacterial activity against some respiratory pathogens
  • help tame inflammation, lessen stress, and help protect your heart
  • used for fighting the common cold, influenza, sinus pain, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and boosting the immune system
  • dietary supplements with elderberry found to substantially reduce upper respiratory symptoms [1]
  • typically consumed as food and often as a syrup




Peppermint. The menthol contained in peppermint can soothe the respiratory tract.

  • menthol has the ability to loosen and bring up mucus from the lungs
  • peppermint is an antihistamine and anti-oxidant
  • effective in fighting congested airways and also combats many harmful organisms
  • 2015, scientists from The American Chemical Society concluded that peppermint can be used for the treatment of uncomplicated infections of the respiratory tract
  • can be enjoyed by eating its fresh leaves or mixing them in a fruit salad
  • may also be used as a tea or inhale the oil with steam if you enjoy the scent



Oregano. Oregano has powerful compounds including carvacrol which has been found to kill bacteria and viruses.

  • these compounds have antihistamine and decongestive properties and can give your immune system a boost
  • effective antibiotic with germicides capable of killing wide range fungi and bacteria
  • can be used for respiratory tract disorders such as coughs, asthma and bronchitis
  • use oregano as a garnishing or sauce ingredient
  • can use as a tea or inhale the oil with steam



Ginger. Ginger’s uses as a spice and a medicine all over the world and demand for it has been maintained throughout history.

  • helps to break down mucus making it easier for you to breathe
  • helps improve circulation to the lungs and reduces inflammation
  • used to help fight the flu and common cold though
  • fresh ginger seems to be more effective for fighting viruses [2]
  • said to be great at alleviating nausea, research has not yet provided evidence
  • can be found in many dishes throughout the world and is also popular as a tea



Echinacea.  Echinacea was used in traditional herbal remedies by the Great Plains Indian tribes for coughs, sore throats, headaches and as pain medication.

  • contains plant compounds that function as antioxidants
  • commonly used as a dietary supplement for the common cold and other infections 
  • can stimulate the immune system to more effectively fight infections
  • used to shorten the duration of the common cold and flu, and reduce symptoms, such as sore throat (pharyngitis), cough, and fever
  • many herbalists also recommend echinacea to help boost the immune system
  • can be enjoyed as a tea or by inhaling the oil with steam



Eucalyptus. Local aboriginal communities in Australia used it to heal wounds, stave off infections and create infusions that ease congestion, colds and fevers when inhaled.

  • place 1-3 drops of eucalyptus oil into a bowl of hot water and breathing in the steam can help to clear stuffy nasal passages, dilate the bronchioles in your lungs
  • helps loosen the sticky mucus in your respiratory system
  • try heating some Eucalyptus oil in the bathroom while having a warm shower
  • use a Eucalyptus air freshener or spray to help kill airborne pathogens



Green Tea. Green tea contains antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation in the lungs.

  • compounds may protect lung tissue from the harmful effects of smoke inhalation
  • study, 1000 adults in Korea reported that those who drank at least 2 cups of green tea per day had better lung function than those who drank none [3]



Thyme. Thyme is always popular in the culinary arts and is also a potent medicinal herb with many therapeutic properties and uses.

  • helps fight respiratory infections and is a natural expectorant that serves as an antiseptic and helps expel mucus
  • beneficial for colds, coughs, respiratory issues, promoting breathing and breaking up phlegm
  • can be added to your food and it can also be made into a tea or extract
  • thyme essential oil is often used as a natural cough remedy



Olive Leaf. Olive Leaf Extract (OLE) is traditionally used in Western Herbal medicine to relieve symptoms of coughs, sore throats, colds and flu and upper respiratory tract infections.

  • an over-the-counter supplement that contains polyphenols, notably oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol, that have antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that reduce upper respiratory illness rates.
  • compounds interact with the protein of virus particles and reduce infection
  • slow replication of viruses known to cause colds, the flu and respiratory infection
  • oleuropein is broken down to elenolic acid which has a powerful antibacterial effect
  • can interfere with the critical amino acid production essential for viruses
  • shown to stimulate phagocytosis, the process by which cells called phagocytes engulf and destroy harmful foreign particles in our bodies like bacteria and viruses
  • OLE is typically consumed as a food supplement



Putting The Knowledge To Work


With so many options to work with we recommend choosing at least one herb from each category and set your intention to incorporate each of these into your weekly routine. For example, I would opt for using Eucalyptus Oil as aromatherapy and steam breathing and compliment that with eating more oregano, ginger and thyme while also drinking peppermint and green teas. Using the Zen Haus Immune Support supplement will provide you with non-GMO Echinacea, Black Elderberry and Olive Leaf Extract. Then you will have covered nine traditional herbal remedies used around the world. You will also have the immune system benefits of Zinc, Magnesium and Quercetin included in the supplement.




[1] Hawkins, J., Baker, C., Cherry, L., & Dunne, E. (2019). Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 42, 361–365. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2018.12.004


[2] Chang, J.S., Wang, K. C., Yeh, C.F., Shieh, D.E., Chiang, L.C. (2013). Fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) has anti-viral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 145(1), 146-151. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2012.10.043


[3] Oh, C.M., Oh, I.H., Choe, B.K., Yoon, T.Y., Choi, J.M. Hwang, J. (2018). Consuming Green Tea at Least Twice Each Day Is Associated with Reduced Odds of Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease in Middle-Aged and Older Korean Adults. The Journal of Nutrition,148(1), 70–76. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxx016


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