Nourishing Lung Health
The ancient Chinese Taoists lived in harmony with the seasons to preserve health. Their detailed observations and advice is preserved in classical texts such as the Nei-Jing. Each season correlates with specific qualities and energetic systems of the body. Autumn is the season of the Lungs and we're advised to practice Qi Gong to keep the lung energy full, clean, and quiet.
Here in Southern Oregon, we experienced many weeks of smoky air due to wildfires. Because of this, many people's respiratory and immune systems were challenged. This summer and fall, I’ve been seeing a lot of folks with coughs, allergies, sinus issues, or other respiratory distress especially now with the dryer air, cooler weather, and windy days. Thankfully, Chinese herbal medicine offers very a wide variety of herbal formula that are specific for each phase of lung challenges. Herbs are carefully combined to accurately treat the root cause of the issue and support the body's healing response.
The Lungs are considered the "tender organ" because the tissues need to be moist and are susceptible to heat and dryness. The Lungs play a key role in the overall vital energy (Qi) of the body, because the air we breath combines with the food we eat to form Qi which is necessary for all our physiological functions. So, after a respiratory illness, it is especially importantto give herbs specific to restore health, moisture, and resilience to the lungs. Years ago, I came home from a trip with likely pneumonia and couldn’t work or go anywhere for about a month. Luckily, my clinic and herbal pharmacy were in the studio next door and I prepared Chinese herbs for myself daily. Once I was well enough to go anywhere, I called my mentor and went to him for ongoing treatment with acupuncture and also with specific herbs to restore health to my lungs.
During illness, a Chinese medicine practitioner blends herbal formulas or uses prepared formulas that are specific for their diagnosis of the symptoms based on observation, pulse, tongue, and other factors. Very differant herbs are given for dry cough or a cough with phlegm. There can be several underlying causes for a dry cough, unique to each individual. Coughs with phlegm can require cooling, warming or both types of herbs. An herbalist trained in Chinese medicine knows the energetic qualites of the herbs and matches them to the person to address the root cause of the condition. Herbs are considered in terms of temperature (hot, warm, cold, cool, neutral), organ systems they most influence, and numerous other categories. So it requires specific training and experience to match the herbs with the individual.
In Chinese medicine supporting the person's natural healing capacity is of prime importance. It is essential to protect and support the terrain of the person even while dealing with illness. Combining herbs from various categories to create a balanced formula, that is adjusted or changed as the person progresses, helps support the healing process without side-effects and in a way that is harmonious with normal body functions.
For home care, simple ways to care for lung health in fall and winter is to keep the wind off your neck and shoulders. Enjoy warm foods, soups, and stews to keep the metabolism and Qi warm and healthy. Thyme is a powerful herb for lung health, is antibacterial, and delicious in soups. Baked apples and pears with cinnamon, ginger powder, and cardamom are tonic for the Lungs. Shizandra berries are an excellent adaptogenic herb for lung health and Elder berries are one of the best, natural antiviral herbs for the lungs. Add a teaspoon to herbal tea when you get a cold or flu and it may help speed recovery. And of course, Rose Hips are delicious in herbal tisanes, as jam or jelly, and are wonderful for immune health!