Breathe Easy

By Janella Purcell

Breathe Easy
Whether you suffer from respiratory problems or breathing difficulties, 
make every breath you take count.


Eat foods that are moistening and nourishing for your lungs. Nuts (almonds and pine nuts); soy products; vegetables (mushrooms and spinach, plus sea vegetables such as kombu, arame and nori); fruit (apples, pears and persimmons); grains (barley, millet and sesame seeds). Ginger reduces inflammation in the lungs, daikon and radishes will reduce catarrh/phlegm. Avoid cold foods such as ice-cream, cold water and chilled fruit as these will shock your lungs.


Many of us are aware that our thoughts dictate our reality, not the other way around. Negative or unresolved emotions make us sick and tired. Through meditation we can control our thoughts, thereby mastering our emotions. This is when we experience a deep happiness and contentment that naturally arises from within. Those who suffer with respiratory problems often don’t breathe properly. It may have become a habit to breathe through the mouth and not correctly through the nose. We must relearn how to do this and one way is by practising a breathing meditation for 10-15 minutes a day. You will see a profound change in your attitude, reactions and physical health. Our bodies will give us ample warning if something is wrong, but we need to listen to them. Meditation is a great way to slow it all down and to go “within” yourself.

Mindful breathing

The practice of yoga is an excellent way to learn how to breathe deeply and mindfully. Mindful breathing can bring you into the present moment, relax you and focus your mind. It is understood that many stress-related diseases are due to shallow breathing, particularly those to do with the respiratory system. Mindful breathing is the foundation of all breathing. Yoga breathing will strengthen your respiratory tract, energise your whole body and will allow a heightened awareness of your physical, emotional and mental self, thereby hastening healing on all levels. Start with a gentle practice that concentrates on the breath.

Lotus root tea

Looking at the root of the lotus and its resemblance to the lungs you can see why our forefathers and mothers realised its healing properties. It has long been valued in the East for its benefit in treating respiratory problems. Lotus root has traditionally been prescribed for lung-related ailments, such as tuberculosis, asthma, and coughing. It is said to dissolve and eliminate excess mucous, easing congestion in the lungs over time. Have as a tea with some honey and ginger.

Herbal medicine

There are many very effective herbs you can use to improve the health of your lungs. Practitioner-only strength is best, but you can always get the herbs as a tea for less severe conditions and for long-term maintenance. Include herbs like ginger root for its anti-inflammatory qualities and pungent (associated with the lungs) flavour. It is also helpful to remove mucous (expectorant). Licorice root is anti-inflammatory. It is used specifically to reduce upper respiratory catarrh (anticatarrhal), coughs (antitussive) and bronchitis. It is also an expectorant. Mullein is expectorant, anticatarrhal and soothes and coats the lungs. Elecampane, another great respiratory tract herb is often used in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis, the common cold and flu. 
Its qualities are expectorant, antibacterial, spasmolytic (to reduce spasms) 

Emotions and seasons

In traditional Chinese medicine the lungs are associated with grief and sadness. The season when our lungs are most sensitive is autumn, so expect respiratory issues to arise at this time. Illnesses or symptoms are often cyclical. It’s not uncommon for someone with unresolved grief to present with bronchitis each April.


Horsetail is used for long-term lung weakness due to its high levels of silica. Salmon oil, vitamin C and flaxseed oil decrease inflammation. Magnesium as a muscle relaxant; vitamin B12 is also helpful to decrease lung inflammation, so eat foods such as tempeh and shiitake mushrooms.

Go natural

Remove the chemical toxins from your life. This doesn’t have to be done all at once, just replace a toxic product with something natural when you’re due for a new one. This includes washing-up liquid, clothes washing powder, cleaning products and air fresheners. Then look at your body products like hair care, deodorant, soap, toothpaste, face products, perfume, make-up and, of course, food.


It’s important to keep your bed, pillows and sheets as free from dust mites as possible. You spend a third of your life in bed so it’s a good way for these little critters to “get up your nose”. You should wash your bedding regularly in very hot water and natural powder or liquid. Your bed should be aired in the sun every few months and turned over at the same time. You can get low-allergy bed and bedding, which are also very helpful.

Buteyko breathing method

The Butekyko breathing method is a natural therapy that aims to teach asthmatics and others with breathing difficulties how to breathe more efficiently. Buteyko is a system of breathing exercises and education based on clinical evidence that asthmatics tend to “over-breathe” so the core Buteyko exercises involve consciously reducing either breathing rate or breathing volume. While the method requires daily practice it has been clinically shown to be an effective treatment for asthma, and was included in the British Guidelines on the Management of Asthma 2008.



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