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3 Ways to Protect and Heal Your Lungs After Prolonged Smoke Exposure

Breathe Deep

I know we are all hoping that the worst of the smokey days are over this season in the Rogue Valley. I personally have never been so happy to see the blue skies these past couple of days. This week I would like to talk about herbs and supplements that can help protect and heal our lungs after this prolonged smoke exposure. If you are having significant lung symptoms including shortness of breath, wheezing or coughing, please call the office (541-210-5687) to make an appointment with a naturopathic doctor. Also, please refer to Dr. Duncan’s blog from last week.

Herbs for Lung Health

I can’t speak enough about the wonder and benefit of herbs. If you work with me in the clinic there is a good chance that some time or another you will be taking herbs to heal what ails you. The following are some amazing herbs that target lung health:

  1. Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

Mullein is indicated for dry, harsh, hacking coughs, and weak lungs. It is also helpful to the kidney and nervous system. The flowers of this plant are soothing and coat the lungs, while the leaves are more astringent and expectorant, helping the lungs to expel unwanted particles that have been inhaled. Mullein is typically used for hoarseness, coughs, bronchitis, asthma and other respiratory conditions. This wonderful herb can be enjoyed as a tea by placing 1 teaspoon into 1 cup of hot water, or in combination with other lung loving herbs in the form of a tincture.

  1. Yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum)

This herb is sticky, sweet and aromatic. Yerba santa is primarily used for colds, laryngitis, bronchitis, asthma, hay fever and any condition where there is a dry cough.

  1. Elecampane (Inula helenium)

Inula is an expectorant (helps get the junk out), an anti-inflammatory and tones the lungs. This herb is especially helpful for irritated lungs and chronic coughs, and commonly prescribed for chronic bronchitis, sinusitis, asthma and emphysema.

  1. Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Licorice helps modulate the immune system and is soothing to mucus membranes. This herb can help calm and sooth the lining of the lungs for quicker healing. Licorice also has antibacterial and antiviral properties, which may be beneficial if there is any concern about an infection after lung inflammation. A note about licorice: Please consult a doctor before taking if you have high blood pressure.

Supplements for Lung Health

  1. N-acetylcysteine (NAC)

NAC is used by the body to make glutathione and easily absorbed in the GI tract. The benefits of glutathione are vast, as it is an antioxidant found in every cell of our body. After significant toxin exposure, taking NAC to increase glutathione can help our body process and expel unwanted toxins from the body, including inhaled particulates. NAC is very safe to take and I recommend 1200mg daily.

Nutrition for Lung Health

We can’t forget that food is medicine, and how we eat can affect how our bodies adapt and heal to environmental stresses. First, eat a variety of plant-based foods to load up on powerful phytonutrients, which help cleanse the body and keep it running optimally. Certain foods can be extra helpful after all the smoke exposure and those include:

  1. Garlic:
    a. Has various anti-inflammatory properties along with a high level of allicin. This helps to fight infections and reduces inflammation.
  2. Ginger:
    a. Ginger will help to clear your lungs thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. You can add ginger to various dishes, as it is a widely used herb. You can also use it to prepare ginger root tea blended with some lemon. This helps a great deal to remove toxins from the respiratory tract.
  3. Turmeric:
    a. Just like ginger and garlic, this spice is great for your lungs due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
  4. Apples
    a. Packed with flavonoids, vitamin E and vitamin C, apples have been studied for their beneficial effects on the lungs. Eating 3 or more a week have been shown to help decrease asthmatic attacks.
  5. Water!!!
    a. Water plays a huge role in health and is the base of any cleansing action. Pure, clean water is essential to keeping blood flowing to and from the lungs. It also keeps our lungs hydrated and increases healthy mucus production.

Here’s to blue skies and fresh air ahead!
Yours in Health,
Dr. Sonja Halsey

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How to Preserve Your Health in this Smoke

Here in Southern Oregon we are dealing with very poor air quality conditions due to the surrounding forest fires. We will most likely be experiencing many more days of heavy smoke and haze extending through the middle of October. These conditions are at the very least challenging to the body and have the potential to cause serious health issues in those of us who are immune compromised, suffer from pulmonary or cardiovascular disease, very young, and over the age of 65. It is important that we all take precaution to preserve our health over the next several weeks.

The poor air quality may result in symptoms such as:

  • sore throat
  • itchy or burning eyes
  • runny nose
  • sinus pressure or eye pressure
  • tooth pain
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • shortness of breath
  • heart palpitations
  • chest tightness or pain
  • fatigue and flu like symptoms

Forest fires release harmful particles and gases into the atmosphere that cause respiratory tract irritation and stress the body’s detox and immune systems. Forest fires even increase your exposures to cancer causing agents. If you are able to leave the valley I recommend you do so as to avoid exposure. If you are unable to get away from the smoke please reduce your exposure by staying indoors and wearing protective equipment while outside. Also, please do not engage in strenuous activities while outside.

At Siskiyou Vital Medicine we suggest you make an appointment with one of our naturopathic doctors if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms. Also, we would like you to consider implement the the following to help you through the next couple of smoke filled months.

  • Wear a protective mask while outdoors. The mask must have a label reading N95 or P100 to ensure they will filter the harmful compounds out of the air you are breathing. AllCare Health offices are providing free masks to the public.
  • Keep your home smoke free by keeping windows and doors closed and run an air filter that does not produce ozone.
  • Eat a variety of vegetables and include broccoli as it contains high amounts of Vitamin C and other cancer fighting compounds.
  • Support your liver with the use of milk thistle, Chinese artichoke, dandelion and NAC.
  • Schedule detox IV therapy every 3 weeks (especially if you are symptomatic). The detox IV contains B vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, immune and liver support compounds.
  • Take 2 to 3 grams of fish oil daily. If you’re on blood thinning medication, please consult with your health provider first.

If you have any questions, please contact us at (541) 210-5687 or by email.


McClane Duncan, ND
Siskiyou Vital Medicine