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Ask the Herbalist--Respiratory Problems

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QUESTION: I have a 4 yr old son who since the age of 18 months started having croup. We lived in a cold place where it was necessary to have radiators on which dried out the room so we always kept a humidifier in the room. Now we live in the opposite extreme in Singapore and with the aircon have had to put a humidifier as it too dries out the room. Unfortunately sleeping without is too hot so this is not an option. At least every 3-4 months and at times more often our son gets that terrible barking cough. I usually give him as a quick fix with Pulmicort through the inhaler and this helps but it is a steroid and I really hate to do this. Is there any herb I can give him to  be  preventative and help him if and when he does have a bout.

I really want to avoid as much as possible the multitude of drugs from the doctor that are prescribed.
Many thanks for any help you can provide.

ANSWER:  Pleasure to hear from you.  First what you may need is an Air Purifier and not a de-humidifier. The company Oreck makes some really good ones. I suggest you visit their site.

Secondly, it appears that dryness has set in the lungs, what in TCM we refer to as a Lung Qi &Yin Deficiency. The best and most proper way to begin treating this condition is by following a healthy diet and supplementing with the proper remedies. Avoid foods that stagnate the system such as heavy red meats, pork, white sugar, all dairy and all fried foods.

Include in his daily diet fresh garlic and onions, fresh fish (in particular salmon), honey, brown rice and plenty of fresh locally grown fruits and raw or steamed vegetables.  Add to all his broths, soups and stews a large piece of Astragalus root. Remove and discard after the dish is done.  Doing these things will help to improve his auto immune system and bring him back into balance.

Drinking infusions of Luo Han Guo will help greatly during any attack.. Any Chinese market should have it, as it is very popular and effective. You may also find it under the name Momordica Fruit Tree beverage. Due to his age use only one half of the cube or package. As for a great syrup to help stop the coughing I would encourage you to find Han's Honey Loquat syrup. Any large Chinese market should also have it.

: I am an artist/acrobat that works for Cirque du soleil.  We work out more than one should and I always getting colds/ upper respiratory infections, etc.  I have been taking , which seems to help.  How long can I stay on this?  Also, can this be taken with  tumeric.  I read that both are blood thinners and thought the combination of the two could be dangerous.. is it?  thanks so much

ANSWER: My first focus would be your environment. In essence have the vents in your house cleaned and change your air filter weekly. Inside your home run a dehumidifier and when your breathing is affected, run a vaporizier, add a pinch of salt and 30 drops of essential oil of Eucalyptus. This will open up your nasal passages and allow you to breathe freely again.

The Reishi mushrooms seem to be aiding your immune system so you may continue them as along as necessary. I would strongly encourage you to obtain extract of Astragalus root and add 30 drops to a cup of Green tea daily. Astragalus is the principal immune restoring herb. As well include
plenty of fresh garlic and onions in your daily meals.

On Turmeric here is an excellent article on it:

There exists an ancient Traditional Chinese formula Ding Chuan Tang that has brought relief for many. If you look for it and have a problem with taking Ma Huang, then find a modified formula without it. If you cannot find one, you may contact me again and I will do my best to help.

Eat healthy. Avoid red meats, pork, white sugar, all dairy and all fried foods. Also avoid food with preservatives and processed foods. Moderate your intake of coffee and alcohol. All of these weaken the immune system and stagnate the digestive and the colon.

QUESTION:  I recently purchased some Elecampane to help treat my Cystic Fibrosis symptoms. I was wondering the best way to steam and inhale the product directly because my body retains very little when anything is taken orally. Even better would be if I could discover a safe dose to use as a treatment with my nebulizer, as the medications I'm currently taking have many side effects but are also necessary to help my breathing. My goal is to one day eliminate them totally!

ANSWER: I would suggest using essential oil of Elecampane. Just add 15-20 drops to a vaporizier.

Other than that you can boil the product you have now in a pan of water, cover your face with a towel (taking care not to burn yourself), bend over the hot, but now turned off pan, and breathe.

I used to be a good amateur boxer-chronic bronchitis took me out of the sport-I am now 52 and I guess most people would say I am in very good shape-I train boxers and kickboxers-recently I got back in the ring myself since I was wondering if a 52 year old could still be competitive-the only problem is that the bronchitis is destroying the last 30 seconds of each round-the stress of fighting sets off the bronchitis-I am presently taking a bronchial tea by flora-it has helped-if you have any ideas;

ANSWER: I don't know what kind of environment you are living in, but chronic Bronchitis is usually related to the environment rather than a viral or bacterial issue. Do you smoke? Are you exposed to it? Are you exposed to any toxic or noxious fumes on a regular basis? It could also be the result of an allergy. What are you eating? Avoid processed foods, artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame.  Include Vitamins A, C and Beta Carotene in your diet. They are all helpful for healing and protecting the tissues. Garlic and onions are also excellent for helping the inflammation.  The best herbs are Astragalus, Coltsfoot, slippery elm bark, fenugreek and mullein.

I would like some info on the herbs to help one with emphysema. I have gotten my PH down to 6.9 [and sometimes 7.3]  That is a battle with the foods we are getting!   Many things are changing, but I feel some herbal help is needed for the lungs.

ANSWER: The most obvious question first is, do you smoke or are you exposed to it in any way? If so, you need to avoid it at all costs. Nothing is worse for your condition. Make sure you are exercising every day, and try to avoid all types of air pollution as much as possible. As for herbs, Bloodroot, hawthorn and elecampane in tincture form will probably provide you with some relief and help to strengthen your systems. B complex vitamins as well as A, C, E and Selenium every day will also help. You can buy a pill at the health food store called ACES that provides all of these in the proper amounts. Lastly, a tincture of wild cherry bark, lobelia, licorice, motherwort, and ma huang or ephedra if you can get it would be helpful. 1 tsp three times a day. If you don't make your own, I'd be happy to make a custom formulation for you. e-mail me with the word ORDER in your subject line and let me know you want the "Asthma Relief Tincture"

have chronic bronchitis and have been taking echinacea, and also astragalus.  I took them all this winter and never got sick.  but when I went back to buy more the girl told me to keep taking  the astragalus when I'm not sick and only take the echinacea if I got sick first thing. Well when I quit taking the ecinacea that's when I got this cold and so I started taking echinacea again.   I'm wondering if I shouldn't have stopped to begin with.  Is it o.k. to take both herbs with rest periods all year long without any problems?   also what is the difference between echinacea, and echinacea root? I work in a bar two days a week where there is smoke and that doesn't help. Please help me to know what I should do.

Echinacea and Astragalus both have antibiotic properties. Just as with prescription drugs, you wouldn't want to take something you didn't actually need. While Astragalus is safe and can be used all year, Echinacea's effects will diminish if used continuously over time. It is best used in cycles, 5 days on, 2 days off or something similar to that. To keep the colds at bay, make sure you are eating a healthy diet and taking vitamin C and E every day. When cold season comes around, I take 2000 mg of vitamin C every day until May and I have yet to be infected with the colds or flu that seem to plague my co-workers. At the first sign of a cold, start the Echinacea again. Echinacea root is simply one part of the plant. The roots, leaves and flowers are all used. As for your bronchitis, you're absolutely right. Working in a bar with lots of smoke is one of the worst things you can do. The irritation that causes to the bronchi can be devastating to someone with healthy bronchial tubes. If there's any way to avoid that, I'd certainly seek it out.  In the meantime, Anise has shown some intriguing possibilities with respect to bronchitis. According to several scientific studies, Anise contains chemicals called creosol and alpha-pinene which act to break up the secretions and make them easier to cough up.  Take 1 teaspoon of anise seeds per cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 to 20 minutes and strain. You can drink up to 3 cups a day. And it has a wonderful licorice taste!

  My 5 year old has whooping cough - would you recommend Osha for easing his
symptoms?  I am currently giving him tincture of Lobelia, Astragalus, and a children's tinCture blend that includes echinacea, thyme, hyssop, cinnamon, ginger, elderberry, meadowsweet and horseradish.  His diet has been modified to eliminate all known mucus forming foods.

ANSWER:  Has the boy seen a healthcare practitioner, if not and it has last several weeks you should take him to be seen.  If you do not, You need to establish what phase the condition is in, hot/dry/cold/moist.  Profuse drainage that is white or clear is cold and moist.  If yellow/green and thickened this is hot and dry.  Mucus that is thick with a nonproductive cough is dry.  Profuse mucus with drainage is moist.  White or clear mucus is cold, yellow or green mucus is an indicator of a hot condition.  As the illness progresses it moves through different phases.

Osha, Latin Name: Ligusticum porterii has a warm to hot and dry energetics and should be used with caution if the condition is turning to hot and dry.  It has been used for bronchial congestion  with profuse clear or white mucous.

Additionally Skunk Cabbage Latin Name:  Symplocarpus foetidus has been used as an antispasmodic and pain reliever for sore throat.  It is cooling and drying.  It can be mixed with wild cherry bark syrup to stop coughing.  

The herb sundew used in very small amounts is excellent for relieving spasmodic cough, whooping cough, dry ticklish cough, dry explosive coughs.  But again it must be used in very small amounts.

A great lung herb is Elecampane which is moistening and neutral in energetics.

Most of these herbs are drying so mix with moistening herbs such as marsmallow or licorice or asparagus root





ANSWER:  The only problems associated with this appproach is if she has mushroom allergies, Reishi Mushroom, Latin Named: Ganoderma lucidum(Red-best- on oaks), G. sinensis(black), G. applinatum(huge artist conch), G. Tsugae(grows on hemlock tree), G. oreganensis.  Can be safely consumed longterm and in fairly large amounts.  I would give it a try if I were her, I don't think it will cure her but may slow or reduce attacks.  This is a very beneficial medicinal herb, I would stay on it for a couple months before evaluating results.

If she likes the taste of mushroom she can get it powdered and make a strong tea of it, consume three times a day.  I would cook the mushroom overnight in a crockpot and consume broth the next day.

This is a download from the natural pharmacist website

----- Beginning -----------------


The tree fungus known as reishi has a long history of use in China and Japan as a semi-magical healing herb. More revered than ginseng and, up until recently, more rare, many stories tell of people with severe illnesses journeying immense distances to find it. Presently, reishi is artificially cultivated and widely available in stores that sell herb products.

What Is Reishi Used for Today?

Reishi is marketed as a cure-all, said to prevent and treat cancer, strengthen immunity against infection, restore normal immune function in autoimmune diseases (such as myasthenia gravis), improve symptoms of asthma and bronchitis, overcome viral hepatitis, prevent and treat cardiovascular disease, improve mental function, heal ulcers, and prevent altitude sickness. However, there is no real evidence that reishi is effective for any of these conditions.

Contemporary herbalists regard it as an adaptogen, a substance believed to be capable of helping the body to resist stress of all kinds. (For more information on adaptogens, see the article on ginseng.) However, while there has been a great deal of basic scientific research into the chemical constituents of reishi, reliable double-blind studies are lacking.


The proper dosage of reishi is 2 to 6 g per day of raw fungus, or an equivalent dosage of concentrated extract, taken with meals. Reishi is often combined with related fungi, such as shiitake, hoelen, or polyporus. Results may develop after about 1 to 2 weeks. It is often taken continually for its presumed overall health benefits.

Safety Issues

Reishi appears to be extremely safe. Occasional side effects include mild digestive upset, dry mouth, and skin rash. Reishi can "thin" the blood slightly, and therefore should not be combined with drugs such as Coumadin (warfarin) or heparin. Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.

Interactions You Should Know About

If you are taking blood-thinning medications such as Coumadin (warfarin) or heparin, use reishi only under a doctor's supervision.

I was wondering if you could give me some advice on what types of herbs to use for chronic bronchitis?  I  would like to use something other than antibiotics to help my body heal its self. I find the antibiotics are making it worse instead of better. I am really desperately trying to stay away from the pharmaceutical ways. I know my body can heal itself I'm just not sure what to use. 

I have answered other questions on chronic infections search my other questions and answers online.

Chronic bronchitis or any other infection is a sign of weakened immune systems.  I would use immune Amphoterics such as the medicinal mushrooms, Ganoderma, Shitake, Maitake, Chaga and immune potentiators such as Astragalus (chronic) and Echinacea (acute).

In addition you may need to clean up your diet, look for food allergies.

Environmental factors can also play a role, where do you work, what are the conditions, does your house have carpeting, dry heat, many things can cause or make you prone or susceptible to infections.

What can you tell me about getting Osha, for respiratory problems? 

Osha, Bear root, Latin Named: Ligusticum porterii is a Native American herb and is very warming and hot in its energetics. It is appropriately used for cold and wet, clear or white mucus infections such as head colds, bronchitis, flu and sore throats and is not appropriate for yellow or green mucus or hot and dry conditions. It has also been used to move stuck blood such as in amenorrhea in women and can calm the digestive tract when colds and flu are affecting it with a carminative action. It has also been used to treat acute asthma attacks and conditions. It is not to be used long-term but appropriate for acute conditions and has the following contraindications, pregnancy, gastritis, gastric ulcers, (PID) Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, nephritis and when infections have hot dry energetics because it will make them worse.