It seems as if the moment the weather gets cool and damp, people are more susceptible to lung conditions such as bronchitis and pneumonia or flu that turns into pneumonia. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, viruses, mycoplasma, fungi or exposure to particulate matter (read more about types of pneumonia at http://www.lung.org). Often doctors will prescribe antibiotics, even without culturing the disease. If it is bacterial in origin, antibiotics may help the body get over the worst part, so you feel better, but you are left with severe fatigue, foggy-brained, increased mucus and a cough that still scares your friends! Not only that, there is a good chance you still have the pathogens in your system (especially if they are viral and antibiotics haven’t touched them) and excess mucus is their jungle gym! What to do?
1. Drink 4 cups a day of a lung decoction. That means a tea that is simmered, covered on the stove for 20-30 minutes then let sit another 10 minutes covered before drinking. Easiest to make a quart pot in the morning and leave the herbs sitting in all day as you drink by the cupfuls (reheating each cup). My favorite blend is: 2 parts each of osha root (sustainably harvested only), elecampagne, slippery elm bark, burdock root and pleurisy root to 1 part each of licorice root, cinnamon chips and ginger. After your decoction cooks and you are ready to pour it into your cup, get your face right above it and deeply breathe the essential oils of these herbs! Breathe in the steam of every cup. Keep drinking this tea every day for one week, then every-other-day the second week.
2. Buy a 1oz bottle of Lomatium root (Lomatium dissectum) tincture and add 10 drops to each cup of tea you drink for the first week. Lomatium is a powerful antiviral with an affinity for respiratory illness, especially when combined with other herbs.
3. You will need to rest more – yes, sleep. However additionally you must keep moving the lungs with deep breathing and light aerobic exercise like walking, trampoline, Chi Qong, biking. I don’t recommend swimming if you are doing so in chlorine.
4. Hot baths, footbaths and sweat all move mucus! Drink plenty of water to help thin fluids so they move out easier.
5. Make sure bowels are open and moving regularly – extra fiber and triphala (3-fruit Ayruvedic herb formula) help. Especially true if you still coughing up mucus. Avoid foods that make more mucus (refined flour, sugar, fried foods, dairy, though soft-boiled eggs OK) and smoking of any kind. When you feel strong and energetically recovered but are still coughing up phlegm in the morning – a 5-day post illness bowel cleanse usually does the trick! In fact I recommend this to clear the lungs and avoid relapse of the illness.
6. Eat/drink iron and zinc rich foods (nettle pesto with pumpkin seeds), superfoods, seaweeds, soups and stews with organic bone broth and root vegetables. Keep your sinuses open with spicy foods (curries, wasabi, salsa, cayenne, ginger, radishes).
7. Chest rubs and back rubs with essential oils of rosemary, thyme, peppermint/menthol or eucalyptus help stimulate deeper expectoration.
8. Be present to the feelings that come up with this illness. The lungs are where we process grief and also symbolize us taking up space in the world. Take some time out for yourself.