In winter and the quality of our indoor airspace and amount of fresh-air activity breaks we take, greatly affect our overall respiratory health and our susceptibility to illness. Do you inhabit work, school and home environments that are heated, closed to outside air circulation and stuffy? Unless properly ventilated, this indoor airspace contains the residue of carbon monoxide (from burning propane or kerosene heat) or particulate matter (from wood-burning stoves or dust from forced air heating), plus the circulation of chemicals such as, petroleum residue from burning paraffin wax candles and chemicals from incense, air-fresheners or detergents. Add to that unseen molds and mildew that proliferate in damp un-circulating air, and you have a recipe for stressing, and consequently weakening, your respiratory system.
The fastest way for a substance to enter the bloodstream is through the lungs, so it’s important to make sure your heat sources burn clean and are adequately ventilated. Chose household products that are eco-friendly and non-irritating to your personal ecosystem. Reduce the likelihood of molds by increasing air circulation (open window, fans, dehumidifiers) in rooms where moisture accumulates. Wipe down tile and windowsills with a cloth that has essential oils of thyme, oregano or eucalyptus.
If you live in an environment that is poorly ventilated, or smoke-filled, then consider getting an air-filter. If you have chlorinated tap water, get a filter for your showerhead as well as for your drinking water, since breathing in steamy chlorinated air, is one of the worst hazards for the lungs. When cleaning house, use a mask to protect you from exposure to dust and molds.
Still, we’re all bound to get dust, mold or bacterial accumulations in our nasal passages. This build-up of particulate matter can be remedied by using a netti pot to flush out nostrils once a week. The accumulation of irritants in nasal passages activates the lymph system to produce excess mucus, which eventually burdens a healthy immune response. The netti pot flush is a simple warm salt water solution that is poured into one nostril, as you lower and lean your head to the side, the water flows through the upper sinuses and out the other nostril. If you have a sinus infection, you can add up to one-half part of an herbal tea, like calendula flower, thyme or rosemary to treat it. You can also add a bit of colloidal silver or a few drops of goldenseal tincture.
Essential plant oils can really improve air quality and deter microbes. Powerful oils in this regard are: rosemary, thyme, eucalyptus, ravensara, oregano, lemon, bay, bergamot and pine/cedar/fir. Use as air sprays (add oil drops to distilled water in a small spray bottle), in essential oil burners, or mixed into a carrier oil or lotion, and gently rubbed onto your chest.
Add these oils to a hot bath or facial steam to inhale them into your sinuses and lungs. Boost your immune system from the inside, using these oils in their whole-herb form by adding generous amounts of fresh or dried rosemary, oregano an thyme to your cooking to your food.
Herbs can stimulate circulation and help the body move mucus out. There is nothing like horseradish for this, whether as a side sauce, or the wasabi paste on your sushi. Other favorites are hot peppers (salsa, chili, curry dishes), ginger, cardamom and cinnamon. A stimulating wellness formula that can be taken daily is Supertonic (see Favorite Recipes on this site).
The best (and most fun) way to clear your lungs is still to “go outside and play!” A brisk walk, run, bike ride, cross-country ski in fresh, outdoor air has the greatest benefits for over-all health. Do this for at least 20 minutes four times a week to expel particulate matter and lingering mucus from the lower lungs.
When exercising in cold weather, be sure to dress warmly so you can work up a sweat that will vitalize your lymph system and move toxins out the pores of your skin. If you’ve been perspiring heavily, take a warm shower and remove waste from the skin with a loofa scrub. If you can’t get out to exercise vigorously – do what you can! Dance around the house, sing, practice deep breathing, do some yoga, chi gong or hop on a mini trampoline. Keep it up and soon spring will be here!