The respiratory system is comprised of multiple organs that work together to support breathing. To perform optimally, respiratory airways need to be open during inhalation and exhalation and free from inflammation and excess amounts of mucus.
Irritation, damage, infection, inflammation and allergic immune response in the respiratory tract can lead to respiratory congestion, cough, allergies, asthma, sinusitis, bronchitis, infection and other respiratory ailments.
Luckily, multiple herbal ingredients are available to help soothe irritated tissues in the respiratory tract, encourage the entire respiratory tract to gently cleanse itself, and assist the body in neutralizing allergens. Mullein leaves, horseradish root, althea root, stinging nettle leaves and thyme are commonly suggested.
Mullein leaves (Verbascum thapsus) have a history of soothing inflammation of the mucous membrane that lines the respiratory tract. Active compounds in mullein leaves include saponins, mucilage and tannins. The mucilaginous compounds in particular provide soothing actions for sensitive mucous membranes.
The distinctive flavor and aroma of horseradish root (Armoracia rusticana) is due to the volatile oils it contains. These oils are also associated with its therapeutic benefits. Consuming horseradish promotes blood flow in nasal passages and sinus tissues, helping to relieve upper respiratory congestion. Its antispasmodic activity may help to reduce spasms in the respiratory tract.
Althea root (Althaea officinalis) contains mucilaginous polysaccharides that can soothe and protect mucous membranes of the respiratory system from irritation by forming a protective layer. Althea mucilage has also been shown to stimulate immune response, suppress cough and promote healing.
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has a long history of medicinal use. Today, there is evidence that stinging nettle leaves might improve nasal allergy symptoms. Starting stinging nettle at the first sign of symptoms seems to provide improvement.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), a regularly used culinary herb, may aid in relieving multiple respiratory concerns including sore throat, asthma, hay fever and irritable cough. Research studies show that thyme has expectorant, antibacterial and antispasmodic activities.