When looking for herbal respiratory remedies, are you confused in a health food store, or a drugstore? You want something for your respiratory ailment, but there are so many products? Which will be effective? Which ones could you avoid?
It would help if you knew what some of the terms you find on the packages mean. Like what exact is anti-catarrhal? Or, demulcent? Let's spell out a brief glossary here, and offer some hints for guiding your choices. I can't speak for the pharmaceutical field, but I've learned some terms that herbalists use.
1. Anti-catarrhal - herbs with this property can take care of the mucous that has build up in your sinuses, or ears and throat. You know that phlegm that often sticks to the back of your throat? That is catarrh. Sometimes it is known as post-nasal drip, because it is coming from your nose or sinus cavities, and you are slowly swallowing that stuff. If it is infected, you may end up with tummy problems too.
Herbs: Bayberry bark, coltsfoot, golden seal, Indian hemp, lungwort, marshmallow, mullein, white pine, sanicle, skunk cabbage, sarsaparilla, bloodroot, comfrey, fringe tree, buchu, and powdered oak bark.
2. Expectorant - are herbs that give you a boost in breaking up and clearing, and getting that phlegm or catarrh OUT of your lungs and sinuses.
Herbs: coltsfoot, comfrey, elecampane, grindelia, licorice, marshmallow, mullein
3. Astringent - herbs that cut back on secretion and discharges, and tighten up the tissues that feel soggy and stretched in your head. This is where I usually need herbal respiratory remedies.
Herbs: slippery elm, raspberry leaf, blackberry root, meadowsweet.
4. Demulcent - these herbs have a more reverse effect. When your throat or mouth and nasal passages are so raw and dried out that you would gladly have some moisture, an herb with a demulcent effect, will put a soothing mucilage or lubricant in those areas.
Herbs: slippery elm, comfrey root, mullein leaf, marshmallow.
5. Anti-spasmodic - you want these herbs when you have developed spasms of coughing and wheezing. They will ease down, or hold back that desperate need to cough. Although, you should remember that if you do have an inflamed mass of mucous in your lungs, you want to cough it out, or you will only grow sicker and have pneumonia or pleurisy next. So do allow yourself, or your child, to cough as much as possible if you are able to bring up the yucky mess. If not, use the expectorant herbs first, then take the anti-spasmodic ones when you desperately need to rest from the coughing.
Herbs: cramp bark, passion flower, lobelia, skullcap, valerian, boneset.
6. Anti-microbial - are the herbs that deal with infections and inflammation in your body. You want to be rid of those crazy little micro-organisms before they cause you serious problems. Not every cough or sneeze is due to pathogenic microbes, but when it is clear that is the cause, you want to use these herbal respiratory remedies - rather than prescription drugs.
Herbs: echinacea, golden seal, ginger, garlic, boneset, osha, usnea.
7. Anti-inflammatories - these herbs are called for when you have reached the inflammatory stage. When everything is red, hot, and truly sick.
8. Nevine relaxants - when you have been coughing and hacking away for quite a while, your chest will sometimes seize up, and you can hardly relax enough to breath. In fact, asthma shows up. This is when you need to relax your nerves so you can get some rest.
9. Diaphoretic - sometimes you need to sweat it out, to get rid of toxins and reduce fever. These herbs help you to cast off some toxins through your skin. (Did you know herbal respiratory remedies can do this too?)
Herbs: cayenne, peppermint, ginger, catnip, elder flower, elecampane, garlic, yarrow.
That is likely your next question. For some, it is hard to go out in the natural meadows and woodlands to look for these herbs, and dry them. Especially if you need their benefits right now. Make it a long-range goal to learn more about the plants and where to find them. As I keep saying, many of them are under our feet, and beside our sidewalks.
However, it is possible to buy herbal respiratory remedies, herbs, ready picked and cleaned and often prepared as teas or capsules you can take painlessly.