How does life start? With a simple breath. It is a fragile vessel that carries our body from birth to death. According to Sharangdhara Samhita, the physiological process of Shvasana (breathing) is carried out when Shuddha Vayu (oxygenated air) is inhaled, and Vishuddha Vayu (deoxygenated air) is exhaled. Shvasankriya or respiration consists of two alternative processes, i.e., Nishvas (inspiration) and Ucchvas (expiration).
As per the most ancient Upanishad, Chandogyopanishad, a human can survive without a body part such as eyes, hands, or legs but cannot function without two essential elements - breathing and food. The breath and food supply energy to all parts of the body. Prana, a sub-dosha of Vata, flows inwards towards the lungs. The lungs' job is to provide the human body with oxygen essential to sustain life.
READ MORE: Prana: Everything You Need To Know
Substances and various energies move throughout the human body via distinct physical and energetic channels known as srotamsi. According to Ayurvedic scriptures, the Pranavaha Srotas or the transport system of Prana (vital energy of life), oxygen and vitality consists of several organs:
Mukhavivara (mouth organ)
Ayurvedic scholars have also emphasized that this respiratory system partially influences one's mental well-being, metabolism rate, and excretory functions.
Like all body parts, even the lungs occasionally go through wear and tear owing to several factors. These could include toxins, pollutants, and constant exposure to tobacco, dust, perfume, smoke, or microbes. When too much Vata (air or space) gets accumulated in the lungs, one can experience asthma, dry cough, hoarseness of the voice, pain while breathing, wheezing, or lung allergies.
Ayurveda mentions some essential factors that cause the disorder of the lungs:
Holding in natural urges such as the need to urinate or sneeze. It causes a chain reaction in the body that affects the functioning of the lungs.
Emotional stress or an overload of grief also affects the Bala (immunity) of the lungs.
Heavy lifting while exercising can cause strain on the lungs owing to the additional weight one carries, thus reducing oxygen intake.
Improper diet and poor digestion are factors that affect the lungs resulting in the release of ama or toxins.
External factors such as pollutants in the air or toxins such as smoke, smog, dust, pollen, or even dirt enter the lungs while breathing.
Seasonal changes add to respiratory problems.
The impact of doshas on the lungs
An imbalanced or vitiated Pitta can lead to infectious respiratory conditions such as bronchial disorders, respiratory tract infections, and changes in spit color.
Excessive Vata can result in asthma, hoarse voice, disrupted breathing, persistent cough, and other respiratory allergies.
An imbalanced Kapha is often linked to mucus-related symptoms such as cough, cold, and congestion. It results in phlegm formation, hay fever, swelling of glands, or even pneumonia.
READ MORE: Asthma Causes, Management + Ayurvedic Treatments + Home Remedies
Consuming the right ayurvedic herbs plays a key role in strengthening and healing the lungs while aiding respiratory function in the body. Some of them are:
Tulsi or Indian Holy Basil
A common ingredient found in every household, tulsi is known to be naturally rich in antioxidants, zinc, and Vitamin C. As an immunity booster, it also contains antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties, thus aiding in respiratory health. When consumed appropriately, tulsi can help detoxify the blood while relieving bronchitis, asthma, influenza, cough, and cold symptoms.
Recommended use: Add basil leaves to your tea or add it to brewed hot water to counter sinusitis or the common cold.
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Yashtimadhu or Licorice
Licorice is considered one of the world’s oldest herbal remedies for respiratory conditions. It contains the primary active compound glycyrrhizin, which helps boost lung capacity. According to scientific research, it contains antibacterial, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties making it suitable for fighting chronic conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
Recommended use: Chop licorice root or brew it with tea and consume it three times a day to lubricate the lung lining.
Vasaka or Malabar Nut
The Vasaka is a plant rich in phytochemicals such as tannins, saponins, alkaloids, and flavonoids. It also contains several anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and expectorant benefits that help relieve conditions such as sore throat, hoarse voice, nasal congestion, and sinusitis. As a powerful supporter of the bronchial system in the human body, it also helps loosen phlegm and thin bronchial secretions and aids comfortable breathing.
Recommended use: Use Vasaka with honey to support regular deep breathing.
Pippali or Long Pepper
An effective herb that helps manage cough and cold, Pippali or long pepper contains anti-inflammatory properties that support lung function and fight respiratory infections. It has the active component piperine along with expectorant, carminative and anti-infective properties that may also help manage bronchial asthma in children. It is an excellent source to help release mucus.
Recommended use: Boil a few peppercorns in milk and drink up to release sinus.
Shunthi or Dry Ginger
For years together, ginger has been considered a natural immunity booster due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Whether consumed as a powder or in its fresh grated form, ginger helps break down mucus while aiding good lung health. This easily found Asian root is anti-inflammatory and contains compounds such as gingerols and shaogals. It helps soothe throat pain and cough.
Recommended use: Make a ginger tea concoction to help soothe the throat.
Kalmegh or Green Chiretta
Protecting the body against damaging free radicals, Kalmegh is apt to relieve upper respiratory health during any seasonal changes. Known as a bitter herb, it contains antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory compounds. The timely use of this herb helps relieve symptoms of the common cold, sinusitis, and allergies that affect the lungs.
Recommended use: Since kalmegh tastes extremely bitter, add a sweetener such as honey or date syrup.
Elaichi or Cardamom
Known for its medicinal properties, cardamom helps maintain optimum lung health owing to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The active ingredient cineole can break down mucus, expel it out of the body, and thus reduce inflammation. Those suffering from chronic conditions such as asthma, pneumonia, or bronchitis can use this herb. Certain compounds in cardamom also help increase airflow to the lung while improving breathing.
Recommended use: Include cardamom in your daily brewed tea or add it as a spice in your meals to improve oxygen intake.
Sometimes, people suffer from respiratory disorders, also known as Swasa Roga in Ayurvedic terms. These ailments can be classified as Shwasa (breathing difficulty), Kasa (cough), Pratishyaya (rhinitis), and Peenasa (sinusitis). The remedy for these conditions is improved lung health.
In addition to using natural Ayurvedic herbs, ensuring you undertake other Ayurvedic practices that boost respiratory health is essential. Some of them include the following:
Avoiding the consumption of excessively oily, processed, or junk food. Incorporating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle by avoiding Kapha-stimulating foods and strengthening the respiratory and immune systems.
Increasing the oxygen-intake capacity of the lungs by practicing Pranayam to boost your immunity to fight lung disease. Ujjayi, Shitali, and Anulom Vilom are commonly recommended therapies.
Practicing the art of Kavala or Gandusha, which is gargling an edible oil (sesame or coconut) to reduce the risk of allergies in the respiratory system.
Regularly undertaking Vasp Swedana of inhaling steam with a few drops of eucalyptus oil to expel pollutants or smoke.
Enhance the body and mind through breathwork and movement in yoga while maximizing the vital flow of oxygen throughout the system.
While Ayurveda recommends avoiding smoking altogether to maintain a healthy, balanced life, smokers can also follow some tips to keep the lungs healthy.
Practicing the art of meditation, focusing on basic mindfulness and breath awareness.
Yoga postures such as Surya namaskar and chest-opening asanas, including the cobra and camel pose, help open up the lungs and restore respiratory health.
Sipping ginger tea can also help improve lung health and aid immunity owing to its anti-inflammatory nature.
Including honey in your daily diet can also help reduce inflammation, oxidative damage, and microbes in the lungs.
Consuming Indian holy basil or tulsi, with its bioactive components and antimicrobial properties, can help improve lung health.
READ MORE: What Happens To Your Body When You Quit Smoking | Ayurvedic Herbal Smoking (Dhumpana) + Other Natural Ways To Quit
Healthy lungs being Prana or vitality to life. Following these basic Ayurvedic practices and including these natural medical herbs can help prevent illness and nurture the lungs to maintain their life-sustaining role.
It is essential to prioritize the body to heal the lungs. With some insight and careful assessment, you can diligently monitor your lung health and keep those chronic respiratory conditions at bay. Take a deep breath in, and begin your quest for lifelong healthy Ayurvedic practices with The Ayurveda Experience.
Please consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner/doctor before following the recommendations mentioned in this article.
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