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Herbal Healing - Respiratory Problems With Helen Mc Cormack

Friday, 21 November 2008

Today we'll be looking at herbs to help with respiratory problems such as coughs, asthma, congestion and bronchitis.
As we approach Winter and the days are damp many people may find problems such as those listed above recurring.

Using herbs for the respiratory system
Most of us will have had our share of coughs and colds and some of us will have had bouts of flu, sinus and other problems over the years. Babies and young children tend to get more respiratory ailments as it is their first exposure to a virus and they are only building up their immunity. In general, we can recover quite well from these mostly viral illness as they tend to be self-limiting.

Many of the antibiotics prescribed for respiratory ailments are unnecessary and people can successfully self-treat with herbs for the majority of coughs, bronchitis and upper respiratory infections that bring them to the GP at this time of the year. As a general principle, eat more lightly when you have a bad cold or flu, avoid too much dairy, and refined products. Diet is also very important for people with sinus problems or for those who suffer from asthma.
In this session we will look at common herbs that assist with coughs, colds, bronchitis and reducing problems for those with asthma.

Ireland has a high rate of asthma sufferers and it is a serious condition. However, many people will be using inhalers from a young age and it is unwise to suddenly stop. I would recommend seeking the advice of a professional herbal practitioner if wishing to take herbal medicine for this condition. All these herbs can be taken in tea or tincture form and some are ingredients in the many natural cough remedies available over the counter in a good health store or pharmacy.

This is an excellent herb for coughs as it is an effective expectorant, yet can soothe dry, irritable coughs. It works well for asthmatic conditions due to its anti-spasmodic action on the bronchi.

Very useful for treating sore throats or tonsillitis when used as a gargle and combined with sage.

This herb is very common throughout Europe and elsewhere. It has a gentle healing action on inflamed mucous membranes, yet aids expectoration.

It also has an astringent action which reduces the amount of catarrh produced, so helping to relieve congestion.

Soothes mucous membranes, excellent as a cough remedy and also has a steroidal action which helps in inflammation. Pleasant tasting and sweet, it is a classic ingredient in cough remedies.


A poultice made from flaxseed is a tried and tested remedy for pleurisy or pneumonia. This should be used in conjunction with herbs such as elecampane, garlic and mullein taken internally.

Using a handful of semi-ground seed, add some boiling water and stir until it has the consistency of thick paste, Spread this paste on linen or muslin cloth to about 1 cm in thickness. Apply as hot as possible to the chest and leave for at least two hours. Repeat some hours later or the following day. You can add potency to the mix by adding mustard powder to the linseed but I would not recommend this for young children or those with sensitive skin.

Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus is a powerful antiseptic and makes an effective inhalation for bronchitis and other respiratory infections. Put in a couple of drops into a bowl of boiling water and cover head with towel. Inhale for 7 - 10 minutes.

Other inhalations such as chamomile flowers or Chamomile essential oil are useful for sinusitis.

For More Information
Helen McCormack has had a herbal practice in Marino, Dublin since 1994 upon completion of her training with the National Institute of Medical Herbalists.
She is also qualified in the field of Health Promotion and often combines short courses on health and wellbeing with the use of herbs for self-care.
To make an appointment with Helen you can e-mail her at: