To breathe is to be alive. The ancients knew this and cultivated whole rituals around deep breathing exercises and techniques. Yoga, one of the more famous transplants of the Indian traditions adopted by the west is, at its core, about breathing deeply and cultivating pranayama. Most disciplined exercises from Qi Gong, Aikido and Tai Chi are also about cultivating breath or qi, the life force or energy. The following herbs can help you cultivate your own qi.
Huang Qi (Astragalus membranaceus)
This versatile herb is one of the best herbs to tonify lung qi. Its warming and moistening effects help nourish dry and damaged lungs. It is specific for asthma, dry coughs and people suffering from shortness of breath.
Preparation: 2 tsp. root to 12 oz. Water, decoct 20 mins., steep 30 mins.
Dose: 3 cups, daily.
Do not use to treat influenza or other bacterial or viral diseases as it causes stagnation.
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
Non-irritating expectorant. That means, when you have a cough or even laryngitis, smoking this in combination with the other herbs suggested below can reduce irritation. A tea can also be made of the dried leaves for bronchitis, pertussis and asthma.
Preparation: 2 tsp. dried leaves to 8 oz. hot water. Steep 40 mins.
Dose: Drink 2-3 times, daily.
Dang Shen (Codonopsis pilosula)
If you suffer from a dry cough and shortness of breath, Codonopsis is your herb! A qi tonic for people who suffer from deficient lung qi, Dang Shen nourishes and moistens the lungs.
Preparation: 2 tsp. dried root to 16oz. Water, decoct 30 mins. steep 1-2 hours.
Dose: Drink 2 cups, daily.
Do not drink if you have diarrhea.
Prince Seng (Pseudostellaria heterophylla)
The “Ginseng of the lungs,” this root has it all. Not only does this root restore damage from too much heat or dryness, but it can also help alleviate bronchitis, hot pneumonia, COPD and even emphysema. Useful to replenish vital energy and reduce symptoms of ashthma.
Preparation: 1-2 tsp. root to 12 oz. Water, decoct 30 mins., steep 1 hour
Dose: 4 small cups daily.
Do not use for damp lung conditions with mucous and do not exceed more than 16 oz. daily.
Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis)
A caterpillar fungus with an alter ego! This fungus is so powerful that it's been used traditionally as a tonic for pulmonary tuberculosis.
Preparation: ¼ tsp. with other herbs (any of the above or more traditional, chamomile, etc.) to 10 oz. Water, decoct 15 mins., steep 1 hour
Dose: 2 cups, daily
Do not exceed recommended dosage.
BONUS: You can go one step further and combine all the dried herbs below.
A part can be ¼ cup, ½ cup, 1 cup, etc. depending on how much of the blend you'd like to make.
- Mullein - 3 parts
- Mugwort (slight mind-altering effects. Also welcomes dreaming) – 2 parts
- Peppermint or lavender (for flavor) – 1 part
Lauraine Velez is an experienced clinical herbalist who trained at the David Winston’s Center for Herbal Studies. She uses Traditional Chinese Medicine along with Western, Ayurvedic, Middle Eastern and Cherokee herbal traditions. She's the founder of Apothecratic Oath.