Breathe Easy

Natural remedies for healthy lungs.


| July/August 2006



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Lung disease kills one out of seven people in the United States each year. That’s nearly 342,000 Americans. Not only is lung disease a leading cause of death — fourth behind heart disease, cancer and stroke — but more than 35 million Americans live with chronic lung disease, according to the American Lung Association.

One of the most common medical conditions treated by primary care physicians is sinusitis, an infection of the sinus cavities. A costly disease, sinusitis affects more than 14 percent of the population and accounts for more than $2 billion in annual health-care costs. If we add up all the other respiratory diagnoses, such as bronchitis, asthma and lung cancer, it is obvious that conditions of the lungs and sinuses make up a pretty large chunk of the health problems people face.

Understanding the Lungs

Our lungs are the site of gas exchange: They are how we extract oxygen, required by every cell every minute, from the air we inhale and infuse it into the bloodstream. In the course of a single day, we inhale an amazing 8,000 to 9,000 liters of air. The air then meets the 8,000 to 10,000 liters of blood pumped through the pulmonary artery.

Although the lungs are located deep inside the chest, they are actually a continuation of the skin membrane that has folded into the lining of the respiratory cavity. As such, they share a common characteristic with external organs: They are constantly exposed to the world outside. With each breath, myriad alien substances enter the lungs — pollen, dust, microbes, animal dander, tobacco smoke and air pollution.

Natural medicines for the lungs are plentiful, but prevention (for example, avoiding smoking) is the key. If you have a history of lung weakness, add a daily dose of a general lung tonic and notice just how many fewer lung-related health issues you face. Remember the old Chinese saying: “Treating a disease that is underway is like trying to make weapons while a war is already occurring.”

Common Lung Problems

The skin, digestive tract and urinary tract share similarities with the lungs, so remedies for these organ systems often overlap with lung remedies. The skin, digestive tract and urinary tract are lined with mucous membranes. These membranes tend to get inflamed and to have problems with fluid flow — too much or too little — across the membrane. So it is with the lungs. Common respiratory problems include bronchitis or asthma, caused by inflammation; congestion or pneumonia, caused by too much fluid (mucus or sputum); and irritated tissue or unproductive cough, caused by too little fluid.





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