In Ayurveda, we emphasize prana, or the vital life force. It is known in Chinese medicine as chi or qi. In Vedic astrology, we use the first breath to determine the time of birth. Our lungs are breath-promoting organs. They allow us to take in oxygen from the air and remove carbon dioxide from our system. Thus, it’s vital to have healthy lungs. Here is an Ayurvedic perspective on keeping our lungs healthy.
The ancient yogic scriptures describe how we are given a certain number of breaths in this life. Therefore, the more that we are able to harness our breath, the greater our life span.
Given the recent spread of wildfires in Northern California, people have been breathing toxic air from the smoke and it’s having an adverse impact on their lungs and overall health. While it’s not always possible to stay indoors, there are some things which you can do to help maintain healthy lungs.
Types of lung disorders
First, it’s important to evaluate what Ayurvedic dosha may be out of balance in regards to your lungs.
- If you are experiencing a dry throat and cough or a hoarse voice, then it’s a Vata imbalance. Asthma is also a Vata condition. You want to minimize dry, uncooked, and cold foods. Favor warm, well cooked foods. You can gargle with organic sesame oil or with Daily Swish oil.
- If you are having a lung infection, yellow phlegm or are spitting up blood, then there is internal inflammation and it’s a Pitta disorder. You want to minimize spicy hot foods, citrus, vinegar, and fermented foods.
- If you are experiencing a productive cough, congestion, frequents colds, pneumonia, or swollen lymph nodules, then it’s a Kapha disorder. You should eliminate dairy, sweets, and oily foods in order to have healthy lungs.
Ayurveda states that the lungs are a primary site for Kapha dosha to lodge. Kapha is thick, heavy, slow, cool, and dense.
Each bodily organ also has an emotional correlation in Ayurveda. The lungs are the seat of grief and sadness. If these emotions build up in our bodies and are left untended, then we can experience lung disorders. For example, when we feel very sad, we often cry and have difficulty catching our breath.
- Keep your body warm and dress in layers. Use scarves and hats to prevent cold air from entering your body. Wear socks at night to improve circulation. Avoid exposure to drafts.
- Practice pranayama or breathing exercises to assist with proper respiration. You can find many videos online to guide you. My favorite instructional pranayama dvd was created by Dr. Vasant Lad.
- Diffuse essential oils in your home, office, and bedroom. They will help the respiratory tract. Use eucalyptus essential oil, frankincense essential oil, cypress oil, thyme oil, or a respiratory blend.
- Deal with lingering emotional issues with techniques such as meditation, journaling, prayer, visualization, counseling, or support groups. Learn to express your emotions to close friends and family, rather than holding everything inside.
- Avoid excess dairy, sweets, fried foods, and heavy foods if you have lung congestion. Don’t eat your heaviest meal at the end of the day. Allow at least 4 hours for your food to digest before going to sleep.
- Drink warm drinks rather than chilled drinks. Licorice tea or ginger tea support the lungs. (Do not take licorice in excess if you have hypertension.)
- Use Ayurvedic supplements to strengthen your lungs. Take a bronchial syrup to ease congestion.
- Carry a throat spray with you when you are traveling to keep your throat lubricated and boost your immunity.
- Try nasya oil to aid with the proper flow of prana. (Do not use nasya when you are menstruating or if you are nursing or pregnant.)
- Don’t use a microwave, as it kills the prana of the food. Use the stove to heat all food and drinks. Carry food in a stainless steel thermos to the office rather than microwaving it.
- For persistent cough and congestion, try mixing a little sitopaladi powder with raw honey and taking it a few times a day.
- Use warming spices such as cinnamon, fresh ginger or ginger powder, whole cloves or clove powder, whole cardamom pods or the powder, and black pepper in your cooking.
- Drink turmeric tea. Turmeric is a natural antibiotic. It’s anti-viral and anti-bacterial. Take 1 tsp of organic turmeric powder and mix it in hot water and drink with your meals or alone.
Invest in a highly rated air purifier for your home and office, as the smoke from the fires also seeps into residences and offices. Staying indoors won’t keep you entirely safe. Make sure you wear a N95 mask or higher when you are outdoors.
As with all herbal routines, it’s not advised to discontinue any allopathic medicine without consulting your primary care physician. Please consult a qualified medical or holistic professional if you have a chronic condition.
Keep in mind that good health is an ongoing process. Maintaining the capacity and strength of your vital organs, including healthy lungs, is a lifelong process. However, your daily actions can have an incremental impact in harnessing radiant health. You can do so with the help of Ayurveda and other natural methods.
Also published on Medium.