illustration by Ann Leda Shapiro
In the midst of Covid-19, I wanted to offer some Ayurvedic health ideas to keep the lung tissue healthy. We all have our achilleas heel in the body and the lungs have been mine throughout my life. They have given me many learning opportunities and I hope that some of this will be helpful.
Like so many people, I suffered from allergies as a kid and always seemed to have a prolonged cough at the end of my colds. When I hit early adulthood, the allergies and coughs continued. I had a bout with pneumonia that landed me in the ER and developed debilitating chronic sinusitis that lasted over 8 years. Today, I still have seasonal allergies, but they are managed with herbs and I no longer suffer from sinusitis.
So, here is what I’ve learned:
First, the sinus/lung tissue is directly related to our digestion.
This may not seem intuitive, but the lining of the stomach and digestive organs is very similar to the lining of the lung/sinus tissue. In Ayurveda we work with universal qualities and how they affect the body holistically. When the cold, wet, heavy qualities build up, we will produce excess phlegm in the stomach which can then spill over into the lungs and sinuses.
The remedy: Keep your digestive fire strong.
This can be done by:
• Healthy eating habits—meals should be at least 3 hours apart. Eat when hungry, without over-eating.
• Try drinking warm water with a squeeze of lemon with your meals and throughout the day.
• Cook with digestive-aiding spices: ginger, fennel, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric, cumin, basil
• Reduce Stress. (see yoga and pranayama below) Yes, by staying calm and relaxed you help your digestion tremendously. Persistent low-level stress hormones create contraction, and eventually blockage in the GI tract, causing more sensitivity and adverse reactions to foods.
• Know which foods produce congestion for you and keep those foods to a minimum.
Care for the sinuses/lungs:
• Nasya: (use a neti pot prior if you have excess phlegm) This is my #1 ayurvedic tool for sinus/lung tissue health. These nasal drops nourish the lung tissue and brain, mitigate dry sinus passages and also provide a protective barrier against allergens and viruses.
• Take lung enhancing herbs like: pippali (long pepper), tulsi, cardamom, cinnamon, and licorice. I recently tried to order some formulas that have all these herbs but they are backordered. Wah! But you can get tulsi separately and tulsi tea. Bonus, Tulsi is also an adaptogenic and helps with stress. I also make a blend of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and ginger and keep it in a spice bottle. I put a teaspoon in my oatmeal or yogurt in the morning. The spice mix is 2 parts cinnamon to 1 part of each of the other spices.
• When experiencing allergies or, just prior to the season you experience allergies in, start taking aller-rest. (see link): This is a common formula found in many herbal allergy blends. Try to find one with nettles, quercetin, bromelain, acetyl-cysteine and vitamin C.
• Pranayama is a direct way to enhance our lung health and energy levels. Try doing any of these practices followed by relaxed comfortable breathing: Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breath), Kapalabhati (breath of fire), Kumbaka (retention after inhale) with the three bhandas (body locks at pelvic floor, belly center and chin lock), bhastrika (bellows breath).
• Yoga. Focus on expanding the chest by: lying over a bolster or on a blanket under the shoulder blades, Cat/cow, cobra, bow pose, shalabasana, slow sun salutations with full even breaths.
lung formula (currently backordered)