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Respiratory Conditions

Although antibiotics are sometimes required for respiratory conditions, there is often a lot that can be done to prevent respiratory susceptibility by ensuring proper hygiene, addressing air quality [4.8] [4.9] and avoiding mucous forming foods. [4.20]

In case of Upper and Lower Respiratory Tract Infections (URTI and LRTI) antimicrobials may be needed if the infection is severe. To reduce antimicrobial resistance due to overuse it is important to address the underlying cause, to distinguish between viral and bacterial infection, to strengthen immune health and respiratory function by preventing serious infections and avoid the need of antimicrobials. There are manifold options to prevent URTI and LRTI infections from a naturopathic perspective. 

Naturopathic Approach

Tips on strengthening lung function:

  • Nasal rinsing with isotonic saline solution [4.47]


  • Inhalations with sage leaves and gargles with sage oil. Effect of sage (salvia officinalis) is antibacterial, fungistatic and virustatic [4.3] mixed with anisseed and agrimonia is extremely effective



The following may be helpful to prevent chronic respiratory tract infections:

Naturopathic treatment is individualized and dependent on determining the cause of the symptoms.  It may include:

  • Diet & Lifestyle: Modifications to diet are generally part of the treatment regimen whether you require antibiotics are not.  The general dietary guidelines include avoiding mucous forming foods such as dairy, wheat, yeast, sugar, bananas and excess fruit are avoided while recovering.  Drink plenty of liquids and choose warm foods such as soup (low in salt), diluted vegetables juices and herbal teas. [4.24]


  • Medicinal Foods: Foods that have medicinal properties and that may be helpful in treating or managing respiratory conditions include: onions, garlic, fennel, cloves, green tea, horseradish and cinnamon.  Spices that are known to be helpful include thyme, peppermint, sage and oregano.  Medicinal foods and spices can be added to food or may be used on their own as a tea, tincture or supplement. [4.3]


  • Exercise is preventative against respiratory infections, but when you have symptoms it is best to minimize exercise and to focus on rest, adequate sleep and allowing the body to heal. [4.36]

  • Steam Inhalation on its own or with essential oils such as Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globules) may be helpful. [4.37] [4.38]


  • Hydrotherapy [4.39] [4.40] can be helpful when done as:

    • Priessnitz compress (wet - dry - plastic - wrapped in scarf)

    • Wet sock treatment

    • Chest hydrotherapy or contrast showers (alternating hot and cold applications)

    • Constitutional hydrotherapy


  • Herbs are often part of the natural treatment regimen for respiratory symptoms and infections.  Herbs have many different properties such as antiviral, antibacterial, anticatarrhal, mucolytic, expectorant and antitussive which may be beneficial in treating respiratory conditions.  Some of the most common respiratory herbs used include:

  • Herbs that have antiviral properties include Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) [4.29]. Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia), Sage leaf (folium salviae) [4.3], Elderberry [4.18][4.19] and catechins in green tea [4.17]


  • Herbs that have antibacterial properties include Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) [4.29], Ginseng (Panax Ginseng) [4.30], Plantain (herba plantaginis lanceolatae), Radish (radix raphani sativi), Usnea (species usnea) [4.3], Thyme white essential oil, Lemon essential oil, Lemongrass essential oil and Cinnamon essential oil [4.31]


  • Herbs that have anti-inflammatory properties that may help respiratory conditions include Bromelain (bromelainum), Chamomile flower, German (flos matricariae), Marshmallow leaf (folium althaeae, Myrrh (myrrha), [4.3] glycyrrhiza glabra


  • Herbs that many help remove excess mucous include: Anise seed (fructus anisi), Camphor (camphora), Eucalyptus leaf (folium eucalypti), Fennel oil and seeds (aetheroleum et fructus foeniculi), Ivy leaf (folium hederae helicis), Mint oil (aetheroleum menthae arvensis), Soapwort root, red (radicx saponariae rubrae) [4.3] verbascum Thapsus, thymus off


  • Herbs that may help breakup mucous include the spices Fennel oil and seeds (aetheroleum et fructus foeniculi), Ginger root (rhizoma zingiberis), Peppermint oil (aetheroleum menthae piperitae), Sage leaf (folium salviae) and Thyme (Thymus vulgaris). Licorice root (radix liquiritiae) may also be helpful. [4.3]


  • Herbs with expectorant properties include: Eucalyptus leaf (folium eucalypti), Iceland moss (lichen islandicus), Ivy leaf (folium hederae helicis), Primrose flower and root (flos et radix primulae), Senega snakeroot (radix polygalae), Thyme (herba thymi), [4.3] verbascum thapsus


  • Herbs that may help reduce coughing include: Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis),  Licorice root (radix liquiritiae), Linden flower (flos tiliae), Mallow flower and leaf (flos et folium malvae), Marsh tea (herba ledi palustris), Marshmallow leaf and root (folium et radix althaeae), Mullein (Verbascum thapus), Sundew (herba drosera).[4.3]

  • Herbs that reduce cough include: Mallow flower and leaf (flos et folium malvae), Marshmallow leaf and root (folium et radix althaeae), Sundew (herba drosera) [4.3]

  • Herbs that are undergoing research for use in lower respiratory tract infections as an alternative to antibiotics - Pelargonium. [4.32]

  • A herb used in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda for treating respiratory infections - Andrographis paniculata (Chuān Xīn Lián). [4.33]

  • Neutraceuticals that have been shown to be helpful on strengthen immune health include Probiotics [4.41], Vitamin C [4.42], and Zinc [4.43]. Anti inflammatory effect is being supported by bromelain, omega 3 & 6 and antioxidants including resveretrol and carotenoids [4.44]. Both, immune health and anti inflammatory support are significant when treating respiratory infections. 

  • The homeopathic remedies that have been found to decrease the duration and symptoms associated with respiratory infections including: Allium cepa, Euphrasia and Pulsatilla [4.45]. Homeopathy is an individualized treatment which shows effectiveness in respiratory infections [4.46]. The homeopathic remedies that have been found to decrease the duration and symptoms associated with respiratory infections in the treatment of children include as top 3: Belladonna, Pulsatilla and Hepar sulphuris. In treating adults most effectiveness has been shown at Hepar sulphuris, Belladonna and Bryonia [4.46]

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture recognizes the varied presentations of respiratory conditions and the treatment is dependent on whether the presentation is that of Wind Cold, Wind Heat, Cold Deficiency, Yin Deficiency or Lung Qi Deficiency.

  • Oral doses of certain essential oils (such as eucalyptus Eucalyptus globulus, sweet orange Citrus sinensis, myrtle Myrtus communis, lemon Citrus limonum) and lavender Lavandula latifolia) may reduce symptoms of acute respiratory infections of viral origin and may also improve the course (duration and severity) of acute bronchitis of viral origin, in humans. [4.48]


It is always best to work with your naturopathic practitioner or other trained health professional to determine the best treatment option.

    Key Points                               

Respiratory health and prevention of respiratory symptoms is strongly dependant on proper hygiene and air quality. Chronic respiratory conditions are often strongly influenced by lifestyle and diet.

Respiratory hygiene includes the following:

  • Frequent and correct hand washing [4.2]

  • Avoid sharing water, food or products (glasses, cutlery, hygiene products) with someone who has a respiratory infection. [4.1]

  • Cough into you arm or sleeve.  Wash hands after coughing or sneezing.

  • While no general consensus exists regarding the best description of the respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette among the health agencies, it appears that “cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Dispose the used tissue in a garbage can. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or sleeve, not in your hands” is the most acceptable recommendation. [4.34] [4.35]

Address air quality.  Exposure to air pollution can trigger or worsen respiratory symptoms and conditions. 

  • Address indoor pollutants, mould and moisture. [4.7] [4.8] 

  • Avoid allergens and environmental triggers [4.9]

  • If you are unable to avoid poor air quality you many find the Tips On Strengthening Lung Function helpful.

Strengthen your immune system to prevent infections [4.21]

  • Engage in exercise outside in fresh air [4.22]

  • Get adequate sleep [4.23]

  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in mucous forming foods. [4.24]

  • The following herbs are supported by research in strengthening the immune system [4.3]

    • Celandine herb (herba chelidonii)

    • Echinacea purpurea herb (herba echinaceae purpureae)

    • Marshmallow root (radix althaeae)

    • Mistletoe herb (herba visci albi)

There are many factors that can trigger or aggravate respiratory symptoms.  The naturopathic assessment approach is to identify and address as many factors as possible with the aim of minimizing the need for prescription medications and antibiotics especially in chronic conditions.


The factors that a naturopathic practitioner will generally assess include:

  • Dietary and lifestyle factors. Diets high in sugar or low in nutrients may increase the risk the infection. With any respiratory infection it is advisable to ensure that mucous forming foods such as dairy, wheat, yeast, sugar, bananas and excess fruit are avoided while recovering.  Food intolerances can also mimic or trigger respiratory symptoms. [4.24]

  • Hygiene and breathing habits [4.25]

  • Stress and other emotional states [4.26]

  • Respiratory infections may be viral, bacterial or fungal. [4.11] [4.12] [4.13] [4.14] [4.15]

  • Smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke [4.27]

  • Reaction to environmental allergens and toxins, especially mold exposure can mimic the symptoms of a respiratory tract infection. [4.7] [4.8] [4.9]

  • Over-the-counter medications and/or prescription medications

  • Breathing and lung function tests [4.28]


Naturopathic practitioners are able to distinguish between viral and bacterial infections [4.10] and are able to assess both acute and chronic respiratory symptoms through the naturopathic assessment and diagnosis process.

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