Last month I spent a couple of weeks at a pretty magical place in southern Spain: luxury eco resort La Donaira. About 700 acres of exquisite natural beauty, including a medicinal garden with 350-400 plants and herbs. What a place to celebrate my new found (lung) health!

The ‘pharmacy’ at La Donaira

During my stay I updated their encyclopedia with medicinal and aromatic plants. In the process I learned quite a bit about plants and herbs that help with respiratory conditions and that can boost lung health.

I’ve made a selection of 3 herbs that you can easily grow in your own garden (or on your balcony). At the end of the post you find a recipe for an infusion with all three.

1. Sage

What makes sage a ‘must have’ for your lungs?  Sage helps promote a healthy flow of mucus. This explains why it’s a long-established cure for coughs. It’s anti-inflammatory properties help relieve sinusitis congestion. Furthermore it has antibiotic and antifungal uses, which is great because many people with repiratory disease are dealing with recurrent pneumonia’s and throat infections.

It turns out there are about 900 types of sage in the world and the majority is edible. Which one do you choose to grow at home though and how to grow it? I found this website very useful. It explains which sage you can grow best and how to grow/harvest it.

At the bottom of this blog post you find a recipe for an infusion with sage, but you can also consider making a steam bath with eucalyptus and sage-infused water. This helps ease the symptoms of bronchitis.

A beautiful example of flowery sage. You can also eat the flowers!

2. Thyme

Time for thyme….Thyme might be the biggest friend of our lungs; it’s an herbal antibiotic that’s equipped to tackle respiratory infections. Antibiotics as we know them only help you get rid of bacterial lung infections, but thyme works on your infection regardless if it’s bacterial or viral.  Thyme also helps warm the sinuses and expel and eliminate mucus. These effects are all very useful when you’re suffering from a cough, a lung or respiratory infection, bronchitis or asthma.

My experience has showed me that avoiding respiratory infections is very much about keeping colds at bay. Thyme is packed with vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A, so don’t be shy to also use thyme in the preparation of your daily meals.

Just like sage, thyme is from a huge family with about 350 members. This page provides you with some more info on how to grow thyme and gives you advice on which one to pick for your garden.

3. Calendula

Calendula, the beauty of the three herbs, soothes the lungs and reduces swelling in the airways. The flavonoids in calendula make for the strong anti-inflammatory properties of this herb. Great news for inflammatory lung diseases like asthma. Furthermore, calendula helps remove waste and aids the immune system.

Most people know calendula in relation to applications for the skin (it’s full of skin-healing and skin-protective compounds). In herbalist circles calendula is known as the ‘mother of the skin’. Especially skin conditions such as eczema, which is a known related ‘comorbid‘ of asthma, can benefit from some calendula.

How to grow and harvest these beauties? I found this page quite helpful.

Let’s brew those herbs….

  •  Sage – 1 cup fresh/dried leaves
  •  Thyme- 1 cup fresh/dried leaves
  •  Calendula – 1/2 cup fresh or dried flowers
Mix the leaves/flowers with two cups of water and let it simmer on the stove for about 20 minutes.
Strain the liquid into a pint mason jar and add about 1/4 of salt. Use after it has cooled down. Enjoy your infusion and happy breathing!

Bonus materials

The purple beauties you see below are ‘Elephant Garlic’. They don’t just ‘spice up’ your medicinal garden with their look, but garlic (and also onions have also been shown to help ease breathing for asthma sufferers.

Why not detoxify and cleanse your lungs with the help of a bit of garlic?