In Chinese Medicine the lungs are said to govern Qi. Qi is frequently translated as "energy flow", & is often compared to the Western idea of élan vital or Vital Force. The literal translation is air or breath. In the body, lung Qi combines with food Qi to form the Zong Qi or the big Qi of the chest!
This Qi is then sent all over the body to nourish the tissues, so healthy lungs mean a healthy system. Weak lungs can result in low energy and a weak immune system resulting in recurrent infections.
In TCM this is called lung Qi deficiency. Along with the heart, the lungs control the circulation of Qi and blood throughout the body. If the lungs are strong the circulation will be good and the hands and feet will be warm. There are other reasons for poor circulation, however lung Qi deficiency may be one of them. The lungs and the immune system
Nourishing the lung
The lungs are nourished by breathing, so remember to breathe! The best way to improve lung Qi is to exercise in fresh air. Get a bicycle; it will change your life! Take up swimming or just walk the kids to school. Get out of the car. You don't need to buy expensive gym memberships. Expand your chest by joining a choir. Sing a song, make it proud, make it strong! A few minutes a day of relaxed breathing, learning to breathe with the diaphragm and relaxing the muscles of the chest, shoulders abdomen, can be very effective at generating lung Qi.
Because of its' relation to the lungs, skin improves lung Qi. Dry skin brushing with a natural bristle brush before your daily shower, in circular motions towards the heart, improves lung function. Get naked and let your skin breathe. Moderate sunbathing also nourishes the skin. In your dreams!
Emotionally the lungs are damaged by long-term grief and nourished by respect. So get a little R.E.S.P.E.C.T and laugh a lotChinese dietary therapy for the lungs
As the lungs govern Qi, a diet to nourish the lungs includes foods known as 'Qi tonics'. Astragalus and ginseng are two well-known Qi tonics that can be taken as supplements. Astragalus and ginseng root, along with Chinese red dates, can be bought from the Asian grocer and added to chicken or pork soups. The orange foods such as pumpkin, butternut squash sweet potato are also Qi tonics.
As dairy is phlegm forming, too much contributes to "damp" conditions of the lungs such as chesty coughs and asthma. Goat and sheep products are less damp forming. In Chinese dietary therapy, pungent foods are said to open the lungs and improve lung Qi. Pungent foods include ginger, garlic, pepper, peppers, cayenne pepper, onion, leek and alcohol in moderation!
Finally white is the colour that corresponds to the lungs. White foods such as radish, white meats white mushrooms have some benefit. The Chinese eat Daikon radish although our radishes are white on the inside. I certainly don't mean white bread and white rice! In fact, these cause damp.
Old school remedies
Friar's balsam is a good old-fashioned herbal remedy to improve lung function. In herbal it is described as an antiseptic and a stimulating expectorant, which means it helps you cough up phlegm and fights bacteria. It can be used topically for minor cuts and abrasions, chapped skin and lips and cold sores. It can also relieve itching of chilblains and eczema. Friars Balsam can be taken internally or inhaled with steam vapour for coughs, laryngitis, acute and chronic bronchitis, and asthma. Mix one or two droppers of the balsam into a pint of hot, steaming water and then inhale the deeply. The internal dose is 25 to 35 drops in water, two to four times per day. To make soothing syrup for a sore throat, mix the drops in a spoonful of manuka honey.
Olbas oil is another old-school remedy made from essential oils. It is particularly useful as it contains oil, which is a bronchodilator and can relieve asthma and bronchitis. Olbas Oil can be dropped onto a handkerchief or into warm water for inhalation during the day. At night, drop Olbas oil directly on your pillowcase or on a tissue tucked inside it. Try adding 20 drops of Olbas Oil to a bowl of hot water. Place a towel over the head and breathe in deeply for 5 to 10 minutes. Olbas Oil can also be used as a massage oil to relieve sore muscles and joints.
Carrageen is one of the best remedies for a cough. Carrageen is a natural anti-inflammatory, immune stimulant and expectorant to help you bring up phlegm. Simmer a small handful in a pint of water for 10 minutes. Strain into a mug and add honey and lemon to taste.