10 Effective Herbal Remedies for Respiratory Problems

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The most effective herbal remedies for respiratory problems include the use of ginkgo, mullein, echinacea, licorice, cannabis, thyme, oregano, peppermint, and elecampane, among others.

Respiratory problem is a term used to describe a wide variety of diseases that can affect the lungs and respiratory system. They are classified as upper and lower respiratory problems.

While the majority of these problems don’t progress to a serious level, chronic respiratory problems can increase your chances of developing pneumonia and long-term damage to your respiratory tract.

While many people suggest antibiotics for respiratory infections, extensive use of antibiotics in recent years has resulted in many antibiotic-resistant strains that are particularly hard to neutralize. This has led many people to turn to natural or herbal remedies for these issues; the anecdotal and traditional evidence for many of these solutions is well documented, and for those looking for a natural option to clear up respiratory problems, pay attention to these herbal remedies for respiratory problems. [1]

A woman holding her chest suffering from possible lung disease

Lung disease can be prevented by sticking to a healthy lifestyle and diet. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Herbal Remedies for Respiratory Problems

Let us look at the best home remedies for respiratory problems:


One of the best all-around remedies for respiratory issues is licorice root, due to its antibacterial, antiviral, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, and soothing properties. The presence of saponins helps to expel mucus from the respiratory tract, which is where many of the bacterial and viral pathogens can be found. Furthermore, the antioxidants prevent oxidative stress in the blood vessels and reduce inflammation of the airways to help you breathe easy. [2]


Anecdotal evidence suggests that adding echinacea tea to your weekly or daily regimen may help clear your respiratory tract and soothe inflammation. However, further studies are required to fully understand the therapeutic ability of echinacea. [3] [4]


If you suffer from a respiratory disorder, such as asthma, then additional respiratory problems or illnesses can become very serious. Ginkgo extract has been linked to preventing asthma attacks by inhibiting a certain chemical factor called platelet-activating factor (PAF) in the body, to soothe coughing and wheezing, providing relief for those who already struggle to breathe normally.


Though not the most commonly consumed or prescribed herb, mullein leaves contain an extract with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities that help to eliminate mucus (expectorant) and soothe the raw, inflamed tracts of your system, including your throat. The most popular way of consuming mullein is by brewing a strong tea using 1-2 grams of dried mullein and drinking this once a day. [5]


Menthol, the most important active ingredient in peppermint, is able to clear breathing passageways, soothe inflammation, neutralize free radicals, and prevent allergic attacks (antihistamine effect). This comprehensive approach to slowing the progression of respiratory problems and infections makes peppermint one of the most popular herbal remedies for respiratory issues. Peppermint tea is the easiest and most effective strategy or a chest rub with peppermint essential oil. [6]


With antibiotic, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties, there is very little that thyme can’t do in relation to respiratory issues. By adding this herb to your meals, you can partially clear up the infections, but a more potent and direct approach would be using thyme essential oil, which is very powerful and trusted as a breathing aid. [7]


Oregano has important essential oils and acids that make it effective for respiratory issues. The rosmarinic acid found in oregano has powerful antihistamine effects and is a decongestant, along with strong antibacterial properties. This can not only eliminate mucus but also kill bacteria causing the infection, quickly speeding up recovery. [8]


Although cannabis is illegal in certain countries, studies have linked the cannabinoids within this plant to lowered rates of cancer, increased immune system functioning, and bronchodilation (particularly when cannabis is vaporized). This means that your respiratory tract is expanded, making breathing easier, due to the natural anti-inflammatory nature of this powerful plant. Use of cannabis is banned/restricted in many countries, so consult your health specialist before use. [9]


For people prone to lung or respiratory infections, elecampane has long been a traditional solution. For thousands of years, elecampane essential oil and simple tinctures where leaves are allowed to steep in water, have been prescribed to loosen mucus and eliminate the chest pain and tightness associated with these conditions. [10]


Chaparral is an herb made into tincture and tea that have powerful antibacterial, decongestant, and antihistamine properties. These properties have made it a popular and easily accessible remedy for a wide range of lung and breathing issues.

Word of Caution: Chronic respiratory issues can greatly compromise the integrity of your immune and respiratory systems, making you more vulnerable to more serious, and even life-threatening problems. If you continue to suffer chronic breathing issues, be sure to see a doctor and ensure that an antibiotic approach is not necessary to ensure long-term health and wellness.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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