As the 67,000 acre Valley Fire rages on in Napa, Sonoma and Lake County to our north due to several years of unprecedented drought, we are reminded of the importance of investing in long-term climate change solutions.
Those with asthma and other lung conditions are especially sensitive to particulates in the air, and may be affected by the Valley Fire even without direct smoke inhalation. Here are five herbs to help protect your lungs, with or without direct wildfire exposure. For more recommendations from a Western Herbalism standpoint, check out this excellent post.
Mulberry Leaf and Bark (Sang Ye and Sang Bai Pi)
We actually consider mulberry leaf and mulberry bark separate herbs in Chinese medicine. Both herbs cool and moisten the lungs, which balances the hot and drying effect of smoke exposure. Mulberry leaf also cools and clears the eyes. Mulberry bark is colder in nature and works on a deeper level to calm wheezing and cough for individuals with asthma. Both can be brewed as a decoction.
2. Lily Bulb (Bai He)
Lily bulb nourishes the cooling yin fluids of the lungs, and has the added benefit of calming the heart to support those recovering from this traumatic fire. Lily bulb can be brewed as a decoction, or cooked in soup and consumed.
3. Licorice (Gan Cao)
We don’t have room to extoll all the virtues of licorice, but relevant to smoke exposure, licorice clears heat toxin and relieves sore or scratchy throat. Licorice can be decocted raw, or dry-fried in honey and then decocted. This herb does speed up heart rate, and should not be taken by anyone with a heart condition, unless under care of a trained provider.
4. Solomon’s Seal Rhizome (Yu Zhu)
The root of solomon’s seal is great at nourishing yin fluids of the lung, and is one of the few yin nourishing herbs in Chinese medicine that can be used during active lung infection. It calms dry cough or throat, as well as general irritability. Solomon’s seal rhizome can be decocted, or cooked in bone broth and consumed.
5. Dwarf Lily-Turf Root (Mai Men Dong)
Like lily bulb discussed above, this wonderful herb serves a dual function: moistening the lungs, as well as clearing the heart and eliminating irritability. Dwarf lily-turf root is great for dry cough, bloody cough, dry tongue, and dry mouth. Often paired with goji berries to make a cooling lightly sweet decoction.