When you’re trying to sleep, there’s nothing worse than a stuffy nose and a heavy chest. How can you get relief? There are some great natural decongestants. Rather than rely on pharmaceuticals to dry up the mucus in your system, why not give them a try? For some valuable advice about banishing some of the symptoms of allergies, flu or common cold, read on!
All about the respiratory tract
It’s easy to take breathing for granted. After all, we do it unconsciously and often forget how intricate our respiratory system really is. It’s a labyrinthine maze comprised of the nasal cavities, the pharynx, the larynx, the trachea, the bronchial tubes and the lungs – the last two of which are primarily responsible for gaseous exchange and the elimination of toxic substances and pathogens that we inhale and exhale into the environment. Bear with us as we get a bit technical. The muscle called the diaphragm separates the thoracic cavity (associated with the ribcage) in the abdomen and stretches the lungs to increase their capacity.
Because solid particles penetrate the air that we breathe, simple respiration can become dangerous when those particles obstruct the respiratory tracts. Hairs and mucus materials in the nose and throat trap larger particles and restrict ciliary movement. If this movement isn’t strong enough to extract foreign particles, moisture and secretions will accumulate. Congestion is the annoying result – and we all know the secondary problems caused by a congested respiratory system: breathing difficulties, feelings of suffocation and, in severe cases, the danger of complete respiratory failure.
Of course, there are medications such as ephedrine that have been created to address congested respiration. There are also therapies that have been devised to eliminate secretions. However, it’s almost always safer in the long run to turn to more natural remedies for common or frequent conditions. We’re going offer 10 options and explain how they work.
10 natural decongestants that really work!
Give congestion the boot with nature’s bounty. Try as many as you like and choose the one that you find most effective.
As a constituent of many cold and flu remedies, eucalyptus has a proven track record as an effective decongestant. Use the leaves or an essential oil and add to hot water to make a steam bath. It’ll only take about 10 minutes for the steam bath to start working its magic, but you can certainly enjoy it for as long as the heat lasts. Want to toddle of to dreamland peacefully, leaving the heavy chest behind? Simply place a few eucalyptus leaves in your pillow and prop your head up so that when you breathe, you’re inhaling the plant’s fragrance. Your respiratory system will thank you as the fragrance relaxes you. Be sure to change the leaves every day as long as symptoms persist. Bonus points: you can also try this remedy to alleviate asthma.
Pine needles and pine cones are renowned for their antiseptic properties. They’re easy to use at home, too. If you have a tree nearby, boil a handful of pine sprouts and pine needles in 5 litres of water for 5 minutes. Pour the resulting liquid into bowl, place your covered head over the bowl and breathe in the steam for 10 minutes. You can substitute pine essential oil if you don’t have access to leaves and cones. 10 drops should suffice.
Brilliant bark and orujo (pomace brandy)
Slightly less familiar, this remedy is excellently effective for eliminating congestion in the respiratory tract. You can buy the bark from a health food shop or online from, for example, Neal’s Yard Remedies. The pomace brandy should be available from an off licence. Add two cups of three different types of tree bark (oak, holm oak and pine) to 5 litres of orujo and bring to a slow boil for 10 minutes. When you remove the mixture from the heat, sprinkle a bit of rosemary and nettle on it. Let it completely cool, then strain. You should take 2 tablespoons of this remedy with warm plant milk before bedtime and two more before you have breakfast. Your congestion will soon be a distant memory.
Ah, mint! From its clever culinary uses to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, mint is a marvellous thing. It’s also brilliant for soothing congestion – but you knew that! Want to prove it to yourself? Add a teaspoon of mint leaves to a cup of boiling water and let it steep for a few minutes. You can either drink this remedy (two to three cups every day) or put 3 drops of the infusion into each of your nostrils. Either solution is safe to use for as long as you need.
Here’s another proven remedy. It may seem cliched, but warm lemon really does work well to alleviate symptoms of flu and common cold. It soothes the tonsils, reduces inflammation in the throat and tackles most other ailments that afflict the respiratory system. Mixed with half a cup of hot water, you simply gargle with it every two hours. If you prefer, you can drink a cup of hot water with lemon (either a prepared concentrate or freshly squeezed juice) several times throughout the day.
Allo, Aloe vera!
Did you know that putting a few drops of pure aloe vera gel inside each of your nostrils will ease congestion and help you to rest peacefully? Well, now you do! Give it a try.
Almond and mint power duo
This remedy has been said to cure colds. Now, you’ll have to be the judge of that – but we can almost guarantee that you’ll feel less congested if you use it. All you do is heat a cup of almond oil and add half a teaspoon of mint oil to it. Let it cool a bit before using it to massage your back and chest. Once the therapeutic oil massage is complete, cover up warmly and sip a hot mint tea. You should see good results.
All the way from China comes this method for eradicating chest congestion with lighting speed. Just slice and saute 5 large onions, then cover with vegetable oil. Put them in an oven for half an hour, but ensure that the oven isn’t on. It should still be hot, though. Remove the onions and put them in a flannel bag. Rub olive oil on your chest and apply the onion poultice for 30 minutes. Cover your chest with a cloth and keep it hot.
Garlic’s good for the long haul
You couldn’t ask for a better ally in the treatment and prevention of respiratory congestion. Garlic has many other health benefits, too, so make it a part of your daily routine. To decongest, we recommend that you eat two cloves of garlic three times a day for one week. Your nose has never felt clearer!
Ice ice, baby
If you want quick relief from a burning congestion, there’s nothing simpler. Sounds a bit odd, but it works. To a tub filled with water, add two trays full of ice. Submerge just your toes and leave them in the icy waters until they go numb. You = 1, congestion = 0.
Prevention is better than cure
We really hope that some of the tips and tricks we’ve given you will go a long way toward bringing you relief if you find yourself under the weather. Still…we can’t help but get a bit parental on you by reminding you that there are subtle changes you can make to reduce your odds of experiencing problems with your respiratory system. They are:
- Stop smoking! We don’t need to tell you that toxic substances associated with cigarette smoke not only affect your skin and mouth, but they also contribute to an accumulation of fluid in the lungs. This nasty habit also represses the immune system, paving the way for countless diseases and conditions.
- Don’t be a passive smoker. Avoid cigarette and tobacco smoke. It can damage your health even when you’re not taking direct puffs.
- Avoid extremes. Try not to go from a hot environment to a cold one. Dress appropriately for the cooler evenings or when it’s raining. When you’re feeling overheated from exercise or physical exertion, don’t plop down in front of a cold fan – overwhelming though the temptation may be. These are things that tire out your lungs and weaken their resistance to illness.
- Limit your exposure to chemical products and other substances that could trigger allergies.
- Consider vaccinations – especially important for children and the elderly.
If you follow these guidelines and look after your health, your respiratory system should reward you.