The Effects of Pollution
In the Vedic age, air quality was high with few environmental pollutants, so respiratory issues were not as common place as they are today. In the modern world, the general populace is exposed to various environmental irritants on a daily basis, and thus breathing issues abound. Unfortunately, pollution impacts all of the organs, especially the lungs and respiratory tract.
These irritants cause inflammation, and over time, chronic inflammation causes damage to surrounding tissue. Other than direct tissue injury, irritants can lead to excess mucus production, coughing, wheezing and chest congestion. All of this can predispose one to catching a cold or other respiratory infection. Moreover, this effect is magnified in those with underlying lung disease from smoking or genetics.
One way to protect the tissues from damage is to mitigate the effects of noxious environmental inhalants with agents that decrease inflammation. Ayurveda has found that specific herbs have greater efficacy on the lung tissue and respiratory tract. This includes botanicals like terminalia bellirica, black seed, holy basil (also known as tulsi) and garlic.
Western Approach to Respiratory Tract Illness
Western medicine deals with respiratory issues in 3 primary ways. One is with antibiotics to kill bacteria. Another is with inhalers to help open the airways. And the last is with steroids to artificially decrease inflammation. It is important to note that none of these medications are benign because they all have significant side effects. For example, antibiotics often kill the good bacteria along with the bad, leaving one with a continued susceptibility to infection after initial treatment. Furthermore, the medicine in most inhalers can have effects on the heart, such as increased heart rate and palpitations. And lastly, steroid drugs can cause urinary frequency, difficulty sleeping and outbursts of anger.
Eastern Approach to Respiratory Tract Illness
Rather than allowing irritants to cause damage and then dealing with the damage, Ayurveda seeks to fortify the body to withstand the damaging effects of noxious chemicals and allergens. In other words, Ayurveda strives to work with the body’s natural defenses and boost one’s innate ability to fight infection. Instead of immediately mobilizing the body’s immune cells, Ayurvedic herbs work intelligently to help the cilia, the tiny hairlike projections in the bronchi, to brush irritants out of the respiratory tract. In addition, they decrease the need for mucus production, and thin out any present mucus so it’s easy to clear out of the body and so bacteria cannot hide within it. As a result, these herbs make the body less hospitable to foreign bacteria.
The herbs used in Ayurveda have thousands of components that work synergistically to combat environmental attacks on the body. In contrast, modern medicines have one or two key ingredients that treat symptoms, instead of addressing the cause and preventing illness. Additionally, pharmaceuticals often have harsh side effects. Working with one’s own body to prevent illness and to better deal with assaults on health when they present makes infinitely more sense than using unnatural chemicals to partially address symptoms of disease after they occur, and then having to deal with all of the unpleasant side effects, without the benefit of actually being cured. The more one starts engaging the body’s own intelligence to take care of oneself, the closer one becomes to obtaining optimal health. We invite you to discover the best version of yourself through Ayurveda.