I am absolutely fascinated by the names given to plants and herbs. Many like blessed thistle or goldenseal are music to the ear while other like poke root sound downright nasty. Not many names strike me as being quite as ugly as ‘lungwort’ but as you are about to find out, there is a good reason why this plant was given its common name. If you are as squeamish as I am, try not to be put off by the name. Lungwort has plenty to offer both in terms of its ornamental beauty but also with regard to its impressive health benefits.
Benefits of Lungwort
If you are suffering from a cold and are having difficulties breathing freely, lungwort may be one of the best natural solutions. This traditional medicinal plant is still drunk as a tea and is available in several other forms. So what is lungwort and what is it good for?
Lungwort otherwise known as lungwort leaf or by the scientific name – Pulmonaria Officinalis, is an appropriately named plant popularly used to treat a host of respiratory issues including colds, coughs, bronchitis and asthma.
It is a member of the Boraginaceae family and is found growing wild in various parts of the world including Europe, North America, Africa and Asia where it thrives in damp habitats especially near the coast.
Lungwort Historical Facts
Lungwort has been used as an herbal remedy dating all the way back to the Middle Ages. It was at this time that the plant was named lungwort because of its leaves resemblance to a diseased lung.
There was a theory in those days that a plant’s physical features was an indication of its medicinal potential and it was combined with wormwood during the 14th Century to treat the bubonic plague.
Of course, the value of a plant’s appearance as any kind of reliable indicator of its medical abilities has long since been discredited but interestingly, lungwort is still used primarily for respiratory conditions to this day.
Other names by which the plant is known include Common lungwort and Our lady’s milk drops. It grows to a height of around 30 centimeters and is typically among the first plant to flower at the beginning of spring.
Besides its medicinal uses, it has long been valued for its beauty; its flowers are a beautiful shade of blue which later turn to violet, and it is grown today as an ornamental plant in gardens the world over.
Medicinal Properties of Lungwort
The leaves of the plant are harvested and air dried to be used in medicinal supplements or drunk as a tea. The leaves themselves have a bitter taste so honey is often used to sweeten the teas but despite its bitterness, some people eat the leaves cooked or even raw in salads.
Lungwort contains a variety of chemical compounds which give the plant its medicinal uses. These compounds include saponins, antioxidant flavonoids like quercetin as well as allantoin and tannic acid. It is thought to have antibiotic, wound healing and mild diuretic properties giving the herb a range of potential medicinal uses.
Health Benefits of Lungwort
1) For Respiratory Conditions
True to its common and scientific names, lungwort is primarily used to treat respiratory complaints including asthma, whooping cough, and bronchitis. In traditional folk medicine, the herb was widely used to treat many lung complaints like coughing, catarrh, asthma, and tuberculosis. It has also been used to treat chest infections because of its natural antibiotic effects.
Unfortunately, there is not a great deal of modern scientific research available but that in no way negates its potential. Research is expensive and there is no great will to plow money into unprofitable herbal supplements.
Fortunately, there is plenty of historical and anecdotal evidence that it works to remedy these conditions and it seems to be a widely accepted fact that lungwort is an excellent natural remedy for the respiratory system especially as a complementary remedy to a medical recommendation.
It helps to clear the airways and to expel the buildup of mucus out of the lungs. Smokers or those that have recently quit may also be in luck; drinking lungwort tea is said to effectively help clear up the tar which has built up from the habit.
2) Antioxidant Effects
A Bulgarian study published in 2005 found that tea made from lungwort contained a high level of various phenolic compounds and other beneficial antioxidants. (1)
It is possible that the effect of lungwort on the respiratory system is linked to its antioxidant content at least in part but antioxidants are essential for many more reasons besides. By now, it has been fully established that antioxidants play an important role in the body’s overall health.
They protect us against the damaging effects of free radicals and help prevent serious diseases including heart disease and cancer. Apart from protecting the internal organs, antioxidants like the ones found in lungwort are essential to overall wellbeing and perform a valuable anti-aging function.
Getting enough antioxidants into your body will even help your skin to look and feel younger.
3) For Better Digestion
Drinking a soothing cup of lungwort tea can also help relieve a number of digestive and gastrointestinal problems including indigestion and diarrhea. Lungwort has mild diuretic properties which may help relieve the discomfort of bloating from excess water build-up while its astringent properties are responsible for treating bouts of diarrhea.
4) For the Skin
Because lungwort is such a rich source of natural antioxidants, it can play a very important role in helping your skin remain stronger and younger but that is not all. Lungwort can also be applied topically to the skin to help treat minor wounds and cuts. It contains a chemical compound called allantoin that is known for its ability to heal tissue damage and expedite wound healing.
Lungwort is effective when applied to the skin because of its astringent and anti-inflammatory nature. It can be applied to the skin to treat a whole range of skin conditions including burns, ulcers, hemorrhoids, and eczema.
5) Urinary Tract Infections
Although we are lacking in any firm scientific evidence, lungwort has been used traditionally to treat infections of the urinary tract like cystitis. Because of its natural diuretic ability, it has also been used to treat kidney complaints.
6) Other Potential Lungwort Benefits
While it is certainly best-known for its ability to treat lung and respiratory illnesses, it has also been used traditionally to reduce bleeding during menstruation and complaints related to the thyroid.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) What is lungwort used for?
Lungwort is very appropriately named both in terms of its botanical name – Pulmonaria Officinalis and its more common moniker. Unsurprisingly, lungwort has been used down the years to treat conditions related to the lungs and respiratory system. It is a popular remedy for asthma, coughs, bronchitis, whooping cough and other types of respiratory infection.
2) How is it usually taken?
The most popular way to use lungwort is in the form of a tea made from the dry leaves. It is quite bitter and you may need to add honey or lemon to taste. You can also use lungwort as a topical remedy to treat skin conditions like eczema or simply as an astringent to help tighten the skin. Lungwort is also available in capsule or tincture form. As regards dosage, there is not a lot of data to rely on. If you are using capsules or tinctures, read the instructions on the package carefully.
3) What are its active chemical components?
Lungwort gets its medicinal uses from its array of active constituents. These include certain saponins, allantoin, caffeic acid, tannins and flavonoids like quercetin.
4) Is it safe to use?
There is very little scientific research into the effects of lungwort. However, the plant has been used medicinally for centuries and there are very few reports of adverse side effects. It is considered to be safe for the majority of healthy people in appropriate doses. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should speak to your doctor to make sure it is safe for you and your child.
5) What evidence is there for the effectiveness of lungwort?
The evidence for the efficacy of lungwort comes from centuries of traditional use and anecdotal reports. Unfortunately, there is precious little in the way of modern scientific research to back up the claims.
How to take Lungwort
Lungwort is available in several forms including capsules and tinctures but is probably most popularly taken as a tea. Supplementing with lungwort is considered safe for the majority of healthy adults especially if it is not taken long term.
Most people take lungwort temporarily to overcome respiratory problems and there is insufficient evidence regarding any long-term effects.
Make sure that you follow the recommended doses on the package and consult your doctor before taking any herbal supplements.
How to make Lungwort Tea
- Boil around 150 ml of water and add a teaspoon of dry lungwort leaves to the water.
- Allow the leaves to seep for at least 15 minutes or longer to ensure that you get its maximum benefits.
- Strain and add honey to taste unless you can tolerate the bitter flavor without a sweetener.
- Drink it up three times a day to overcome any respiratory issues that you have.
Drinking this tea several times a day should clear up any minor respiratory issues that you have but if you are in any way concerned that your condition is more serious you should see a doctor.
This herbal infusion can also be applied topically to treat minor skin damage from cuts, grazes, and burns.
More Lungwort Facts
- Lungwort is also known by a variety of other names including Dage of Jerusalem, Pulmonaire, Sauge de Bethlehem, Jerusalem Cowslip, Coucou Bleu and Lungenkraut.
- There are over a dozen different species of lungwort. Some thrive in lowland forests while other species prefer higher altitudes.
- Lungwort is an important source of food for the larvae of various insects.
- The plant reaches a height of around 12 inches and its hairy leaves are dotted with white or grey spots.
- The leaves are rich in phytochemicals which give lungwort its medicinal properties.
- Lungwort contains natural antibiotic properties which makes it so effective against respiratory infections.
Precautions and Potential Side Effects
- There is very little evidence of adverse side effects from taking lungwort. The lack of evidence means that you should stay on the cautious side and avoid taking it when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Lungwort might cause a rash in some sensitive people. If you experience any adverse reactions, stop using it immediately.
- There is no current evidence regarding lungwort’s interaction with other medications or supplements but if you are concerned that it may affect your health in any way then make sure that you talk to your doctor first.