Recovery After Smoking: Proven Natural Methods to Restore Your Lungs
Smoking has long been portrayed in advertisements, magazines, and movies as sexy and seductive. Unfortunately, many people fell into its trap. Over a century of research has uncovered the ugly truth about the harm of smoking.
Cigarettes are full of toxins and chemicals that are harmful to nearly every part of the body. Just a few of the consequences of smoking include:
- Chronic Bronchitis
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Lung Cancer
- Heart Disease
- Insulin Resistance
- Decreased Bedroom Performance
- Premature Aging
Fortunately, many of these risks can be decreased and even completely avoided by quitting. Within hours of quitting, the body begins to heal from the damage of smoking. However, the initial days and weeks can come with unpleasant side effects too. Many people experience coughing, and mucous production as the body gets rid of the toxins in the body. Anxiety, depression, headaches, and sleep issues are all common as the body withdrawals from nicotine.
Quitting smoking is one of the best things that we can do for our health. There are herbs and mushrooms that can support the body as it heals much of the damage that smoking causes. They can even help with the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
Read on to see how powerful herbs and mushrooms can help improve your overall health after smoking.
Herbs & Mushrooms to Help Improve Lung Health
Each of the herbs and mushrooms below packs a powerful punch with anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants. Research shows they help improve almost every aspect of overall health.
Found in the most unexpected places, this plant with beautiful yellow flowers grows best in compacted and poor soils. It has been used for thousands of years in both tea and syrup. The first recorded use of mullein was by the Greek physician Dioscorides about 2,000 years ago for lung conditions.
Today, science has discovered the properties that make mullein so unique.
Mullein is rich with anti-inflammatory properties that make it especially useful for the respiratory tract. It helps relieve cough, which can be a significant issue for those who are trying to quit smoking.
Mullein extract also supports the immune system to fight off a wide variety of viruses and bacteria. Among its many drawbacks, smoking suppresses the immune response, and many smokers need a boost for their immune system.
Mullein extract encourages healthy lipid levels in the body. The lungs are not the only part of the body that suffers from smoking. Heart disease is a common complication. Mullein can help support the heart because of its hyperlipidemic activity. This activity not only supports heart health but reduces inflammation in the lungs as well.
As a member of the sunflower family, elecampane grows up to an impressive eight feet tall. It is native to both Europe and Asia and has a long history with health practitioners. It was even popular as a flavor for sweet treats and candies.
Elecampane is rich in anti-inflammatory properties. It is full of antioxidants and treats oxidative-stress related diseases, which is vital to heal from smoking. Research has long connected smoking with both oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
In addition to helping reduce the inflammation and oxidative damage of smoking, elecampane is particularly helpful for the microbiome. Smoking affects gut health. In fact, smoking-induced alterations of the gut resemble inflammatory bowel disease. Research shows that smokers have significantly different microbiome than non-smokers.
Elecampane can help restore gut health. It is a particularly rich source of inulin, a prebiotic. Unlike probiotics, which add healthy bacteria, prebiotics feed the healthy bacteria already in the gut. Elecampane can provide valuable fuel to help rebalance the microbiome.
Numerous studies show that elecampane helps support the immune response against bacteria, even the antibiotic-resistant MRSA. Researchers have also suggested that it can help make antibiotics more effective when used together.
The process of healing from smoking can cause some discomfort. Chronic coughing can irritate the throat and lungs. Elecampane can help relieve respiratory pain. It eases the muscles in the throat to slow coughing.
Most people know the increase of lung cancer that is correlated with smoking. However, there is actually an increase in many cancers associated with smoking. Elecampane is full of anti-cancer properties to support the immune system as it fights cancer.
A common houseplant decorating gardens all over the world, English ivy holds surprisingly potent health-boosting properties. Even ancient Greek practitioners used it for its anti-inflammatory effects.
There’s an impressive amount of science behind the health benefits. Ivy is rich in both triterpenoid saponins and flavonoids, which strengthen the body. They are also particularly useful antioxidants to support healing from smoking.
Ivy helps soothe bronchitis and COPD symptoms, which are both common conditions for smokers. Those who are suffering can find relief as it relaxes the airways and reduces coughing.
It is also an expectorant to help remove mucus from the lungs. Mucus is a problem as the lungs heal from smoking, so ivy may provide some relief. One study found that saponins in ivy help soothe spasms so that coughing was less painful. Another study found that it has polysaccharides to help relieve irritation.
The anti-inflammatory properties in English ivy can help support the immune system during cancer. Inflammation is a known accelerant for cancer. Since smokers are particularly at risk for cancer, anti-inflammatories like ivy can offer powerful support.
While there are hundreds of kinds of honeysuckle, Traditional Chinese Medicine has pinpointed one species as particularly useful to human health. Practitioners have used Japanese honeysuckle for everything from fevers to skin infections to inflammation.
Today, scientists have pinpointed powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in the Japanese honeysuckle. Since smoking causes inflammation throughout the body, honeysuckle can help to cool it. One study found that it could help modulate inflammation.
Honeysuckle can also be used to aid the immune system to keep the body strong. One 2018 study found mice that supplemented with it increased their Natural Killer (NK) cells. NK cells are critical for killing off both viruses and tumor cells to help the body remain healthy. Another 2015 study found that it worked as an immunomodulating agent. It helped adjust the immune response to be more effective.
Type 2 diabetes is another problem for smokers. The toxins in cigarettes mess with blood sugar levels until insulin resistance becomes an issue. However, honeysuckle can be a powerful aid against diabetes and its symptoms.
One 2015 study found that honeysuckle had anti-diabetic effects on type 2 diabetes. Another study found that its potent anti-inflammatory properties helped reduce the severity of diabetic nephropathy.
Unique to the high regions of New Mexico and Colorado, osha root has been used by indigenous cultures for centuries.
Modern researchers found that osha root is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. One study found that it reduced inflammatory markers. Another found that natural phthalides in osha root had anti-inflammatory effects. Another found that it protected against oxidative damage.
Osha root also provides a powerful boost to the immune system to help it fight certain strains of bacteria. Researchers have so far found that it is effective against staph infections, e. Coli, and Bacillus cereus. More research needs to be done to see what other bacteria and viruses it can help fight.
Health practitioners in Siberia and parts of Asia have used Chaga mushrooms to boost overall health for centuries. In Norway, the mushroom carries the nickname “cancer fungus” because of its supposed health benefits.
The mushroom contains large amounts of the pigment melanin which makes the outside black while the inside is bright orange. The melanin content in Chaga actually provides a powerful boost to skin health. It can help protect the skin from sun damage, reduce the chance of skin cancer, and slow signs of aging. Smokers can especially suffer from poor skin health, so Chaga can especially help protect against the negative skin effects.
In addition to making the skin healthier and more radiant, Chaga provides support in the fight against cancer. Rich in anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, studies on Chaga show that it can reduce the chances of and slow cancer growth. In one study on mice, there was a 60% reduction in tumor size. Researchers found that it inhibits the growth in numerous cancer cells, including liver, lung, breast, prostate, and colon cancers.
One of the antioxidants found in Chaga, triterpene, has been shown to kill cancer cells in test tube studies. More human research needs to be done to verify Chaga’s anti-cancer properties, but the initial studies are promising.
High blood sugar levels are a particular problem for smokers. Chaga can help lower blood sugar levels to reduce the chance of type 2 diabetes.
Numerous animal studies have linked Chaga with lowered blood sugar. One 2017 study was on obese, diabetic mice. Those who supplemented with the mushroom had lower blood sugar and less insulin resistance than the control group.
Another study on diabetic mice also found that Chaga was associated with reduced blood sugar. Yet a third study also linked blood sugar control with diabetic rats. Although the research is so far limited to animal studies, they do show Chaga’s powerful potential.
Cracked Shell Reishi Spores
Grown in the hot and humid places of Asia, Eastern medicine has used reishi for over 2,000 years. It was used by royalty for its health benefits.
Researchers have uncovered reishi’s ability to boost the immune system, which can struggle due to smoking. Initial studies show that reishi affects the genes in white blood cells. It works to alter the inflammation response in the white blood cells.
Researchers have found that reishi has anti-cancer properties. Studies also show that it increases NK cells in cancer patients. One study also found that it increased white blood cells in those with colorectal cancer. Reishi also improves lymphocyte function to fight infections and cancers.
While more research needs to be done on reishi’s anti-cancer effects, it can be helpful alongside traditional cancer treatment.
Turkey tail earned its name due to its striking colors and shape. The mushroom grows all over the world. People have used it for centuries, including in Traditional Chinese Medicine, for respiratory systems.
Turkey tail works to help modulate the immune system. It either boosts the immune system, such as in the presence of a virus or bacteria, or calms an over-zealous response, such as autoimmune disorders. This response is especially helpful for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. The FDA is currently undergoing trials to see if it can help boost the immune system suppressed by chemotherapy.
Turkey tail is commonly used in Asia alongside traditional cancer treatments to help boost patient response. A review by the National Cancer Institute found that it helped improve survival rates.
Over 35 antioxidants have been found in turkey tail. Two properties in particular, PSK and PSP, increase white blood cells to fight infections and boost immunity. One test-tube study found that PSK inhibited the growth of human colon cancer cells.
Gut health is vital to reduce the chances of heart disease and certain cancers, improve digestion, and enhance the immune system. This is especially true for current and former smokers who are at an increased risk for all of these conditions. Turkey tail can help contribute to a healthy microbiome to improve overall health.
One test-tube study found that turkey tail encouraged healthy bacteria while suppressing more harmful ones. Another study found that people who consumed an extract of turkey tail experience a positive change in their microbiome. Turkey tail contains vital prebiotics to encourage healthy growth in the gut.
Also known as Hen of the Woods and the Dancing Mushroom, maitake has a long history of health benefits. It was even used as currency in feudal Japan because of how highly it was revered.
Research shows maitake has antitumor, immunomodulatory, anti-diabetic, anti-hyperlipidemia, and antiviral properties.
Maitake’s anti-cancer properties make it especially useful for current and former smokers. A 2013 study found that it might be helpful along traditional therapies to reduce the chances of and treat breast cancer. Another study found that it was able to kill human cancer cells. A 2016 study on mice also found that it had anti-cancer activity.
There is also research that it can help lower blood sugar as well. A 2015 study found that it reduced glucose levels in rats. Another animal study found it improved insulin resistance. A study on PCOS patients, a condition caused by insulin resistance, saw improvement in symptoms. Another study on type 2 diabetic patients saw a lowering in blood sugar as well.
Researchers are also uncovering its ability to boost heart health. One study on mice found that it both lowered cholesterol levels while also increasing fatty acids to provide energy. Another study on rats found it protects against high blood pressure.
Used by Ayurveda practitioners to promote learning and memory, the historical use of Ashwagandha root goes back 4,000 years. It is often referred to as “Indian ginseng” because of its health benefits.
Modern research shows that it can reduce blood sugar. One test-tube study found that it improved insulin sensitivity. Human studies replicated these findings, as well. One study found that it helped lower blood sugar. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on patients with schizophrenia found it improved fasting blood sugar levels. A third study also found that it improved blood glucose levels in test subjects.
Ashwagandha also helps reduce cortisol levels, the stress-related hormone. Smoking is acutely associated with high cortisol levels. The root can help bring these levels back down again. In one randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study, higher dosages were associated with greater cortisol reductions. The patients with the highest dosage reduced their cortisol levels an average of 30%.
However, ashwagandha has received the most publicity for its ability to improve stress and anxiety levels. Researchers found that it blocks stress pathways in the brains of rats. In one 6-week double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 88% of those who took ashwagandha reported a reduction in stress. Another 60-day trial found that 69% of those who took ashwagandha reported a decrease in anxiety and stress.
Quitting smoking can be stressful for the brain and body. Many people experience an increase in anxiety as they try to manage stress apart from cigarettes. Ashwagandha can provide vital help.
Astragalus has long been a foundational herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine. As a sweet herb, it’s often put in soups for the sick to strengthen them.
Studies point to its ability to boost the immune system. It helps support and enhances the body’s natural defenses. Astragalus also helps kill both various strains of bacteria and viruses. Researchers also found it helps the body fight the common cold and infections of the liver.
Researchers also found that astragalus can improve kidney health. Because of smoking’s detrimental effect on both blood sugar and blood pressure, smokers often suffer from reduced kidney health.
A 2019 study on diabetic rats found that a mixture of Astragalus and Curcumin helped improve kidney function. Another 2015 study also found its protective effects on the kidneys with diabetic rats. A third study found the antioxidants in astragalus helped protect the organs.
Although the results are promising, more research needs to be done to make a firm conclusion.
A native of Northern Asian and Europe, each part of the burdock plant has different therapeutic benefits. However, the thick, square root has the most impressive benefits.
Modern research uncovered burdock’s ability to help remove impurities from the blood. Smoking introduces many harmful toxins to the body. Burdock root can help provide powerful support in eliminating these toxins. A 2011 study found that it helped with the detox process and promoted circulation.
Smoking can also decrease bedroom performance because of its effect on blood circulation. A 2012 study on male rats found that it helped improve both performance and desire.
Life Hacks to Quit Smoking
While smoking can be detrimental, the good news is that quitting significantly improves our health. No matter how long we use cigarettes, quitting provides almost immediate benefits.
However, many smokers struggle with quitting because it is a powerful addiction. For those who’ve failed before, though, there’s no need to be discouraged. It takes many of us multiple tries before quitting becomes permanent.
There are ways to make it easier, though:
- Get motivated. Figure out your way to stay motivated when things get difficult.
- Prepare first. While cold turkey might work for some people, the addictive nature of nicotine can hijack your reasoning skills. Line up support groups, resources, and research methods before your last cigarette. Cold turkey only works 3-5% of the time, so come up with a plan instead.
- Use Nicotine Replacements. The withdrawals can be incredibly strong. Nicotine gums, lozenges, and patches can help slowly wean you off of it.
- Find Ways to Relax. Cigarettes are usually used to release stress. Finding new coping techniques will help with the transition. Get a massage, go for a walk, or pick up a new hobby to relax.
- Find a Support System. Quitting is difficult to do alone. Find a support group, get accountability from friends or family to get encouragement and support.
- Celebrate Small Victories. The road to quitting can seem long sometimes. Even going 24 hours without a cigarette can be monumental. Celebrate each step along the way.
Tackling quitting alone isn’t the only option. Look to nature to find some gentle support.
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