5 Herbs For Respiratory Health That You Need To Know About

Respiratory health - we have heard a lot about this in recent months. Breathing is obviously very important to 1) life and 2) living well. If you’re anything like us you’re probably keen to know how you can support it naturally, so we’ve compiled a list of our favourite herbs for respiratory health!

Many of us struggle to breathe properly and this can result in fatigue, anxious feelings and can also impact your concentration and cognition. So learning to breathe deeply can have profound health effects. A simple exercise you can do is breathe in for the count of ten, hold for ten and then breathe out. Doing this in times of stress can help you re-centre and regroup.

But what herbs can you use to support respiratory health and relaxed breathing?


Thyme is a well known culinary herb, but it has its roots in western herbal medicine as a powerful plant to support your respiratory system. It is a hardy, evergreen shrub that came from the Mediterranean, it has beautiful white, pink and purple flowers in late spring and has a very distinctive smell.


We are profoundly lucky to live close to central Otago and its abundance of wild thymeWe hero this amazing plant in our Chest TonicThroat Spray, Defence Elixir as well as Fire Cider. Thyme has been used traditionally for years as it is an incredible herb for respiratory health, supporting both the chest and airways. It has anti microbial, anti bacterial and anti fungal properties that can support not only the lungs but digestive and skin systems. You can take thyme as a tea, a tincture, a glycetract or simply infuse it in honey and take when needed. 

Thyme helps your respiratory system in a multitude of ways. As we said above it has powerful anti viral and bacterial properties but it is also very helpful in promoting relaxed and easy breathing. Thyme’s properties help it work as an expectorant (which means it helps to irritate and bring ‘things’ up, like stuck phlegm or mucus). It also works as a spasmolytic which means it can help with coughing fits and help to calm the respiratory muscles (really helpful for those that suffer from asthma as well).

Thyme’s active constituent and essential oil components contribute to its powerful actions on the respiratory system, it is a beautiful supportive herb for respiratory health and for those that need extra respiratory support (for those that have chest/breathing issues such as asthma).



This amazing New Zealand native plant acts as a great herb for respiratory health as it helps to support an irritated respiratory system. Kumerahou helps to support bronchial and lung health. It is a bitter plant but can help to support stubborn respiratory conditions as it helps to thin and bring mucus up. 

Kumerahou's expectorant action is from the saponins which are a main active constituent of this plant. Saponins help to dissolve things (a bit like a soap) so this is how it can help to clear and support your breathing. Traditionally in Rongoā, kumerahou was used internally for anything to do with breathing. Visually, it has beautiful yellow flowers and is found mostly in the North Island, but you can find it as a tincture or in a tea. 


This is another amazing New Zealand native that is a great herb for respiratory health! Hoheria, more commonly known as lacebark, works as a demulcent (calming), an expectorant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and also as a broncho spasmolytic. It helps to calm irritated airways and also is a New Zealand alternative to marshmallow and slippery elm (which is over harvested).

Hoheria is really ‘goopy’ due to the high amount of mucilage contained (that goopiness coats linings which can help to calm irritation or inflammation). This ‘goopiness’  makes it ideal for helping people who have coughs and irritated airways or digestive tract conditions. Hoheria was also used as a poultice topically to help calm burns. Often it is taken as a tincture or as a strong infusion (tea).


White Horehound

White horehound is a native to Europe, north Africa and Asia. It has white flowers which are produced in summer. In herbal medicine both the flowers and the leaves are used.  Horehound has been used traditionally for years as a herb for respiratory health because it helps support relaxed and efficient breathing and also helps support sore throats and coughing fits. 


Luckily for us, it is another amazing plant that grows prolifically in Central Otago. In techy speak, horehound helps to support the laryngeal and bronchial mucous membranes. When you take white horehound its stimulant action works on the mucus production in the body, and helps the body to get rid of it. This plant works on both the upper and lower sections of the respiratory system and also contains anti microbial properties.

It is a powerful herb to support respiratory health, and is luckily so abundant it's considered a weed! That is why we use it in our Chest Tonic and Defence Elixir!


Akeake may not be that well known to you but it has been used traditionally for hundreds of years. Akeake contains active constituents that are anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, febrifuge (fever reducing)  & diaphoretic, antispasmodic. So what that means is that is can help with ‘ills and chills’, issues around pain and fever and also supports relaxed breathing.


This is why we’ve added it to the list of amazing herbs for respiratory health. This plant is definitely one to know about when you are wanting to support your lungs. You can take this plant as a tincture, tea or in a tonic. We celebrate akeake in our amazing Chest Tonic and Anti-Flam.

🌿Related3 Spectacular New Zealand Native Plants And How To Use Them


As well as this list of herbs for respiratory health here are some other things you can do to help!

  • Reducing or quitting smoking. Your lungs are pretty strong and can withstand a bit but if you can reduce any extra stress on them I am guessing they would be happy about that.
  • Improve or increase your whole food intake. Vegetables and fruits are high in antioxidants, antioxidants although a bit of a buzz word are really helpful to stop or reduce oxidative damage. We get oxidative damage just by breathing and living so it is not avoidable - pollution, general things we eat, drink or put on our skin adds to the damage so if you can eat as many bright vegetables or fruit it can really help. 
  • Exercise. Getting outside in fresh air and breathe deeply. It can help strengthen the muscles around the lungs that help you breathe.
  • Use a vapouriser if you need help to reduce coughing at night. It can help add some humidity into the air which can help with coughing fits at night, you can add essential oils too if you wish.
  • Take a preventative tonic. We have formulated our Chest Tonic specifically with herbs that support respiratory health and it can be taken every day or acutely if you are unwell. The plants within this formula all work synergistically to help support relaxed breathing as well as helping to support your immune system. 


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