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The 7 Most Effective Lung Cleansing Herbs

Cup of herbal tea and bouquets of wild herbs on old wooden table

Written by Emily Spring 

Your lungs are constantly working, inputting and outputting oxygen day in and day out. However, in addition to oxygen, your lungs must also deal with external toxins and pollutants, which can enter your airways when the air quality is poor.

Luckily, there are numerous herbal supplements you can take to support your body, cleanse your airways, and relieve irritations from foreign particles. 

To that end, this guide will walk you through 7 powerful lung cleansing herbs and functional mushrooms supplements that can help to support your lungs and naturally provide relief from airborne pollutants. 

What Herbs Cleanse the Lungs?

When toxins enter your lungs, they become trapped within the mucus lining of your airways, which your body produces to enmesh external pollutants when inhaled. When the pollutants become trapped in the mucus, the body can more easily expel them by coughing. 

However, this can often result in a buildup of phlegm and feelings of congestion. 

Those experiencing uncomfortable lung symptoms can employ several herbs to cleanse the mucus and remove harmful irritants from the lungs to help alleviate irritation and support lung health.1 

#1 Mullein

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is a flowering plant native to regions in Europe, Africa, and Asia, but it also grows in North America. You can most likely find mullein growing in your backyard. The plant itself is part of the snapdragon family, which consists of tall leafy plants with yellow flowers.2

Mullein has long been thought to contain medicinal properties, containing compounds like saponins, iridoids, flavonoids, vitamin C, and minerals. Studies have also found that extracts from the plant contain anti-influenza properties.3

Mullein’s leaves and flowers contain antiviral, antibacterial, antioxidant, and antiseptic properties and can aid symptoms related to the lungs. This means you can use this plant to help relieve the following:4

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Colds
  • Congestion
  • Allergies

The plant can also be ingested and utilized in a variety of ways to fit your lifestyle:

  • Brew mullein into tea – Dried mullein leaves can be steeped into a tea, which contains the plant’s respiratory relieving properties. If you want to try mullein tea, pour a cup of hot water over 1-2 teaspoons of dried mullein leaves and steep for 10-15 minutes. You can drink this tea anywhere from three to four times a day.5
  • Mullein steam therapy – Similarly, mullein leaves can be used for steam inhalation. Try boiling some mullein leaves in hot water for about five minutes. When finished, remove the water from the heat and cover the emerging steam with a towel around the back of your neck. You can inhale the steam from the boiled water to relieve coughs and nasal congestion.2
  • Extracts and supplements – Mullein is also produced in a variety of capsules and supplements. When sourcing your supplements, make sure you’re finding reputable products made from organic ingredients.

#2 Thyme

Most likely, you can find this herb in your spice cabinet and have used it in a dish a time or two. But thyme also has medicinal properties, most notably with its ability to expel mucus from the lungs.

While you might think of thyme as just another seasoning, it has a history of respiratory health-related treatments dating back to Hippocrates, a physician from ancient Greece who recommended the herb  for lung health.6

In one study, researchers found that a thyme-ivy essential oil extract greatly reduced coughing fits in patients.77 If you’re wondering how to try out thyme’s respiratory health-boosting properties yourself, here are some methods you can explore:

  • Thyme essential oil – Made by extracting oils from thyme leaves, this oil can be added to a diffuser for aromatherapy during the day. The concentrated compounds from the essential oil can help break up the excess mucus and relieve congestion. This extract can also be diluted into various olive oils and supplements for consumption.8
  • Drinking thyme tea – You can drink this tea up to three times a day. To make it, place a teaspoon of dried thyme leaves into boiling water and steep for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, strain the mixture and enjoy.
  • Gargling tea – If your throat is feeling extra sore, you can gargle thyme tea to soothe your throat. Just make sure that the water has cooled to a reasonable temperature before gargling the tea.9

#3 Astragalus

If you frequently suffer from colds related to dry air or irritation from the winter winds, then you might consider astragalus as a natural remedy. Astragalus, otherwise known as milkvetch, is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine. 

More specifically, the root of the plant can be used to make a variety of herbal remedies, including:10

  • Supplements
  • Liquid extracts
  • Capsules
  • Powders
  • Teas

A 2013 study found that extracts from the astragalus root were beneficial to the immune system, easing respiratory symptoms.11 When the root of the plant is ground, its powder contains powerful compounds that restore the lungs from external irritants.

Most popularly, the powdered root is taken twice daily in 80-mg capsules to combat seasonal irritations like cold air, dust, pollutants from furnace filters, smoke from fireplaces and poor air quality.

To learn more about the effects of bad air, read our resource on poor air quality symptoms

#4 Eucalyptus

This herb is originally from Australia, and its leaves are often extracted to create an essential oil. If you don’t like drinking tea, this herb is an alternative. People can either inhale eucalyptus or use it as a body rub to relieve lung irritation and even a sore throat.12

The oils from the plant have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that target congestion. Inhaling the steam from eucalyptus oil drops can also relax the bronchial muscles and parasympathetic nervous system, allowing your airways to expand and relieve chest heaviness. Plus, the benefits of breathwork are only elevated when eucalyptus is introduced into your practice. 

Popular over-the-counter medications use eucalyptus as the main ingredient in rubs and steam therapies. If you want to try this oil at home, try misting some of the oil on your pillow, applying a few drops to the base of your steamy shower, or using a eucalyptus oil rub. 

It’s important to note that unlike the other herbs on this list, eucalyptus oil should always be inhaled, never ingested.13

#5 Licorice Root

Your mind probably immediately jumps to the red twisted candy when you think of this herb. But actual licorice root contains natural herbal compounds that have been used in medicinal practices since ancient times.

It’s worth noting that licorice contains the compound glycyrrhizin, which in higher amounts increases the body’s production of cortisol, the stress hormone. To take advantage of licorice root consistently, it’s important to consume supplements with deglycyrrhizinated licorice root, where the glycyrrhizin is removed.14

Deglycyrrhizinated licorice root provides many benefits, including:15

  • Relieving upset stomachs
  • Soothing irritation
  • Managing sore throats
  • Alleviating lung congestion

A study from 2015 found that acids within licorice root, like asiatic acid and oleanolic acid, help protect bronchial epithelial cells from oxidative and inflammatory stress.16 In other words, when you consume deglycyrrhizinated licorice root, it can support the cells within your bronchial passageways.

#6 Peppermint

It’s hard not to relate peppermint with candy canes and the warm drinks of wintertime. But did you know that peppermint can also aid your lungs during the harsh cold and flu season? This fresh-tasting plant provides powerful herbal remedies that soothe the following ailments:17

  • Colds and flu
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Skin conditions

If you want to try peppermint to ease your chest congestion, add a few drops of peppermint oil to a steaming bowl of hot water,  place your head above the bowl, and breathe in deeply. 

Peppermint contains traces of menthol. Menthol works as a natural decongestant to break up mucus trapped in your respiratory tract, which makes it easier to breathe. 

#7 Ginseng

Ginseng is another herb that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. You’re probably familiar with ginseng tea, which contains powerful antioxidants derived from the ginseng herb.

A study from 2012 found that ginseng supports your immune system, helping you maintain homeostasis and resistance to respiratory illness.18 Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties also help reduce swelling in your bronchial tubes, which are the airways of your lungs. 

As a result, this herb soothes nasal congestion by breaking up mucus buildup and promoting more airflow. The easiest way to incorporate ginseng is to head to your local grocery store and purchase ginseng tea. You can also invest in ginseng supplements or herbal medicine, which are created from the root of the plant.

Explore Lung Cleansing Herbal Supplements with Plant People

If these herbs sound appealing, or you’re looking to add mushroom supplements or herbal solution that supports your energy and oxygen intake, consider Plant People’s Advanced Lung Guard. This herbal solution comes with powerful lung cleansing herbs like: 

  • Mullein
  • Thyme
  • Astragalus Root
  • Deglycyrrhizinated licorice root

At Plant People, we are here to support your health to help you live a healthy, strong, and energy-filled life. Our doctor-formulated organic supplements contain zero fillers and are backed by extensive research. Restore your respiration with Plant People.


Written by Emily Spring 

Emily Spring is the Director of Marketing at Plant People. A longtime proponent of balanced living, she has enjoyed over 8 years driving growth in the lifestyle, health and wellness sectors with deep experience in functional solutions for optimizing anyone's everyday life.


Reviewed by Gabe Kennedy

 Co-Founder of Plant People, Gabe Kennedy is an acclaimed chef and entrepreneur. Growing up in a house of healers and herbalists, he is passionate about the power of food as a tool for health, and actualized this passion and belief system into his company, Plant People. Named to Forbes 30 under 30 Gabe has shaped menus and cooked his way around the world with his mission to promote a more communal, green and healthy world.

 Gabe is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. You can learn more about his work at his website.



  1. MedicalNewsToday. Natural ways to cleanse your lungs.
  2. Hawthorn Center. For lung health: Get to know mullein. 
  3. National Library of Medicine. Antiviral Activity of Some Plants Used in Nepalese Traditional Medicine. 
  4. SciFlo. Common mullein, pharmacological and chemical aspects. 
  5. WebMD. Health Benefits of Mullein Tea. 
  6. MedicalNewsToday. What are the benefits of thyme?. 
  7. National Library of Medicine. Efficacy and tolerability of a fluid extract combination of thyme herb and ivy leaves and matched placebo in adults suffering from acute bronchitis with productive cough. A prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. 
  8. Healthline. 9 Health Benefits of Thyme. 
  9. ShaMagazine. Take care of your lungs with thyme tea & other medicinal plants.  
  10. Healthline. Astragalus: An Ancient Root With Health Benefits.
  11. National Library of Medicine. Effects of Lung Support Formula on respiratory symptoms among older adults: results of a three-month follow-up study in Shanghai, China. 
  12. Healthline. 9 Unexpected Benefits of Eucalyptus Oil.  
  13. Vogue. 5 herbs and plants that can help improve your respiratory health. 
  14. VeryWellHealth. What is Licorice Root?. 
  15. Best Health. Natural Health Remedy: The Benefits of Licorice Root. 
  16. ACS Publications. Antioxidative and Antiinflammatory Activities of Asiatic Acid, Glycyrrhizic Acid, and Oleanolic Acid in Human Bronchial Epithelial Cells. 
  17. UCHealth. The power of peppermint. 
  18. National Library of Medicine. Ginseng, the 'Immunity Boost': The Effects of Panax ginseng on Immune System. 

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