A resounding theme in 2020 has been the lungs and respiration. From the international respiratory virus pandemic to George Flloyd and his last words, “I can’t breathe,” to the horrific fires all over the western United States. Interestingly grief and sadness are emotions often associated with the lungs.
The lungs and skin are intimately related in many facets of medicine. They are the only two organs that are directly exposed to atmospheric oxygen!
Does the skin breathe? Yes, it does! One of the main functions of our skin is respiration. It has been known since 1851 that atmospheric oxygen is taken up by the human epidermis. There are various cells in the skin that uptake oxygen and expel carbon dioxide.
The skin cells require oxygen that they receive both from the atmosphere around them and the lower layers of the skin. Of course, because we are not amphibians, the contribution to total respiration is negligible. It is not the same action as when we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. There is a robust connection between the lungs and the skin. They are the only two organs that are directly exposed to atmospheric oxygen!
Generally, the liver and the entire digestive system are intimately related to various acute skin issues. Traditional Chinese, Ayurvedic, and Western herbal medicines all regard a powerful connection between the lungs and the skin. Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that the amount of pollution women were exposed to correlated with the depth of wrinkles! We know that pollution and smoking damage the skin and weaken the lungs, and put us at risk for illness. Working to reduce our carbon footprint is one hugely important thing we can do to help restore the air, but on a more immediate basis, there are things we can do to support our lungs right now.
Western herbs for lung support:
Thyme: A natural expectorant meaning it breaks up congestion and treats coughs, this herb is antimicrobial and helps to fight off infection. Thyme tea with honey is fantastic! (contraindicated during pregnancy)
Elecampane: Part of the sunflower family, this beautiful tall flowering plant is a favorite of many! This is a very strong expectorant helping to relieve mucus and congestion and soothing for coughs. This makes a lovely tea or can me infused into honey! (contraindicated during pregnancy and breast feeding)
Yerba Mansa: is one that can be used during pregnancy and is fantastic for cold and flu season. This beautiful herb can help to reduce congestion and inflammation in the mucus membranes! This can be prepared as a tea or a tincture for lung support!
My favorite essential oils to diffuse for lung support:
Ravintsara: I can’t talk about this essential oil enough. Inhaling it completely clears the respiratory tract. It is powerfully antiviral and decongestant.
Rosemary: breaks up congestion as well as reduces inflammation. Bonus: rosemary is also known to boost brain power! I diffuse this often while I am working!
What are you doing to support your lungs and to support your skin? Share in the comments!
Emily Davis is the owner of Stratum Aesthetics and has been a licensed esthetician since 2007. She is a holistic esthetician specializing in cannabis skin care.