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  • Dr. Vickie Modica

Lung Health: Preserving Your Breath

Breath in. Breath out. We do it automatically, about 22,000 times per day. For millions of adults and children, taking a deep breath is a struggle; for those who can breathe easily, the power of the breath is often taken for granted. Yet our  lungs have a vulnerability not shared by other organs: Along with oxygen, breathing brings in airborne irritants, organisms, and toxins. As these substances increase in the environment, more people are dealing with poor lung and respiratory health.An unhealthy respiratory system deprives our entire body of oxygen, a nutrient essential to the functioning of all our organs and tissues. A poorly functioning respiratory system compromises the strength of the immune system and puts us at risk for serious illnesses, such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and coronary obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Protect Your Lungs


The better your cardiorespiratory fitness, the easier it is for your lungs to keep your heart and muscles supplied with oxygen. It doesn't matter if you dance under the moon, swim at sunrise, or walk through the woods…just get moving to a level that increases your breathing and heart rate.

Puff Off

Smoking is one of the most detrimental things you can do to your lungs. There's no such thing as moderation. Smoking, second-hand smoke in the air, and smoke absorbed by clothes, furniture and car upholstery can damage lung tissue and increase your risk for lung cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses.

Breathe Clean(er)

From second-hand smoke to industrial pollution, the levels of toxins in the air are astonishing. This is especially true if you live in, work, or travel to places without environmental protections for air quality. For information on local air quality and an explanation of the Air Quality Index (AQI), visit AIRNow ( Reduce toxins and improve your air quality by: using air purifiers or whole house air filtration systems; following a schedule for replacing air filters in your heating/cooling system; and keeping plenty of plants in your living areas to remove certain chemicals from indoor air.

The Power of the Breath

Breathe Right

Most of us don't breathe well. Too often, respiration is shallow instead of deep, limiting the efficiency of oxygen / carbon dioxide exchange. Proper breathing begins with good posture - stand tall through the spine and chest.

Relax with the Breath

The breath can be used to reduce the effects of stress , increase concentration, and lower your heart rate.  Abdominal breathing, in which you fill the belly - not just the chest - as you inhale is particularly helpful.  Give it a try!

  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable place.

  • Breath in through your nose deep enough to fill your chest and belly.

  • Make sure to relax your abdomen to allow it to expand fully.

  • Breath out slowly through your mouth or nose, whichever is most comfortable for you.

Ease Respiratory Symptoms with Eucalyptus Oil (Eucalyptus globulus)

Eucalyptus has held a place in herbal medicine for centuries. Native to Australia, there are more than 680 species of eucalyptus, ranging from scrappy shrubs to towering trees. The bark and leaves provide a rich source of the pungent, heady fragrance that has become popular in modern aromatherapy. Specifically, Eucalyptus essential oil (EO) has attracted research attention for easing symptoms of respiratory illness.

The medicinal properties of Eucalyptus EO include anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, antibacterial, antiseptic and expectorant. The primary active component, cineole, loosens phlegm so the body can expel it more easily, easing symptoms such as cough, runny nose, sore throat, and congestion. Eucalyptus EO is found in many over-the-counter remedies including throat lozenges, inhalants, decongestant syrups, and chest rubs. However, it's unsafe to ingest eucalyptus oil or to apply undiluted oil directly on the skin.As an aromatherapy remedy for respiratory symptoms, you can buy eucalyptus prepared as a tea, chest rub, or vaporizer. You can also purchase organic Eucalyptus EO for use in bath water, to add to a vaporizer, or a room diffuser. The oil distributes in the steam, which helps open the nasal and respiratory pathways as you inhale. In a bath, add 1 tbsp of milk (almond, cashew or rice) with the oil to enhance dispersal of the oil.

Before preparing a home remedy, consult with a holistic physician about the proper dilution of the oil as it can interact with other medication, create an allergic reaction for some people, and requires different preparation for children than for adults.


American Lung Association (numerous pages within the site) "Breathe deeply to improve Health and Posture." Accessed 19 Sept 2017:  "Posture, Breathing and Lung Capacity." Accessed 19 Sept 2017:

Wolverton, B.C., et al (NASA) "A study of interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement." Accessed 2 Oct 2017:

Johnson, R.L., S. Foster, Low Dog, T. and Kiefer, D. "Eucalyptus." National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World's Most Effective Healing Plants. (2012) 75-77. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.

Kehrl, W. Sonnemann, U., Dethlefsen, U., "Therapy for Acute nonpurulent Rhinosinusitis with Cineole: Results of a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial." Layrngoscope (April 2004). DOI: 10.1097/00005537-200404000-00027. Available:

Nordqvist, Joseph. "Eucalyptus: What are the health benefits?." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 17 Feb. 2017.  Accessed: 19 Sep. 2017:

Salari, M.H., Shirazi, A.G., Hafezi, R., & Mohammedypour, M. "Antibacterial effects of Eucalyptus globulus leaf extract on pathogenic bacteria isolated from specimens of patients with respiratory tract disorders [abstract]." Clinical Microbiology & Infection. (2006, February)  Accessed September 2017:

Serafino, A., Sinebaldi Vallebona, P., Andreola, F., Zonfrillo, M., Mercuri, L., Federici, M., &… Pierimarchi, P. "Stimulatory effect of Eucalyptus essential oil on innate cell-mediated immune response. BMC Immunology." (2008, April 18).  Accessed 19 September 2017:


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