Chinese Medicine Lung Health for Poor Air Quality

Nourishing Your Lungs during an Extreme Poor Air Quality Event

By Erin Kennedy

How can you take care of your lungs while smoke envelopes New York and the region, aside from reducing exposure by staying indoors, and masking when you need to be outside?

Due to the poor air quality, you may experience headaches, burning eyes, runny nose, cough, phlegm, wheezing, or sore, scratchy throats. The damage done by wildfire smoke inhalation can also make you more susceptible to infection. Below are recommendations for foods and teas that can help counterbalance the damage done to our respiratory systems by the intense pollution from forest fire smoke. 

If you are otherwise healthy, and want to be proactive about doing something to protect your lungs and help them recover from this assault of heat and dryness, these recommendations are for you. If you experience lingering respiratory symptoms or fatigue, and you are cleared by your doctor, consider a consultation for a Chinese medicinal herbal formula that can more actively help your lungs heal (we can do it virtually!). For immediate concerns like difficulty breathing, chest pain, or changes in levels of consciousness, call 911.  

Load up on cooling vegetables to restore your lungs. You’ll notice most of these are rather watery, moist and crisp in their texture. Preparing by steaming or boiling in soup form can amplify their moistening quality.  

  • Lily Bulb
  • Daikon, radish and turnip
  • Cucumber
  • Chinese cabbage and bok choy
  • Asparagus
  • Button mushrooms
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Watercress
  • Water chestnut



These fruits can also help, but if you are a particularly phlegmy type, don’t go overboard, especially on the citrus. 

  • Pear
  • Persimmon
  • Cantaloupe or Honeydew
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Tangerine





For those with underlying Lung yin deficiency or dryness (often those with a history of smoking),  who might be experiencing a particularly dry reaction, here are some more moistening foods. Again, use with caution if you are producing more mucus and phlegm.

  • Oily nuts or seeds, especially almond, pine nut and sunflower seeds
  • Fruits like apple, apricot & peach, banana, fig, and papaya
  • High fat foods like avocado, dairy, duck and pork

Herbal teas to help cool and moisten the lungs:


  • Peppermint
  • Licorice
  • White mulberry
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Mullein 




And, briefly, foods to avoid that could adversely aggravate a pattern of lung dryness or wind heat exposure:

  • Spicy foods like onions, leeks, scallion, chili, cayenne and other hot peppers, and mustards.
  • And hot natured beverages like coffee and alcohol
  • While milk and dairy products are very yin nourishing (and moistening), for many people, they can also exacerbate damp and phlegm conditions, so use with caution if you are experiencing a lot of dryness, but reduce these foods if you noticing excessive mucus or phlegm production as a reaction.

If you aren’t sure which suggestions are right for your system, or if you find you are struggling with lingering symptoms after the smoke clears, consider scheduling an appointment so we can help with a custom herbal formula.

Book an herbal consult or Acupuncture appointment with us here


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