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Natural herbal ingredients may fight pollution-caused lung and liver disease

natural herbal ingredients

Here is yet another reason to include more plants in your daily diet. New research shows that certain essential oils may serve as a natural treatment for lung and liver disease caused by air pollution.


When we breathe in dirty air, we bring in pollutants deep into our lungs which can lead to serious damage. Per the Physicians for Social Responsibility, air pollution can trigger new cases of asthma, worsen existing respiratory illness, and could provoke the development of chronic illnesses such as COPD and lung cancer.

You may not realize this but air pollution can also cause liver damage. Recently in the Journal of Hepatology, researchers from Wayne State University published findings that our poor air quality can also lead to fibrosis of the liver, metabolic disease and potentially even liver cancer.

Obviously, avoiding as much air pollution as possible is important – staying away from busy roads during exercise, utilizing an air filter indoors are examples – but diet can also be a critical piece of the puzzle.

Diet Sources of Essential Oils

Researchers in France and Lebanon have recently discovered that certain ingredients found in the essential oils of plants such as cloves, anise, and fennel could be utilized to treat inflammation caused by the fine particles that are typical of hazy polluted air.

Those ingredients of special interest include phenylpropanoids such as trans-anethole (flavor compound in anise and fennel), estragole (found in basil), eugenol (occurring in clove bud oil), and isoeugenol (contained in ylang ylang, a tree found in Asian and South Pacific rainforests).

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Research is still ongoing to determine the most effective amount of each ingredient which would be most useful to counteract the inflammatory effects of particulate matter. Of course, safety testing is ongoing as well before any supplement could be recommended to the general public. However, including more fresh herbs and spices into the daily diet would not only be beneficial for this purpose, but also for overall health.

Very nearly all of the fennel plant is edible – the bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds. Raw fennel is rich in vitamin C, fiber, potassium, molybdenum, manganese, copper, folate, phosphorus, magnesium, and fiber. Sautee fennel and onions together for a healthy side dish. Top a salad or your favorite seafood with sliced fennel. You may even try adding it to a sandwich in place of onion!

Ground cloves are good sources of manganese, vitamin K, fiber, iron, magnesium and calcium. It is best to purchase whole cloves and grind them before use to retain their nutrients and essential oils. Try adding ground cloves and curry powder to a one-dish meal to inspire an Indian flavoring. Add ground cloves and cinnamon to apple cider. This Thanksgiving, try adding clove powder, walnuts and raisins to your favorite stuffing recipe.

Fresh chopped basil is an excellent source of vitamin K and rich in manganese, copper, vitamins A and C. Believe it or not, it also contains a plant-based source of omega-3 fats! Obviously, basil makes a great pesto for pasta or seafood, but you may also want to try adding the leaves to stir-fries, soups or salads!

Journal Reference:
Miriana Kfoury, et al. Essential oil components decrease pulmonary and hepatic cells inflammation induced by air pollution particulate matter. Environmental Chemistry Letters, 2016; DOI: 10.1007/s10311-016-0572-4

Additional Resources:
Physicians for Social Responsibility: How Air Pollution Contributes to Lung Disease
The role of air pollutants in initiating liver disease - Journal: Toxicology Research, June 2014

Photo Credit: By Paul Goyette via Wikimedia Commons