How to manage your asthma naturally

 I've been dealing with asthma my whole life. I had my first asthma attack when I was two years old and I had a pretty rough childhood after that. My asthma attacks were almost daily and were triggered by allergies and excessive motion. So no running for me and no house plants and pretty carpets for my mom. My family had to relocate to a more suitable climate and rethink a lot of their daily choices in order to keep me healthy. I've tried every treatment possible - medicine, shots, steroids... Nothing really worked long term. The attacks kept coming back and all the various treatments left my immune system in a terrible shape. I was sick all the time. I had a tonsillectomy at age five because the doctors were convinced that it will help me avoid constant inflammation. It made things even worse and I was constantly suffering from pneumonia and even the tiniest of colds would affect my lungs, my weak spot, and trigger an attack. My poor parents!
  I was in high school when I started doing my own research and I was able to change things. I was able to control my asthma at that time by avoiding most allergen triggers and vigorous exercise, but I still had periods of daily attacks that left my body weak and exhausted. I found a doctor who treated chronic illness with food. It included a period of fasting and then specific food choices , that were going to help me manage my asthma. It did not include medication so I decided to give it a try. It has been life changing! I am mostly symptom free. I've had only two attacks in the last 4 year! I don't use any prescription or over the counter medication. I use food and herbs to manage my asthma. I do not follow a strict diet and can handle a lot of my triggers without provoking a full blown asthma attack. 

  Here are 5 ways you can manage your asthma naturally:
  • Do a cleanse at least once a year
 I find that this is the best way to let your body restore its balance. My first cleanse was very intense. It was 20 days of just juices and herbal teas. I lost about 25 pounds and I felt great at the end , but it required a lot of will power. I desperately needed this drastic change as I was having daily asthma attacks and I was suffering a lot from allergies. This was seventeen years ago and I've only done it one more time. I usually do a milder version of it every year. I still incorporate a lot of fresh juices and herbal teas, but I eat a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables and some cooked veggies and beans as well. If you eat pretty healthy , you can probably add some wild caught fish and organic chicken. I like to do a two week long cleanse in early spring, in order to get ready for the "active" allergy season. I also go into a cleanse mode when I get sick in the winter.
 If your asthma is triggered by allergies, as is mine, you have to avoid eating a lot of mucus forming foods.When you do a cleanse, your body has a chance to get rid of the excess mucus that has built up throughout the year. If you think you can't handle two whole weeks , just give your body a break one day every week. I had a friend who would eat fruit only on Tuesdays and that was his way of keeping his body clean and well balanced.
Remember, if you want to start a more intense cleanse, make sure you find a doctor who can advise you according to your body's needs. I had to visit my doctor every few days during my first cleanse so she could check my vitals and make sure it was healing rather than damaging to my body. If you have any fluctuations in blood pressure, blood sugar, severe headaches, or extreme weakness, you might want to take the gentler approach and do a longer cleanse, until your symptoms disappear.

  • Keep mucus forming foods to a minimum
 Think of mucus as sludge for your body. It captures and stores toxins and allergens.It makes your organs sluggish and prevents them from functioning normally. If your systems of elimination are not efficient enough, your body will not be able to expel all the mucus and it will bring on conditions such as excess weight, constipation, sinus problems, joint pain, headaches, and allergy and asthma symptoms. Doing a cleanse once a year will help you keep your balance, but it is good to keep mucus forming foods to a minimum throughout the whole year.
As part of my initial recovery , I had to avoid wheat, dairy and meat. It was a kind of continuous cleansing of the system until my body recovered its balance. Today, I don't shy away from those foods, I just try to make healthier choices. I make my own sourdough bread or purchase from a local artisan bakery. I eat cultured dairy and raw cheeses , rather than processed milk and cheese. I incorporate a lot of probiotic foods in my diet, such as fermented veggies, sauerkraut, kombucha , yogurt and kefir. This keeps my digestive tract working well , which is one of our major channels of elimination. A healthy gut means a healthy body!
There are a lot of alternatives to gluten and dairy and it is a lot easier to enjoy wholesome, delicious foods, while staying away from major allergen triggers ( asthma triggers). It wasn't easy in the early 90s when I first started. But the biggest lesson I learned throughout the years is: HOMEMADE! This is the only way to guarantee the purity and quality of your food. There are too many uncertainties and gaps in the official regulations and I never trust the claims on the box. Usually a healthy claim in big print on the front is not reflected in the ingredient list on the back! Check and you'll see what I have in mind!
  • Avoid toxin exposure as much as possible
 Avoiding toxins is one of the hardest thing to do. Our surroundings are harder to control and manage than our bodies, despite the fact that most people believe the opposite. There are, however, steps you can take that will help you reduce your exposure significantly. Here is what we did in our household:
  1. Switch all your Tupperware to glass - Glass is more expensive but it is worth the investment. You can start with just a few containers and expand according to your needs. I still use some BPA free plastic containers to keep cold food, but never put anything hot or heat up a plastic container. Glass is very durable and you can put it in the dishwasher without being afraid that it will start leaking toxins in your food after the first wash.
  2. Use a water filter - We use a PUR filter for our drinking water and for cooking. I like to fill up a reusable bottle of water when we go out. We sometimes purchase bottled water when we are traveling but try to avoid it as much as possible. A lot of the plastics used for packaging and water bottles leak estrogen like chemicals which we ingest. This can wreak havoc on our bodies, and most importantly our children's bodies. Little boys don't need synthetic estrogens!
  3. Use natural body products - Allergies and asthma are often accompanied by dry skin or eczema. It is a whole body condition and people often forget that the skin is our largest organ. It is not an impenetrable wall between you and the world . It is a living, breathing thing and it is one of our most important channels of elimination. Women often apply over 60 chemicals on their skin daily. So, choose wisely. Use products without any harsh chemicals, synthetic perfumes, dies, phtalates or parabens.  There is a great variety of products out there and often you can create your own for just pennies. 
It is very simple and you don't have to become obsessed with every little thing. Start small and bigger changes will inevitably follow.
  • Avoid all triggers of asthma attacks until your body is well balanced

 Even though I haven't had an asthma attack in a couple of years, I still try to avoid any triggers when possible. For example, we put in hardwood floors when we moved into our house; we don't have any down bedding or pillows. We use only natural, scent free laundry detergent and wool dryer balls instead of harsh smelling dryer sheets. I avoid certain flowers and plants in our house, and we don't have pets. So, there are some sacrifices you have to make but I love being able to breathe! You just have to find your strongest triggers, the things that will bring on an attack for sure , and eliminate those. You will be able to tolerate any milder triggers after you balance your body. A lot of things will even disappear as causes of an attack.
 If you often get asthma attacks when you try to exercise , run , climb, or when you are under stress, you might want to talk to you doctor about Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis. It is often misdiagnosed as asthma and is caused by the body's reaction to certain foods like gluten , dairy, shellfish or peanuts. You don't have to be allergic to those foods in order for them to trigger an attack. The easiest way to find out if you have Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis is to do an elimination diet/cleanse and then add the most common triggers back to your diet one at a time. Try any rigorous movement before you add them back in to see if you will have an attack. Then eat any of the triggers before you exercise and see if this will affect you.

  • Use herbs to prevent asthma attacks
 I used to carry an inhaler with me all the time. But I hated using it! It made me jittery and light headed for the rest of the day and I couldn't function properly. I had to find a natural alternative to the inhaler which was easy to use and worked quick enough to relieve an attack. Let me tell you, it does exist! During my herbals studies I discovered a common herb which changed my life - Mullein. I use a ready preparation with Mullein and other herbs by WishGarden called Deep Lung. I love it ! Two dropperfuls of the tincture bring air back into my lungs in minutes and I can avoid getting a full blown attack. I take it every time I feel tightness in my chest. 
 I also use aromatherapy as a way to relieve any discomfort or difficulty breathing. I use eucalyptus oil when I have a cold or any sinus issue. It helps me sleep better and breathe better. I also carry some peppermint oil with me and rub it in my palms and inhale when I feel a little bit of a difficulty breathing. Drinking strong peppermint tea will do the trick as well.
 I know asthma and lung issues can be very hard to deal with and be very limiting. But living a full life and enjoying every minute of it is possible. It just requires a little effort and lots of determination to get better. Remember, only you can heal your body, it is all up to you!

 How do you deal with the every day challenges of asthma?

The Winter Herbal Pantry

Cold and flu season is upon us. I know it because I've been opening that bottle of echinacea tincture more often lately and the tea pot is always full of steamy goodness. Herbal recipes are pulled out of the archives and new formulas are created. Then, today, I started thinking. Healing shouldn't require complicated formulas and herbs we've never heard of. It doesn't have to be complicated. I looked in my pantry. What does my husband and kid ask for when they have the sniffles? What is my go to item when I feel down? How do I keep my body strong? I wanted simple answers, things that I can buy in any store the minute I need them.
 This is what I came up with. A list of seven items that I always have at home, that are available everywhere ( I have a Walmart, Walgreens, Kroger,Safeway and a local grocery store close by) and are easy to work with.
Here is what I keep in my Winter Herbal Pantry:


People think of thyme as an herb used in cooking but it has some great medicinal properties as well. I remember the fragrant carpet of wild thyme in the woods by our summer house. It is one of my favorite herbs for tea and I often use it in my infusions. My husband loves it as an infusion on its own, with added honey and lemon.
Thyme is wonderful for wet, hacking coughs. It helps you expel the mucus and it strengthens the lungs. Many herbalists recommend it to people that have proneness to upper respiratory infections. A cup of thyme infusion a day, taken on a regular basis, will strengthen the lungs and protect them.
Thyme is part of the mint family which means it will also help you with any stomach issues, painful bloating or gas.


I prefer spearmint in my herbal infusions and I often substitute spearmint for peppermint when I prepare my formulas. It has a sweet, milder taste and it works better for my body.
Peppermint / spearmint tea is one of my go to items for digestive problems. I use it for my toddler son when he has tummy troubles. He likes the flavor of the infusion sweetened with a little bit of raw honey.
I also find that spearmint tea gives me a sense of refreshed energy and clears my head when I am coming down with a cold.
In Bulgaria, where I was born, we often add spearmint to our bean dishes to help with digestion and prevent bloating and gas.
I also keep a bottle of peppermint essential oil on hand. It is great to add to your bath or to do an inhalation with it, if your head and sinuses feel stuffy. I use it externally as well on itchy rashes and hives. It will relieve the itchiness and the swelling from mosquito bites. Peppermint essential oil is pretty strong and it can burn the skin, so if you are planning on using it externally, you have to dilute it in another oil, like olive, coconut or almond oil. This diluted oil can be used to massage sore muscles. It will bring blood to the area and act as a warming agent to relieve tightness and pain.

Ginger is one of the oldest herbs known to man and it has wonderful culinary and medicinal properties. It will soothe an upset stomach and chase away a cold. I used to take ginger daily during my pregnancy and I had no problem with morning sickness. I also like to take a nibble of a Ginger Chew ( I always keep those on hand) after a heavy meal to ensure proper digestion.
Ginger is great when you have one of those colds that leave you weak and miserable. I make a strong decoction of fresh ginger root by boiling a two inch piece of ginger in two cups of water until the water is reduced by half. Then, while still hot , I strain it and add the juice of 2-3 lemons and three tablespoons of honey. Drink this as hot as you can handle and wrap yourself into a warm blanket. You'll break out in sweat in no time, fever will be gone and those unpleasant body aches will be a thing of the past. I like to do this whole procedure at night , after I take a hot shower, so I can stay in bed as long as possible. Plus, the relief from fever and aches, can bring a peaceful night of rest, which is the best medicine for your body.

Cayenne is one of my favorite healing plants. It has such an amazing ability to heal our bodies where they need it. I combine cayenne with raw honey and mashed garlic when we get a sore throat. The honey helps to soothe the throat, the garlic acts as a natural antibiotic and cayenne warms up the area and pulls more blood to it , so the healing process can begin.
Cayenne is a wonderful herb to take when you have a blood pressure problem. My husband was diagnosed as being pre - hypertension with his blood pressure consistently staying higher. The doctor gave him a couple of weeks to follow his blood pressure daily and establish a pattern so they can figure out if he needs medication. As you can imagine, medication was not in my plan for the situation. I started using cayenne in our food, and he started taking even more cayenne in capsule form , as well as a few other herbs from my stash. Two weeks later he managed to show lower blood pressure levels and the doctor agreed to leave him off of any medication. Success!

I consider garlic a miracle plant. I love it in it's green spring form and in it's mature form, which most people are used to. It is a natural antibiotic, without the harsh side effect of the prescription drugs. It does not disrupt the good flora in your gut as synthetic antibiotics do.
Eating garlic daily can ensure flu free winter. I prepare it in many forms, but the easiest way is to sneak it into your daily cooking. It is great with veggies, meat , legumes.The options are only limited by your imagination. I like to make lacto- fermented veggies and I always add a whole head of garlic. It's healing and delicious!
One the most popular uses of garlic as medicine is for children's ear infections. I infuse a few crushed garlic cloves in olive oil for three days (or a few hours, if you warm up the oil) and keep it in the fridge to have on hand. I warm it up before I use it.
Garlic can cause some bloating and gas in some people, so find your level of tolerance before ingesting a large amount of it.

It's important to purchase a good quality raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar with the mother in order to reap the benefits. If you purchase pasteurized vinegar it will be void of all beneficial organisms.
Apple Cider Vinegar is a great detoxifier of the body. It brings the overall pH of the body to more alkaline levels. Viruses and all "bad" bacteria thrive better in an acidic environment. When your body is alkaline you are more likely to NOT get sick.
 I have two favorite preparations that include Apple Cider Vinegar. The first one is great when you have any sinus issues and has only two ingredients - the vinegar and grated fresh horseradish root. Chew on a teaspoon of this mixture and your sinuses will be cleared in no time.
The second preparation is called Fire Cider and is something that I always keep on hand. It is basically vinegar, infused with garlic , onion, horseradish,and cayenne. I make a slightly different version which I plan on sharing with you soon.
I always add Apple Cider Vinegar to my crockpot when I make bone broth. It helps extract the minerals from the bones and makes the broth even more nourishing.

I call honey "liquid gold". It is one of the most precious items in my pantry. It is alive and vibrant. Of course, we purchase honey from a local farmer and it is wonderful to taste the changes from season to season.
Try to find raw unpasteurized honey and make sure there is no sugar or corn syrup added to your jar.
Honey is an ancient food. It connects us to the healing arts of our ancestors. It is full of minerals and is antibacterial. In ancient Egypt it was used to dress wounds so they will heal faster and avoid infection. It is very soothing for the throat and I love to take a tablespoon of honey instead of the cough drops that you normally get in the store. I also like to infuse honey with different herbs like sage, lavender, and thyme. It is delicious and very healing. Sage and thyme honey do wonders for coughs, and lavender honey is very relaxing in a cup of warm milk.

What staples do you keep in your Winter Herbal Pantry?