Mucus serves a purpose. It’s technically a fluid that is meant to protect the tissues lining our airways—think nasal and sinus passages, throat, and lungs. It traps dirt and allergens so that our soft tissues don’t absorb them or allow them to get caught in the lungs, and it even contains molecules with antimicrobial and antioxidant properties to keep things clean. It essentially helps us fight infection and stay lubricated so our airways don’t dry out. As gross as mucus sounds, it’s totally necessary.
However, when it gets gluey and dense, we think of it as phlegm. We hear it in our voice, it doesn’t want to go down the esophagus, and it feels like a grotesque obstruction. Here’s what causes phlegm, and what to do about it.
Mucus is largely composed of water and ions, so when we are dehydrated, meaning our body is low on water and minerals, all things tend to shrivel up, even this viscous liquid. It’s important to stay hydrated, which means not just drinking water but also getting the necessary electrolytes we need, so that our bodies don’t reach for our water reserves from all sources.
Take herbs or medications to combat allergies
Sometimes our bodies produce extra mucus in order to help clear an excessive onslaught of invaders, like pollen, mold, or dander. This excess mucus traps the invaders, allowing us to expel them either through the mouth (ew, we know) or the nose. An OTC allergy med could be your best friend if you’re prone to allergies, but we love stocking up on respiratory herbal allies to maintain our health naturally. Herbs like licorice root, echinacea, ginseng, and mullein are all great as supplements, powders, and teas to keep our respiratory system strong.
Because mucus helps protect the soft tissues in our airways from drying out, extra dry air caused by cold weather or desert climates can cause us to produce excess mucus as well, which will dry up due to the lack of moisture in the air. Smoking also dries out our passageways, so those who frequently smoke cigarettes, e-cigs, or cannabis may need to cut back. A humidifier in the home can assist with this immensely by adding moisture to the air and lubricating these passageways.
Lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus oils are all fantastic medicinal oils to break up that frog in your throat. They are antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and have a natural cooling effect, which causes our passageways to open up and decompress. They also smell amazing and create a relaxing spa vibe when added to a home diffuser or humidifier that is essential oil-safe.
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