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Some things are just not good to consume regularly, especially when you have a chronic disease. As someone with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD), I have found that sugar, excess carbs, and other things can throw me off. But there are 3 teas that I have found to be consistently helpful to me as a person with lung impairments: chamomile, peppermint, and mullein.

Chamomile is helpful mainly because it is calming. For a patient with AATD, that’s pretty important. There’s nothing quite like constantly facing the possibility of being unable to breathe. Chamomile relaxes my airways, and I usually use it to help me get ready for bed. It’s really important to get enough sleep. I find my oxygen gets low fast if I don’t get enough sleep.

Peppermint is also calming, but there are a few other things it helps. It is known to be helpful with digestion, so that’s important. I know those with lung ailments use more calories to breathe, and sometimes the extra pressure on the stomach from the lungs can get in the way of those extra calories. It makes sense that we need a little help.

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Another thing about peppermint tea is that I think peppermint helps me breathe better. It’s just something I noticed, but it may not be like that for everyone. I know a lot of people have found peppermint to help in other ways as well.

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And last but not least is mullein tea. It is my favorite for dealing with lung issues. Someone suggested it to me a couple of years ago when they learned about AATD, and if I remember right, my great-grandmother used it to help with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

From what I have heard, this is probably because it lessens the mucus buildup in the lungs, but others say it reduces inflammation. All I know is that it’s easier to get air through my airways, and then, as a result, there is less of an overall strain that normally leads or exacerbations or asthma attacks. I can definitely tell a difference when I drink it. I can even handle humidity better afterward.

We don’t know if mullein is safe for pregnant or breastfeeding moms. And it may not be for everyone. There’s not enough evidence for that.

Mullein tea can be expensive when it comes in tea bags. It can, however, be purchased in bulk at most natural food and supplement stores. What you have to know when you make mullein tea is that it needs to steep for much longer than the average tea. Most teas take 3 to 5 minutes to steep, but mullein takes at least 10.

It is important to remember when using loose-leaf mullein to strain it. If not strained properly, the tiny “hairs” that are part of it can and will irritate the throat. I remember discovering that for myself. It took a lot of water to stop coughing. But now I know what to do, and I don’t cough at all.

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I recommend using a coffee filter or a paper towel as a strainer to run the tea through. It’s a little bit of extra time and work, but it’s worth it (especially when it’s the middle of summer and you’ve used your medicine to the max, and you still want to go outside even if it is humid). Trust me, I know how it can be sometimes.

Seriously, there is a lot to recommend about herbal teas. They are usually safe and don’t interact with medications. Any herb needs to be researched for possible interactions, of course. But generally, they tend to lessen inflammation or at least, not raise it.

Some people like cold tea instead, which is still pretty good, but I tend to feel cold in my apartment or at the office, so I take mine hot. Some like to put honey in their tea, but I enjoy the taste without it. I think any of these teas would taste better with honey, but the only one I really miss a sweetener in might be mullein. It has a hit of an earthy flavor that I can’t quite describe.

None of the teas I mentioned are caffeinated, so they don’t dehydrate me or mess with my sleep. Rather, they enhance it because they are calming. I would say they aren’t habit-forming, as medicine might be, but I do have hot tea every night before bed. It’s a nice, soothing way to end my day.