Difficulty inhaling and exhaling, accompanied by wheezing, chronic cough, expectoration, shortness of breath, and sometimes foul breath.

What Is Emphysema?

From Modern Western Medicine

Emphysema is a condition in which the air sacs in the lungs, called alveoli, become damaged and eventually burst open, thus reducing the number of alveoli. In effect the lungs get smaller, the blood receives less oxygen, and more carbon dioxide is retained within the lungs and blood. A chemical within the lungs, called alpha-antitrypsin, prevents some of this damage, but its protective effects are inadequate against the main cause of emphysema, which is cigarette smoking. In time, the lungs lose their size, functional capacity, and elasticity, causing ever increasing difficulty breathing.

A host of secondary illnesses usually set in, including chronic bronchitis, pulmonary hypertension (elevated blood pressure in the pulmonary artery), cor pulmonale (enlargement and strain on the right side of the heart), and edema (accumulation of fluid in the tissues), especially in the lower legs. People with advanced stages of the illness sometimes turn blue or purple.

By far, the common cause of emphysema is cigarette smoking, though air pollution can be a contributing factor. In rare cases, an inherited deficiency of alpha-antitrypsin may give a person a predisposition to the illness.

Treatment can only control the disease. The person must stop smoking and then work on improving the efficiency of the remaining lung tissue with bronchodilator drugs, which widen the bronchi and bronchioles. Corticosteroid drugs may be used to reduce inflammation in the lungs. To treat edema, diuretic drugs will be given. Sometimes, if the level of oxygen has dropped significantly, the patient can use a mask or cannula to take in more.

From Traditional Medicine

Emphysema is the result of many years of abuse. Optimal lung conditions cannot be restored, but with proper care, a reduction in the severity of the symptoms can be accomplished.


Foods to Eat

  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables, especially cooked leafy greens, such as kale, collards, and mustard greens, twice daily (steaming leafy green vegetables is an ideal preparation)
  • Legumes
  • Chlorophyll and vitamin A-rich foods (protect the lungs and provide cell renewal)
  • Cereal grasses, such as wheat grass
  • Apricots (not more than 2 or 3 a day)
  • Pumpkin
  • Carrots and carrot juice
  • Daikon radishes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Citrus with pulp (high in vitamin C and bioflavonoids)


Foods to Avoid

  • Dairy products
  • Refined foods
  • Alcohol
  • Wheat


Herbs to Treat Emphysema

  • Ephedra: tincture, ¼ – 1 tsp.; tea, 1 cup two to three times daily. Contains natural ephedrine, which acts as a bronchodilator. Consult your health practitioner if you suffer from heart disease, diabetes, glaucoma, or thyroid disease/
  • Quebracho blanco (respiratory stimulant): tincture, 5 – 25 drops, three times a day
  • Comfrey: decoction, simmer root 30 minutes, take 3 oz. frequently



  • Postural drainage with percussion: hang from waist over the edge of a bed with a bowl placed at the head for easy expectoration. Apply a hot, moist compress to the back repeatedly for 5 to 10 minutes, and then have a friend pound vigorously on the back with open palms. As mucus is loosened, it should be expectorated. Repeat one to three times per day.
  • Alternate hot and cold chest packs to stimulate circulation, respiration, and mucus elimination
  • Alternate hot and cold showers
  • Stationary bicycling has been shown to be helpful. Increase amount and speed of any exercise. Best done in warm, moist environment so as not to dry out mucus membranes.
  • Inhalation of various herbal steam mixtures help heal the lungs:

Mixture 1:          Eucalyptus oil

                        Fir balsam



Mixture 2:          Sage





  • Beta-carotene: 15 – 30 mg per day
  • Vitamin B complex: 50 mg, once a day
  • Vitamin C: 100 – 500 mg
  • Vitamin E: 100 – 500 IU per day