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My Top 5 Herbs to Treat stubborn Respiratory Infections

In August 2023 in the US, a mystery respiratory illness emerged in dogs. First found in Oregon, it has since spread to more than 18 states. While looking a little like kennel cough but being much more serious in terms of some dogs contracting pneumonia, vets have named this Atypical Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease with an unknown pathogen (possibly bacterial in nature) being the cause. Symptoms include Coughing, often for a week or longer, sneezing, Nasal or eye discharge, Watery or red eyes, Lethargy, Difficulty breathing as well as lethargy and loss of appetite. The big issue with this infection is that it is appearing to be resistant to antibiotics and other conventional treatments.

Why bring this up?? Well fortunately at this point we have not seen this in Australia but today I wanted to focus on 5 herbs that can help fight respiratory illness in multiple ways. The beauty of herbs is that pathogens are far less likely to become resistant to these as they contain so many different active chemical compounds and may be the answer for those resistant infections, often working more effectively than conventional drugs as well as having many other benefits for the respiratory system so to stay tuned to learn more.

So here are my top 5 herbs for any type of respiratory infection whether that is bacterial, viral or otherwise:

THYME (Thymus vulgaris): Part of the reason that thyme is so prized for treating respiratory conditions is that it acts as an antispasmodic, relaxing muscle constrictions and opening your airways. This is great news when your dog has persistent dry cough associated with infection (or even allergy like asthma) Thyme is also an expectorant, supporting the body in getting rid of mucous so that your dogs lungs can stay clear. And with its antimicrobial properties that can help to fight off the pathogens that cause respiratory infections like kennel cough an others.

So Thyme contains an amazing volatile oil  that is rich in  compounds such as  Thymol and Carvacrol which are known to be naturally antibiotic and antiviral- Thymol in particular can kill bacteria as well as break down the hard protective biofilm around bacteria and other pathogens then making is easier for them to be killed. Thyme is particularly rich in vitamin A and vitamin C. Vitamin A is an antioxidant known for being vital in maintaining healthy mucus membranes while of course Vitamin C is essential to resist infectious diseases and protects against harmful pro-inflammatory free radicals. All in all Thyme is incredibly powerful when it comes to fighting infections and soothing the respiratory system down.

Although teas are a great addition to your dogs diet, I do find with significant infections that you are better using a fluid extract which will be stronger- I like to work on 1-2 drops per kg 1-2 times daily but for acute infections a higher dose may need to be given for a short period of time. Add this into your dogs food or broth and if they are not eating you can also dilute and syringe into the mouth.

ECHINACEA (Echinacea purpurea): Echinacea often commonly known as the purple coneflower has had a long history in being used to treat respiratory conditions. Echinacea is well known as an antiviral herb with its ability to fight viral infections. Echinacea has actually been proven to be effective against a wide variety of viral pathogens including the corona virus group. While it can be used preventatively, when used at higher does acutely it can reduce a viral load by as much as 99% which is pretty amazing so this can be really helpful for any upper respiratory infection to help reduce that infectious load quickly. In addition,

Echinacea has a strong ability to stimulate the immune system to fight against any infection and can in doing this, reduce the time and severity of any respiratory infection. Echinacea can also reduce the inflammation associated with infection as well as reducing the possibility of any more serious secondary bacterial infection from occurring. And if youyr dog tends to have chronic or recurring respiratory infections this is where echinacea can also help by reducing the chance of those infections back.

All in all definitely a herb to have on your list . Work on 1-2 drops per kg 2x daily and more acutely for very short periods of time. Add to food or dilute and syringe into the mouth. A well known herb that you might think is not worth mentioning but still one of my go to herbs when it comes to treating anything upper respiratory or indeed any infection to be honest.

SAGE (Salvia officinalis) : Sage of common sage as it is often referred to  has antibacterial, astringent and antiseptic properties, but Sage is also an expectorant which helps expel mucous from the respiratory tract which is an important part of clearing out any infection- better out than in basically. In terms of its antibacterial action, Sage is well known for this.

The volatile oils found within the plant have been found to help inhibit bacterial organism growth in the upper respiratory system as well as mouth and gums. Sage is high in flavonoids which makes it a great antioxidant to further fight infection, and support mucous membrane tissues in the lungs and bronchials, reducing down inflammation and also supporting the immune system. In fluid extract work on giving 1-2 drops per kg bodyweight 1-2 times daily but one again a slightly higher acute dose can be given for a few days if needed.

MULLEIN (Verbascum): Mullein is a beautiful herb that can help to naturally improve a wide array of upper respiratory problems, including bronchitis and other respiratory infections. Around 30 years ago I contracted a very serious dose of pneumonia and it was Mullein among other herbs that helped pull me through what was a very difficult time as I became extremely ill. Even to this day if I have an irritated cough I take a quick dose of mullein and this sorts it out quickly. Just an amazing herb!!

So what are the main benefits here  for infections?? The leaves of the mullein plant contain an extract with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions that helps your dogs body to get rid of mucus and soothes the raw, inflamed respiratory tract. If coughing is occurring mullein can quickly help soothe and settle and irritated cough especially if a dry cough. It can really help soothe those tiny bronchials which lead directly into the lung tissue. As it reduces the inflammation it allows the whole respiratory system to relax helping to make your dog feel much more comfortable and therefore speed up healing. I like to use 1-2 drops per kg bodyweight 2x daily or a little more in acute infections for a few days.

And finally , GARLIC (Allium sativum)- now I know some of you are thinking no way- garlic is toxic to my dog. Well it is really? Absolutely not as long as it is used correctly. Now for an infection you can either use the fresh crushed cloves of garlic added to food or a little honey or you can use the fluid extract or even garlic oil capsules which will be stronger. I use Garlic in many of my infectious mixes and upper respiratory infections are no exception.

How does garlic help the infection in your dogs lungs?? Firstly garlics main active ingredient known as allicin has the ability to stimulate the white blood cells in your dogs immune system to fight infection – particularly viral infections (but also Garlic is effective against a wider range of pathogens). In addition garlic can also help prevent further infections by strengthening the overall immune system as well as reducing inflammation in the body at the site of any infection and it is this inflammation that can lower your dogs white blood cell count. By reducing the inflammation we strengthen and build those white blood cells. Of course if you have a pregnant or lactating bitch or if your dog has any serious underlying condition please avoid garlic if you are unsure of this is suitable for your dog. I use 1-2 drops per kg bodyweight 1-2 times daily but would double this for a few days in an acute infection.


I would usually recommend using these in a combination along with other great respiratory tonic herbs such as Licorice root, Marshmallow and Elecampane.

Well there you have my top 5 favourite herbs for any type of respiratory infection. In combination they are a powerful tonic against any infection and will help to nourish the lung and bronchials, reduce inflammation, repair damage and soothe down tissues. And remember that while drugs such as antibiotics and antiviral drugs only have one method of action and this can lead to drug resistance. The beauty of herbs is that resistance is much less likely to happen due to the many naturally occurring chemical compounds in each and every herb. And herbs also have multiple actions rather than just one action so in many cases, this can make them even more effective than a single drug.






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