What is a Respiratory Cleanse? Plus 3 Steps to Detox Your Lungs

This was originally written for Sanandi.com

If you have never heard of a Respiratory Cleanse, you’re not alone.We all know about detoxing for health and the importance of regular digestive system cleansing, but we never talk about respiratory cleansing—which means that most of us don’t know how important it is to our health!

What is a Respiratory Cleanse and Why Do you Need it?

A respiratory cleanse is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a time of focus on your lungs that allows your body to rid itself of any buildup that could be hindering their ability to function optimally. If you’re curious about how your lungs should be functioning, you can read about that here.

If you’re familiar with how respiration works, you know that our lungs are two of the few vital organs that come into direct contact with our environment. We breathe in air from our surroundings and while the cilia and the mucous membranes in our airways do their utmost to filter that air, they can’t always catch everything—especially if that air has a lot of pollutants or particles in it.

The alveoli, though meant to hold air, are sacs that also serve as the last filtration system before entering the bloodstream through the capillary bed. When tiny particles and air pollutants do make it past the basic filtration system into the alveoli, it’s rare that they make it farther. That means that pollutants can get stuck in these air sacs, blocking them and hindering the gas exchange—when too many of these air sacs are filled, it’s called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, or COPD.

COPD is really common as people grow older, especially in smokers. But other causes are as simple as living in a city with a lot of smog (sitting in traffic, anyone?) or taking shallow breaths with no exercise for long periods of time.

One thing to know about COPD is that it’s cyclic. When the body is unable to exchange gases effectively, there isn’t enough oxygen in the bloodstream. This causes stress hormones like adrenaline to be released in the body, which cause us to breathe more frequent, shallow breaths—this is a reaction that causes anxiety, which speeds up the heart and also increases shallow breathing. Because shallow breathing does not fill the all of our air sacs, nor does it fill them all the way, this leads to further stagnation in the alveoli.

Think about it this way. The average adult person at rest (so not including sickness or exercise) breathes about 11,000 liters of air a day, of which roughly 550 liters is pure oxygen that is utilized.

That means that more than 10,000 liters of air involved in breathing for one day doesn’t serve our bodies. Our lungs still filter all of that out for us, though, which makes our respiratory system the largest detoxifying system that we have. If they’re filled with gunk, our lungs can’t effectively filter the air, they can’t completely fill, and they can’t completely empty.

That’s why we need to spend a week or so each year focused on giving our lungs some love.

Three Step Process to Detox Your Lungs

For most people the lung detox is easier to comply with than the digestive system detox. That might not be the case if you’re a consistent smoker or you have to spend part of your days in serious traffic.

If you can set aside one week in the year to head to a beautiful location without much traffic (yes, I’m telling you to go on vacation for your lung health), and promise yourself not to smoke, this will help prolong your lung health.

Every day for that week set the intention of clean, healthy lungs. Three times a day you’ll do this routine when you wake up, after lunch, and just before bed.

Step one: Deep Breathing Exercise

This is easiest done lying on your back with your hands resting comfortably on your belly (or one on your chest and one on your belly), feeling it rise and fall.

For 5 to 10 minutes, you will focus only on your breath, welcoming thoughts that come, but letting them drift away to be dealt with later.

Breathe in through your nose for a count of four—it may take some time to work up to four seconds or you may be able to control your in-breath for longer. Find your balance.

At the top of the breath, when your lungs are full, pause for one second.

Breathe out through your nose for a count of four—again, four seconds is a baseline but you’ll find your own balance here.

Make sure you can feel your belly pushing the air out of your lungs, and at the bottom of your breath, when your lungs are empty, pause for one second.

This is one breath. This exercise allows about 6 deep breaths per minute. So if you want to keep track of your time by counting, take 30-60 deep breaths this way.

Deep breathing does a couple things in this detox. For one, it activates our ability to calm down. Stress hormones are released when we take shallow breaths, which speeds up our heart and blood circulation so we are unable fully exchange gases in our lungs—like a shortcut to get useable air to keep our body moving. Deep breaths on the other hand help reset stress hormones and fully oxygenate the blood pumping through us.

Deep breathing also allows the alveoli to completely fill and completely empty. It pushes out the stuck toxins and gives our lungs a chance to have a fresh infiltration of air.

Step two: Steams

A steam bath is like luxury to the lungs. It’s step two and not part of the deep breathing exercise because taking deep breaths of steam can be a challenge and is easier to do once your body is already calm and breathing deeply.

For many of us, a steam is something we do when we have a cold or a cough that just won’t go away—it’s the same principle. The warm steam gets deep into the lungs and breaks up any stuck gunk, helping your lungs to expel it. It’s very easy but if you haven’t ever done a steam my best advice is go slow and stick with it.

What you need:

A small pot with water
A towel
Essential oils (optional)


Bring the pot of water to a light boil, you’ll see the steam start to rise.

Place the towel over your head and lean over the pot of water, trapping the steam inside.

Breathe the steam slowly and deeply.

Everyone has a different approach to their perfect steam. Ideally you can breathe deeply through your nose for a few minutes at time, but this can be a bit difficult if you’re not used to steaming. I try to breathe deeply under the towel for about 2 minutes and then take a few regular breaths for only 5-10 seconds outside of the towel. I go back and forth for 10-12 minutes.

Note: I like to add essential oils like eucalyptus, mint, thyme, or rosemary to my pot just before I breathe it in. These are cleansing herbs that add a lovely scent and help unstick the lung-gunk even better.

Sanandi Respiratory Extract

To boost your body’s ability to expel toxic agents, we have a tonic extract that supports healthy lung function and helps get the gunk out. The Herbal Extract Resp is formulated to be helpful both as a lung detoxifier and to help in times of sickness.

It’s a water-based extract using water from the natural spring on the Sanandi Farm. Because it’s meant to be taken in large doses over a short time, we added a bit of sugar to help the taste, which is pretty herbaceous.

The extract has borage and mullein to strengthen the lungs while calendula and plantain moisten the mucous membranes. Eucalyptus, thyme, and menthol are powerhouses that help clear the airways while echinacea and elder give an immune boost your lungs need to expel the deep-seated gunk.

You’ll want to take a teaspoon three times per day after each meal. You can take it straight from the spoon or dissolve it in a warm tea—thyme makes a lovely tea to dissolve it in.

Have you ever cleansed your respiratory system? Tell us about it in the comments!




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