Doctors and scientists see a direct link between lung function and quality of life, yet lung health often declines with age. As a caregiver for an older adult, it’s incredibly important to do everything you can to keep your loved one’s lungs healthy, but poor air quality, allergies, existing disease and the general effects of aging can work against us. 

After all, the lungs can be greatly affected by changes brought about by aging: Thinning bones can change the shape of the ribcage and impact the ability to expand and contract during breathing. Muscles that support breathing may also become weakened, lowering the oxygen level in the body. Changes to lung tissue may also cause airways to close easily, and air sacs can lose their shape, making it hard to breathe. 

On top of those changes, seasonal allergies can also get worse with age and give rise to a condition known as geriatric rhinitis—mucus and discomfort in the nose due to aging. In fact, mucus buildup (also known as phlegm or sputum) is a common symptom in chronic lung diseases such as COPD (including chronic bronchitis and emphysema), cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) lung disease or asthma. 

This mucus buildup is hard to avoid, too: The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported that 99% of all people in the world breathe air that exceeds WHO quality limits and threatens their health. Nitrogen dioxide, found in higher levels in unhealthy air, is associated with respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, and leads to respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing, hospital admissions and visits to emergency rooms.

All this paints a dire picture for seniors, but the good news is that older adults don’t need to suffer through breathing issues or be forced to turn to potentially dangerous prescription medications. In fact, certain herbs and supplements may help reduce mucus buildup in the lungs and protect against the ill effects of phlegm buildup. 

Introducing mullein

A common plant with furry leaves and small yellow flowers, mullein is an herb with a long history of use for many respiratory diseases. The leaves can relieve irritation in the body’s mucus membranes in the nose, mouth and throat and can also work as an expectorant, which thins and loosens phlegm—breaking up congestion associated with a cold or other respiratory problems, just like a modern cough medicine.

“Leaves from mullein are helpful with lung congestion and mucus production,” writes Suzy Cohen, a registered pharmacist, in the Marco Eagle. “It appears to work by dilating capillaries and therefore increasing circulation. This helps relieve stagnancy and congestion, making it an interesting adjunctive remedy to people with COPD, bronchitis, asthma and dry coughs.”

While it’s possible to harvest and produce your own mullein leaf teas and tinctures, BetterLungs by Betterbrand thankfully offers a modern-day version of the mullein leaf herbalists have used for decades. Designed to support healthy respiratory and immune systems, preserve stamina and manage mucus, these pills contain mullein leaf, elderberry (used for traditional immune support), vitamin D and other beneficial herbs. No prescription is necessary, and users rave about improvements to breathing and lack of stuffy noses.

“I can’t believe how this cleared up my breathing on the first day,” Charlene P. commented. “I stopped coughing all the time and feel a whole lot better!”

The company recommends two capsules each morning for the typical senior looking for complete respiratory and immune support, or four capsules (two in the morning and two in the evening) for those who may need additional support, including smokers, travelers and those who especially suffer from seasonal changes. A 30-day supply (60 capsules) is $34.95, but those who wish to subscribe to a monthly delivery can save 15%.

The company also offers BetterLungs Immunity with IMMUSE, designed to reduce fatigue from exercise and help with work productivity by supporting the immune system. 

Learn more about BetterLungs and the other products by Betterbrand at

Supporting healthy lungs

Working with your loved one to support and maintain lung function can be a major component in ensuring they live long, happy, comfortable lives. A combination of supplements, exercise and a healthy environment is a great way to proactively fend off the natural toll aging takes on the lungs. 

Reduce exposure to triggers

Decrease exposure to allergy triggers by taking note of your loved one’s environment during flare-ups. Staying indoors with closed windows is the best way to avoid triggers such as pollen, grass and pine trees. Inside, try to eliminate dust and mold buildup. Fans and air purifiers can make a difference in improving circulation and eliminating allergens. Your loved one should also bathe and change clothes after being outdoors in allergy season.

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