NATURAL WAYS TO SURVIVE
Smoggy City Life
That murky haze is hanging over your city. Your eyes are irritated and that cough suddenly appeared again. Nope, that’s not allergies. It’s every city-dweller’s enemy: smog.
What is Smog, Anyway?
Hard truth time: around 40 percent of Americans live in areas with unhealthy levels of smog pollution. What exactly is smog, you might ask? It typically looks like a brownish fog that hangs overhead around the tops of buildings. Most people think it looks something like a combination of smoke and fog, hence the combined term ‘smog’. If you want to get scientific about it, smog is created from the reaction between emissions from factories, cars and other pollutant sources and the heat and sunlight in the atmosphere. This is why you’re more likely to come across smog in city environments rather than in rural towns.
Before you write off smog as just a part of living in a city, we invite you to check yourself before you wreck yourself. Inhaling the pollutants in smog makes for irritated airways with potential to develop into some serious heart and lung diseases. Beyond those visual cues, you might notice a bad smog day if you have an increase in coughing or breathlessness, or your eyes and throat are burning. While TCM practitioners don’t yet have a solid answer on a treatment for smog, both the East and West agree on several preventative actions that can help.
Invest in an Air Purifier
You use a Brita filter to purify your water, so why aren’t you cleansing the air in your home too? We spend a lot of time in our homes, and luckily it’s one of the few places we can actively control the air quality in, especially if you live in a smoggy city. Air purifiers help guarantee that even though the air outdoors might be polluted, your living space is kept safe and healthy. Pro tip: make sure to change the filters frequently along with your air conditioning unit filters.
Try Some Herbal Remedies
When smog goes too far it might equal eye and throat irritation, congestion, or coughing and sneezing. The good news is that TCM has plenty of herbal remedies that can help clear up these symptoms. Many of these herbs offer antihistamine and anti-oxidant qualities which are key for fighting these issues. Elecampane is an excellent option to soothe an irritated throat while Osha root can help with general Lung strength. For congestion issues, give peppermint, oregano, or lobelia a try. You can use these herbs as essential oils, in meals, or supplements as prescribed by your practitioner.
Plan the Best Time for Exercise
Exercise is good for you, right? Well, in the case of smog, yes and no. While your daily run itself might be good for you, if you’re running through smog it could be quite harsh on your lungs. Take some time to track when the lightest and heaviest bouts of smog tend to hover in your area. Typically, smog tends to be lightest in the very early morning and evenings, so if possible try to plan your work out session in those time frames. You’ll be inhaling way less pollution, making for a better run and healthier lungs.
Decorate with Plants
Plant walls are super trendy right now but that’s not the only reason to have one in your place. If you want to take your quest for the cleanest oxygen a step further, plants might be the perfect solution. Science lesson: plants literally take the carbon dioxide we exhale and turn it into new oxygen through their natural process of photosynthesis. While all plants do this, there are a few that stand out from all the rest when it comes to purification of the air. Try the Areca Palm, Snake Plant, Monkey Plant, or Chinese Evergreens to give your air quality an upgrade.
Turn Off Your Electronics
Fun fact: if you leave your laptop on for eight hours every day, it’ll produce up to 194 pounds of CO2 every year. CO2 is one of the greenhouse gases that creates heat in our atmosphere. When that heat combines with pollutants, we get the dreaded smog. Cut down those numbers by powering down your computer and other big electronics when you’re done using them. One small choice can contribute to a big impact!
The Cause of Smog in TCM
Beyond just the science of smog, physicians specializing in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have looked deeper into the effects it can have on us. Weather and temperature in TCM have very specific causes and potential impacts on the human body. Terms like wind, heat, cold, damp, dryness, fire, poison, and pestilence are used when describing the external pathogens that can invade our bodies. The studies of medical staff at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine determined that smog is a combination of Damp qi, Dry qi, and toxic qi. This mixture results in heat, poison, phlegm, and stagnation in the Lungs of people who have been exposed to it.
Want to do your part to reduce smog in your city? According to research from National Geographic, there are several ways to cut down on pollution that leads to smog. Limiting the amount you drive and keeping your car in tip-top shape to maximize mileage are the biggest ways to help. Avoiding gas-powered home appliances and sticking with electric options instead as well as reducing use of any products with high amounts of VOCs are other preventative measures you can take.