Life Extension Magazine®

Improve Lung Function

Clinical studies show that specific plant-derived ingredients improve breathing capacity and lung function.

By Michael Downey.

With age, lung function begins to decline.1-3

The problem is further exacerbated by exposure to secondhand smoke and air pollution.

This decline threatens overall health, quality of life, and lifespan.2

Scientists have identified four plant-derived ingredients that can help counter this decline.

Human studies have validated significant improvements in lung function.

Over 40% of Americans live in areas with poor air quality. Pollution levels correlate with increased rates of lung disease.4-6

For example:4

  • Ohio has the country’s worst air quality—and a lung disease prevalence of 15.5%.
  • Hawaii has the country’s best air quality—and a lung disease prevalence of just 3.5%.
  • Lung symptoms of air pollution exposure can include coughing, breathing difficulties, congestion and worse.
  • Excessive air pol­lution can result in development of respiratory conditions, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Key Nutrients Can Help

Scientists have identified four plant-derived compounds that improve lung health as follows:7-16

  • Boswellia serrata and Aegle marmelos improved breathing and lung function in healthy adults sensitive to pollution,8
  • Boswellia serrata, Aegle marmelos, and saffron were shown to improve breathing ability in asthmatics,7,9,10 and
  • In preclinical studies, andrographolide has been shown to reduce smoke-induced lung damage.14-16

Boswellia-Bael Fruit Blend

Man and woman jogging in dirt near downed lumber

Boswellia serrata is a plant found in Arabia and India. It has shown benefits for several conditions, including asthma.17

Bael fruit is a shrub native to the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia. Its fruit and seeds are used in traditional medicine for various disorders.18

An equal blend of extracts of these plants was shown, in a clinical trial, to alleviate asthma symptoms and to provide a clinically meaningful improvement in lung health parameters.7

In one study, scientists enlisted healthy adults with self-described sensitivity to air pollution.8

This trial included a group that took a placebo, while another group took 200 mg daily of the Boswellia-Bael blend. After just three weeks, the group that received the Boswellia-Bael combination had some improved lung function. After six weeks, they had a:8

  • 30.2% improvement in total air exhaled during a spirometry test (which measures lung capacity, or how much air you can breathe into or out of your lungs),
  • 16.4% improvement in air forced out in the first second, a measure of air movement through larger airways, and
  • 7.4% improvement in aerobic exercise capa-city, measured by average speed walked during a six-minute period (from 3. 36 mph to 3.5 mph).

COPD and asthma can require use of inhalers for coughing, wheezing, or troubled breathing during a flare-up. For this reason, they are also called rescue drugs or rescue inhalers.

A second study investigated the effect of the same blend in subjects who suffered from mild to moderate bronchial asthma. One group took a placebo, while the other took 100 mg of theBoswellia-Bael blend twice daily.7

The treatment group experienced improved breathing and reduced use of inhalers, including a:7

  • 50.17% improvement in peak expiratory flow rate, a measure of the maximum amount of air a person can push out of their lungs when exhaling forcefully, after eight weeks, and
  • 44% decrease in the use of a “rescue” asthma inhaler after four weeks.

The improvements were attributed to the extracts’ anti-inflammatory activity.7


The spice saffron has long been used in traditional medicine for respiratory ailments and to counter inflammation, among other purposes.10

Eighty adults with mild to moderate asthma were enrolled in a placebo-controlled trial. After taking 50 mg of saffron twice daily for eight weeks, the
treatment group had:9,10

  • 50% less waking at night due to asthma symptoms,
  • 40% less “rescue” inhaler use,
  • 36.8% less activity limitation, and
  • 33.8% less shortness of breath during the night.

Saffron also reduced biomarkers of inflammation (such as C-reactive protein).10,19-21 Animal data show that saffron has relaxing effects on the smooth muscle of the trachea (windpipe) as an additional mechanism of supporting breathing/lung function.19-25

computer generated image of human airway and lungs


Breathe Easy as You Age

  • Beginning around age 25-35, lung function begins to decline with each passing year. Respiratory health is further damaged by air pollution.
  • Scientists identified four plant-derived ingredients that enhance lung health: Boswellia serrata, Bael fruit, saffron, and andrographolide.
  • Human studies show that a blend of Boswellia and Bael fruit extracts improved breathing and boosted lung function in healthy individuals, as well as people with sensitivity to air pollution or those with asthma.
  • A clinical study shows that saffron extract increased breathing capacity and reduced symptoms in those suffering from asthma.
  • Preclinical data suggest that andro-grapholide could protect lungs against pollution and smoke.


The compound andrographolide is extracted from the stem and leaves of Andrographis paniculata. It has been used in traditional Indian medicine and is best known for supporting immunity.26

Cell and animal models of smoke- or pollution-induced lung toxicity suggest that andrographolide may protect against lung damage. It appears to do so by:11,13-16

  • Inhibiting DNA damage,
  • Protecting against oxidative stress, and
  • Reducing inflammation.

A combination of Boswellia-Bael blend, saffron, and andrographolide may help protect lung function and promote better breathing well into older age.

How Breathing Problems Develop

Proper lung function is essential to overall health.2 But starting around age 35, lung function declines at a rate of 1%-2% yearly.1

That’s because aging causes changes that can decrease lung capacity:3

  • Diaphragm muscles weaken,
  • The tissue that keeps airways open loses elasticity, making airways smaller, and
  • Rib cage bones decrease in size, leaving less room for lungs to expand.

Deterioration of breathing capacity affects every cell in the body. This age-related decline may be accelerated by other factors, including inflammation and air pollution.


Aging, declining lung function, and air pollution can damage lungs and cause breathing difficulties. Researchers have identified four plant-based ingredients that protect healthy lung function.

A blend of Boswellia and Bael fruit extracts was clinically shown to improve breathing and relieve asthma symptoms.

Saffron extract was clinically demonstrated to improve asthma.

Andrographolide was found in preclinical research to protect against lung damage from pollutants and smoke.

Together, these ingredients may help preserve vital lung function and breathing capacity.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.


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