Protect yourself from Hong Kong’s #1 killer

Written by Denise Tam, Holistic Nutritionist

Last month I wrote about how Hong Kong has the longest lifespan worldwide but unlike other developed countries cancer, lung cancer to be specific, is the #1 killer in Hong Kong overtaking colon cancer which historically held first position. 

You can read more about it here

90% of lung cancers are known to be caused by smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. However in Hong Kong our smoking population is considered low at around 10%. But lung cancer can be attributed to other factors like exposure to radiation and asbestos. My guess is that the peak in the consumption of asbestos in Hong Kong in the early 1980’s and late 1990’s is now showing its effects on that population’s health.

There are other contributing factors though that we need to take into concern and factors that we can have more control over.

Over 50 per cent of the polluted air in Hong Kong comes from local sources, mainly from idling engines and ocean vessels.

Did you know that Hong Kong has one of the highest density of vehicles worldwide with 275 vehicles per km? 

Our city’s reliance on coal for energy is also another contributing factor. The smoke from burning coal can create toxic and carcinogenic particles like PM2.5 particles. This is partly also why BBQ-ing our meat and vegetables is not such a good idea. PM2.5 particles are microscopic particles less than 2.5 micrometers. Because of its size it can easily bypass our body’s defence mechanism and get lodged in the base of our bronchial tubes or even more dangerously by passing our body tissue and entering the heart.  

Like all things. Prevention is key! 

  • Stand away from bus stops and idling cars 
  • On bad air quality days (by the way Hong Kong’s air quality guidelines are well below the WHO’s!) stay indoors
  • Sensitive populations like the elderly or ones with asthma or other cardiopulmonary problems should consider a good air filtering mask 
  • Clean your air inside (it could be just as dirty as outside, if not more) with an air filter and house plants like Snake Plant, Zebra Calathea Plant, English Ivy, Chinese Evergreen and many others that can be easily found in Hong Kong. 
  • Oxidative stress is one of the main culprits to a decline in lung function taking high antioxidant foods known to help lungs like tomatoes, turmeric or specific vitamins like Vitamin D, C, A and the antioxidant glutathione is also important 

Although we can minimize our exposure, the fact is that we will breathe in harmful chemicals and so it’s important to do a routine cleaning, just like you would your other detox organs like your lung or your home or car.

Below are some herbs that can detoxify and protect our lungs: 

Thyme has been used to help fight respiratory infections and also acts as a natural and powerful expectorant of mucus. Whatever you do when you have a cough, don’t take cough suppressants that just keep everything inside. Coughing is a natural mechanism and a signal to our bodies that there’s something foreign inside. Why would we want to keep it inside? Cough it out, as painful or gross as it is. 

Licorice Root Extract & Stinging Nettle
What’s interesting in this COVID era is that licorice root extract has been studied on a number of viruses. A 2008 study out of the UK found that licorice extract could break down the viral envelope of the virus cell in HIV and SARS (a type of coronavirus)  and could also boost immune activity. 

Read more about that here.

The lectin derived from stinging nettle has also has reports of inhibiting virus attachment by binding to the virus itself in the  SARS-CoV strain Frankfurt-1¹. As a long tonic, stinging nettle has not only been used as a diuretic but also showed effectiveness in targeting asthma.

English Plantain has been shown to soothe, soften and hydrate the respiratory system. This is particularly beneficial for those with dry coughs.

Cowslip Primrose Flower has a relaxing effect on bronchial airways and can be particularly beneficial for age related coughs from a weakened heart. 

Respir Essence
Contains all of the beneficial herbs above in a base of pear juice making it a tasty herbal drink. And I would recommend taking 30ml 2-3 times per day for 1 month to do an effective lung cleaning. 



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