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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Physician Anita Pee and Dr Jessica Gunawan on September 28, 2022

5 Ways Bird’s Nest Can Help Fight Respiratory Symptoms

Bird's nest is commonly used in pregnant women to support postnatal and fetal health, but did you know it can also reduce respiratory symptoms?

Raw Bird's nest on bamboo basket.

Bird’s nest is one of the best supplements you can keep on hand during the cold and flu season. It contains anti-viral and immune-boosting properties to help support respiratory health.

In this guide, we’ll explain 5 ways it helps fight respiratory symptoms. Plus, we’ll let you in on a little secret about a more wallet-friendly alternative.

How Does Bird’s Nest Support Respiratory Health?

A woman coughing while putting her hand on her chest outdoor.
Taking bird’s nest during the cold and flu season can help support better breathing.

Bird’s nest is a natural health food that contains the saliva of male swiftlets. It’s used as a binding agent to make their nests. 

It’s commonly used in Eastern medicine, especially in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and is known to promote overall immunity with many anti-aging benefits.

According to TCM Physician Anita Pee, it is traditionally used to clear phlegm, relieve chronic dry coughs, and stomach problems, and reduce fatigue. 

As these are common conditions in people with respiratory health issues, bird’s nest is a common treatment for pregnant mothers and is safe for people of all ages.

“It contains many proteins and nutrients that can aid in recovery from chronic illnesses. It can also be used to stimulate appetite, improve digestion, and promote smooth bowel movement,” she further shares. 

Here are five ways it supports respiratory health:

1. It’s anti-viral.

Many studies demonstrate how bird’s nest can help inhibit viral activity. Of note are its bioactive compounds, such as sialic acid and thymol derivatives, which have been isolated in these studies and then tested both in vitro (in test tubes) as well as in vivo (in living organisms).

One possible mechanism is that these compounds help inhibit the replicated virus from exiting host cells. It reduces infection and paves the way for a person’s healing.

In several studies, it is believed that the compounds in bird’s nest function similarly to antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir and amantadine.

These studies have also shown that it increases the number of lysosomes, which are essentially the cell’s trash disposal system. This could help explain its activity against invading viruses in the human body. 

2. It’s safe to use.

Unlike many antiviral drugs or vaccines, which directly enter and affect systems in your body, often with side effects, bird’s nest consists of complex organic material that has been shown to have very few harmful side effects.

“However, caution should still be taken, especially for those consuming bird’s nest for the first time,” advises Physician Pee. In some rare cases, a few people may have an allergy, but studies have shown there to be no known major or harmful side effects to consuming bird’s nest.

3. It contains anti-inflammatory properties.

When a virus is detected by your body’s immune system, your body sets off its defenses by attacking the virus. In some people, especially those with a compromised or overreactive immune system, this “attack” unleashes a cytokine “storm” that can overwhelm the body.

These inflammatory responses usually contribute to the typical symptoms of a viral infection of the respiratory system. Examples are mucus and phlegm formation, sore throat, coughing, fever, and soreness.

Studies on bird’s nest also show that not only does it have anti-viral properties to work against the virus, but it also has anti-inflammatory properties. They help address the symptoms caused by the body’s immune response to the infection.

4. It tastes good.

Three pieces of bird's nest on a wooden tray.
This superfood has a mild and pleasant flavor that pairs well with other foods.

Despite the exotic air surrounding this health food made from bird’s saliva, bird’s nest has a mild taste. It is similar to egg whites, making it another reason why it makes great medicinal food. It’s more appealing and palatable for those with sensitive appetites.

This mild flavor, sometimes even perceived as bland by some, makes this food relatively easy to prepare, as it harmonizes with other TCM ingredients such as red dates (Hong Zhao), goji berries (Gou Qi), and dried longan (Long Yan Rou).

Add a little rock sugar for sweetness. Some people even consider well-prepared bird’s nest soup to be a delectable dessert, minus the guilt. 

5. Great for overall health 

We often think of respiratory health as a practice of fighting pathogens with potent drugs. While drugs do work to try to thwart an ongoing infection, they don’t often have other health benefits, unlike bird’s nest.

Studies on rats have been able to show, for example, the regenerative effect that bird’s nest has on human cartilage formation.

There’s great potential for patients with osteoarthritis, a condition that usually inflicts the elderly as their bodies age. 

This superfood has been shown to help repair and revive corneal tissue, making it great to help fight the deterioration of eye tissue

Alternatives For Bird’s Nest

A bowl of white fungus soup with goji berries and red dates on a light wooden background.
White fungus is a less expensive alternative with many of the same health benefits.

With all the great benefits of bird’s nest, one setback is just how expensive it can be. Fortunately, TCM offers many options for different preferences. 

There are also other TCM ingredients to support your respiratory health. White fungus (Yin Er), also known as snow fungus or snow ear, is a type of mushroom used in TCM to treat common respiratory ailments, such as common colds and coughs. Known by its scientific name of Tremella fuciformis, the mushroom looks like a curly version of bird’s nest. 

Studies have been able to identify polysaccharides in white fungus as the bioactive compound of this medicinal food. This compound has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-radiation, and anti-aging properties.

White fungus also has a skin-moisturizing effect, promotes wound healing, and can fight fatigue. Like bird’s nest, you can enjoy it as a dessert beverage made with rock sugar, goji berries, red dates, and longan. Adding lotus seeds (Lian Zi) makes it an almost full meal. 

Bird’s Nest And White Fungus Are Both Great Options

Bird’s nest is a health food that has been shown to help with respiratory health, with little to no side effects. For a more affordable alternative, you can take white fungus. Share this article with someone who is interested in bird’s nest so they can benefit from this superfood too.


  1. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2021. Edible Bird’s Nest: The Functional Values of the Prized Animal-Based Bioproduct From Southeast Asia–A Review.
  2. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2021. The Anti-Viral and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Edible Bird’s Nest in Influenza and Coronavirus Infections: From Pre-Clinical to Potential Clinical Application
  3. International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology. 2021. A review on the production, structure, bioactivities and applications of Tremella polysaccharides.  
  4. Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences. 2019. The anti-fatigue and anti-anoxia effects of Tremella extract.  

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Dec 29 2022

No tips on hearing loss or how v to regain it
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All Things Health TeamDec 30 2022

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