This amazing guest post was written by Dr. Sarah Brewer, a licensed Medical Doctor, a Registered Nutritionist, a Registered Nutritional Therapist! Check out her website here!
Acute bronchitis is a common condition that affects around 1 in 20 people every year. It is a relatively mild infection of the larger airways, the bronchi, and is due to a viral infection in at least 95% of cases. The usual culprits are the same viruses that cause the common cold, such as rhinovirus, adenovirus and parainfluenza viruses.
What is Acute Bronchitis?
Acute bronchitis is an inflammation of the mucous membranes lining your larger airways (trachea and bronchi) which often follows a cold. When your airways become inflamed, they secrete increased amounts of yellow-green mucus and can cause shortness of breath, cough, and wheeziness. You may also develop a hoarse voice of your vocal cords are affected.
You may feel sore behind the breastbone and may develop a low-grade fever. In most cases, bronchitis symptoms come on suddenly and clear up quickly, within 5 days, although antiviral can persist for one to three weeks. You often sound much worse than you feel – which is good for garnering sympathy from family and friends!
Because acute bronchitis is usually viral, antibiotics are ineffective, and your doctor will only prescribe these if they suspect you have a bacterial infection with a high fever, signs of lung congestion, or if you have a pre-existing lung condition such as asthma or chronic bronchitis (COPD) which is becoming worse.
Clinical studies comparing the treatment of acute bronchitis with antibiotics or ibuprofen showed that neither treatment was any more effective than inactive placebo, and was associated with unwanted side effects.
For most people, who are otherwise fit and well, self-treatment is the most effective option.
Healing Herbs for Natural Bronchitis Treatment
If you’re looking for a more holistic solution, the herbs below are a great natural bronchitis treatment. Several different herbal medicines have antiviral and antibacterial actions that can help bronchitis symptoms. Doses vary depending on the strength of a particular brand of product. Most are taken three times a day to treat acute bronchitis, but always follow manufacturer’s instructions.
Pelargonium is by far the most effective natural treatment for acute bronchitis. It is more effective than anything I can prescribe as a doctor and, on one memorable occasion, a dose of Pelargonium worked within 20 minutes to restore my voice ready for a radio interview. Pelargonium is an extract from the root of a South African geranium which has antiviral and antibacterial actions. It also stimulates the clearance of mucus by speeding up the beating of tiny hair-like projections (cilia) in the lining of the respiratory tract. Pelargonium can be used to treat a sore throat, cough, colds, laryngitis and sinusitis as well as acute bronchitis.
Garlic was used to treat excess phlegm and bronchitis by the ancient Greeks. Modern research shows it has antiviral and antibacterial actions, as well as boosting the activity of immune cells. I usually recommend taking black garlic extracts as these contain a higher level of anti-inflammatory antioxidants than standard garlic extracts and, as a bonus, have significantly less odor which makes them more socially acceptable!
Echinacea is a traditional herbal medicine that has been used for centuries to treat respiratory symptoms such as bronchitis. Echinacea increases the number and activity of white blood cells that fight infections. It also boosts production of the body’s own natural antiviral substance, interferon.
Siberian ginseng is an immune-stimulating herb that works in a similar way to Echinacea. Russian research suggests that it is those taking it regularly have 40% fewer episodes of bronchitis, colds, ‘flu and other infections than those not taking it. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus) Great to get you back on track during convalescence.
Propolis is a natural antiseptic produced by honey bees to keep their hive free from infection. It contains bioflavonoids with an antibacterial and antiviral action and is useful for treating acute bronchitis.
Medicinal honey such as manuka honey has an antibacterial action that is great for soothing a sore throat.
Natural Bronchitis Treatment: Other Ways to Thin Mucus
If you are troubled by excess phlegm which is like elastic bands, the following methods can help to loosen mucus, so it is easier to shift.
Careful use of steam inhalation is a great natural bronchitis treatment that helps to moisten and thin mucus so you can cough it up more easily. Simply pour steaming hot (not boiling) water into a sink or bowl, drape a towel over your head and lean over the water to inhale. Take care not to burn, and never inhale really hot steam which will damage the airways. Adding a decongestant essential oil such as pine or eucalyptus makes this home remedy more effective.
Bromelain is a mixture of protein-digesting enzymes derived from the pineapple plant. As a natural bronchitis treatment, bromelain reduces inflammation and helps to thin mucus and reduce phlegm in respiratory conditions such as sinusitis and bronchitis.
An older treatment with a similar effect to bromelain is the amino acid, N-acetylcysteine (NAC). NAC helps to dissolve mucus and works by boosting levels of a powerful antioxidant (glutathione) in the respiratory tract to damp down inflammation.
Probably the most common natural bronchitis treatment, vitamin C has an antiviral action by suppressing the replication of viruses. It also has anti-inflammatory actions to help reduce bronchitis symptoms. Taking 1g to 2g vitamin C with bioflavonoids will help symptoms resolve.
What to Avoid
If you have acute bronchitis, you are infectious. If at all possible, work from home while you get well, rather than going out and spreading your germs.
Drink plenty of fluids to maintain hydration (pale, straw-colored wee is the best indicator). Herbal teas are ideal. Mullein tea is a traditional remedy for clearing mucus.
I usually advise against slippery elm as, although it can soothe the throat and suppress a cough, it can also increase the production of mucus (which is great for protecting the stomach from acidity, but not so good if you have bronchitis).
Avoid alcohol which dilates small blood vessels to make inflammation worse. It also has a dehydrating effect of thickening mucus
Avoid cigarette smoke and other air pollutants.
Some people find that dairy products increase their production of mucus.
When to Seek Medical Advice
Contact your doctor if:
you have a pre-existing heart or lung problem
you have diabetes, and your glucose control worsens
you develop chest pain
your temperature goes above 38 degrees C
you become increasingly breathless
you develop thick, dark green-coloured phlegm
symptoms last longer than 5 days
you are worried about your symptoms for any other reason