What is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which serve as the main air passages to your lungs.
There are two main types of bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is usually caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold and tends to improve within a few days. Chronic bronchitis, however, is a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Often caused by cigarette smoking or breathing in fumes and dusts over a long period of time, chronic bronchitis results in long-term respiratory problems.
Symptoms of Bronchitis
Acute bronchitis typically starts with a runny nose, sore throat, or sinus infection before spreading to your airways.
Other symptoms include:
Treatment for Bronchitis
Getting sufficient rest and drinking plenty of fluids should help clear up a case of acute bronchitis in several days. If your cough lasts more than three weeks, or if the bronchitis is accompanied by a fever higher than 101 F (lasting more than three days), it's important to seek medical attention.
People with chronic respiratory or heart problems (such as asthma or congestive heart failure) should also see a doctor upon experiencing bronchitis symptoms, since these conditions can increase your risk of infection-related complications.
Natural Remedies for Bronchitis
Although research on the use of alternative medicine in bronchitis treatment is limited, the following remedies may be helpful in soothing symptoms:
1) Slippery Elm
Sipping slippery elm tea may help relieve sore throat and cough associated with bronchitis. The herb contains mucilage, a gel-like substance thought to calm irritated or inflamed tissue.
2) Pelargonium Sidoides
Extracts of the Pelargonium sidoides plant (such as umckaloabo) have long been used in traditional South African medicine to treat respiratory tract infections. In a 2007 study of 217 people with acute bronchitis, researchers found that an herbal drug preparation from the roots of Pelargonium sidoides helped lessen cough, chest pain, and production of mucus.
3) Eucalyptus Oil
Breathing in warm, moist air is said to calm irritation in the lining of the bronchial tubes. Since eucalyptus possesses antiviral properties, performing a eucalyptus steam inhalation may further promote healing from bronchitis.
How to Prevent Bronchitis
In addition to limiting your exposure to tobacco smoke and other irritants, washing your hands frequently should reduce your risk of developing bronchitis. Although there's a lack of evidence on the use of herbs in bronchitis prevention, botanicals like astragalus and echinacea may boost your immune defense against bronchitis-causing viruses.
Matthys H, Heger M. " Treatment of acute bronchitis with a liquid herbal drug preparation from Pelargonium sidoides (EPs 7630): a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre study." Current Medical Research and Opinion 2007 23(2):323-31.
Rakover Y, Ben-Arye E, Goldstein LH. "The treatment of respiratory ailments with essential oils of some aromatic medicinal plants." Harefuah 2008 147(10):783-8, 838.