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Bronchitis (Holistic)

Bronchitis (Holistic)

About This Condition

A constant, nagging cough may point to a case of acute or chronic bronchitis. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
  • Fill up on fruits and veggies

    Help keep your lungs healthy by getting the antioxidant nutrients you need from fruits and vegetables

  • Take some extra C

    Help recovery from acute bronchitis by supplementing with 200 to 2,000 mg a day of vitamin C

  • Get to know NAC

    Taking 400 to 600 mg a day of the supplement N-acetyl cysteine may reduce the thickness of lung secretions and improve symptoms of chronic bronchitis

About

About This Condition

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the mucous membranes of the deep inner lung passages called the bronchial tree.

Bronchitis may be either acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis is frequently caused by a viral or bacterial infection . Acute bronchitis may also result from irritation of the mucous membranes by environmental fumes, acids, solvents, or tobacco smoke. Bronchitis usually begins with a dry, nonproductive cough. After a few hours or days, the cough may become more frequent and produce mucus. A secondary bacterial infection may occur, in which the sputum (bronchial secretions) may contain pus. People whose cough and/or fever continues for more than seven days should visit a medical practitioner.

Chronic bronchitis may result from prolonged exposure to bronchial irritants. Cigarette smoking, environmental toxins, and inhaled allergens can all cause chronic irritation of the bronchi. The cells lining the bronchi produce excess mucus in response to the chronic irritation; this excess mucus production can lead to a chronic, productive cough.

Bronchitis can be particularly dangerous in the elderly and in people with compromised immune systems . These people should see a doctor if they develop a respiratory infection.

Symptoms

Acute infectious bronchitis is often preceded by signs of an upper respiratory tract infection: stuffy or runny nose, malaise, chills, fever, muscle pain, and sore throat . The cough is initially dry and does not produce mucus. Later, small amounts of thick green or green-yellow sputum may be coughed up.

Chronic bronchitis is characterized by a productive cough that initially occurs only in the morning.

Healthy Lifestyle Tips

Breast-feeding provides important nutrients to an infant and improves the functioning of the immune system. Studies have shown that breast-feeding prevents the development of lower respiratory tract infections during infancy.1 , 2 Whether that protective effect persists into adulthood is not known. Exposure to environmental chemicals, including passive smoke, can increase the incidence of respiratory illness among children.3

Chronic bronchitis is frequently associated with smoking and/or environmental exposure to chemicals or allergens . These exposures should be avoided to allow the cells of the bronchi to recover from chronic irritation and to decrease the burden on the immune system .

Eating Right

The right diet is the key to managing many diseases and to improving general quality of life. For this condition, scientific research has found benefit in the following healthy eating tips.

Recommendation Why
Eat fruits and veggies
A diet high in antioxidants, as found in fruits and vegetables, may protect against the free-radical damage that occurs from toxins in the lungs.

In people with bronchitis, lipids in the lung tissue may undergo oxidation damage (also called free-radical damage), particularly when the bronchitis is a result of exposure to environmental toxins or cigarette smoke. A diet high in antioxidants may protect against the free radical-damaging effect of these toxins. Studies comparing different populations have shown that increasing fruit and vegetable (and therefore, antioxidant) consumption may reduce the risk of developing chronic bronchitis.4 , 5

Uncover food allergies
Allergies to certain foods may contribute to bronchitis. An elimination diet can help you identify potentially harmful foods.

Food and environmental allergies may be triggering factors in some cases of chronic bronchitis.6 Cows’ milk allergy has been associated with bronchitis in children,7 , 8 , 9 and some doctors believe that dairy products may increase mucus production and, therefore, that people suffering from either acute or chronic bronchitis should limit their intake of dairy products. Ingestion of simple sugars (such as sucrose or fructose) can lead to suppression of immune function ;10 therefore, some doctors believe simple sugars should be avoided during illness.

Supplements

What Are Star Ratings?

Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by some in the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

Supplement Why
3 Stars
N-Acetyl Cysteine
400 to 600 mg daily
NAC, which appears to work by reducing the thickness of mucus, has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for chronic bronchitis.

A review of 39 clinical trials of NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) found that 400 to 600 mg per day was a safe and effective treatment for chronic bronchitis.11 NAC supplementation was found to reduce the number of aggravations of the illness in almost 50% of people taking the supplement, compared with only 31% of those taking placebo. Smokers have also been found to benefit from taking NAC.12 In addition to helping break up mucus, NAC may reduce the elevated bacterial counts that are often seen in the lungs of smokers with chronic bronchitis.13 In another double-blind study, people with chronic bronchitis who took NAC showed an improved ability to expectorate and a reduction in cough severity.14 These benefits may result from NAC’s capacity to reduce the viscosity (thickness) of sputum.15

3 Stars
Thymus Extracts
3 mg per 2.2 lbs (1 kg) body weight daily
Thymus extract from calves, known as Thymomodulin, has been found to decrease the frequency of respiratory infections in children who were prone to such infections.

The thymus gland plays a number of important roles in the functioning of the immune system . Thymus extract from calves, known as Thymomodulin®, has been found, in a double-blind study, to decrease the frequency of respiratory infections in children who were prone to such infections.16 The amount of Thymomodulin used in that study was 3 mg per kg of body weight per day.

3 Stars
Vitamin C
200 mg daily
In a double-blind study of elderly patients hospitalized with acute bronchitis, those given vitamin C improved to a significantly greater extent than those who were given a placebo.

In a double-blind study of elderly patients hospitalized with acute bronchitis, those who were given 200 mg per day of vitamin C improved to a significantly greater extent than those who were given a placebo.17 The common cold may lead to bronchitis in susceptible people, and numerous controlled studies, some double-blind, have shown that vitamin C supplements can decrease the severity and duration of the common cold in otherwise healthy people.18

Vitamin C and vitamin E may prevent oxidative damage to the lung lipids by environmental pollution and cigarette smoke exposure. It has been suggested that amounts in excess of the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) are necessary to protect against the air pollution levels currently present in North America,19 although it is not known how much vitamin E is needed to produce that protective effect.

2 Stars
Geranium
30 drops of extract three times per day
Geranium is an herbal remedy used to treat infections of the respiratory tract, ear, nose, and throat.

Geranium (Pelargonium sidoides) is an herbal remedy used in Germany, Mexico, Russia, and other countries for the treatment of respiratory tract and ear, nose, and throat infections . In a double-blind study of adults with acute bronchitis, participants given an extract of geranium had a significantly shorter duration of illness, compared with those given a placebo.20 No serious side effects were seen. The amount of the geranium extract used in this study was 30 drops three times per day, taken before or after meals for seven days.

2 Stars
Ivy Leaf
Adults: 50 drops extract twice per day; children: 25 drops twice per day
Ivy leaf is anti-inflammatory and has been shown to be as effective as the drug ambroxol for chronic bronchitis.

Anti-inflammatory herbs may help people with bronchitis. Often these herbs contain complex polysaccharides and have a soothing effect; they are also known as demulcents. Ivy leaf is approved in the German Commission E monograph for use against chronic inflammatory bronchial conditions.21 One double-blind human trial found ivy leaf to be as effective as the drug ambroxol for chronic bronchitis.22 Ivy leaf is a non-demulcent anti-inflammatory.

2 Stars
Plantain
3 cups tea daily made from 1/4 to 1/2 tsp dried herb per cup
Plantain is a soothing herb that has been shown to help people with chronic bronchitis.

Anti-inflammatory herbs may help people with bronchitis. Often these herbs contain complex polysaccharides and have a soothing effect; they are also known as demulcents. Plantain is a demulcent that has been documented in two preliminary trials conducted in Bulgaria to help people with chronic bronchitis.23 , 24 Other demulcents traditionally used for people with bronchitis include mullein, marshmallow , and slippery elm . Because demulcents can provoke production of more mucus in the lungs, they tend to be used more often in people with dry coughs.25

1 Star
Anise
Refer to label instructions
Expectorant herbs like anise help loosen bronchial secretions and make mucus easier to eliminate.

Expectorant herbs help loosen bronchial secretions and make elimination of mucus easier. Numerous herbs are traditionally considered expectorants, though most of these have not been proven to have this effect in clinical trials. Anise contains a volatile oil that is high in the chemical constituent anethole and acts as an expectorant.26

1 Star
Chinese Scullcap
Refer to label instructions
Chinese scullcap might be useful for bronchitis as an anti-inflammatory.

Anti-inflammatory herbs may help people with bronchitis. Often these herbs contain complex polysaccharides and have a soothing effect; they are also known as demulcents. Chinese scullcap might be useful for bronchitis as an anti-inflammatory. However, the research on this herb is generally of low quality.27

1 Star
Echinacea
Refer to label instructions
Echinacea is an immune-stimulating herb that is widely used by herbalists for people with acute respiratory infections.

Antimicrobial and immune stimulating herbs may also potentially benefit people with bronchitis. Echinacea is widely used by herbalists for people with acute respiratory infections. This herb stimulates the immune system in several different ways, including enhancing macrophage function and increasing T-cell response.28 Therefore, echinacea may be useful for preventing a cold , flu , or viral bronchitis from progressing to a secondary bacterial infection.

1 Star
Elecampane
Refer to label instructions
Elecampane is a soothing herb that has been used to treat coughs associated with bronchitis, asthma, and whooping cough.

Elecampane is a demulcent (soothing herb) that has been used to treat coughs associated with bronchitis, asthma , and whooping cough. Although there have been no modern clinical studies with this herb, its use for these indications is based on its high content of soothing mucilage in the forms of inulin and alantalactone.29 However, the German Commission E monograph for elecampane does not approve the herb for bronchitis.30

1 Star
Eucalyptus
Refer to label instructions
Eucalyptus leaf tea is used to treat bronchitis and inflammation of the throat, and is considered antimicrobial.

Caution: Do not use eucalyptus oil internally without supervision by a healthcare professional. As little as 3.5 ml of the oil taken internally has proven fatal.  

Eucalyptus leaf tea is used to treat bronchitis and inflammation of the throat,31 and is considered antimicrobial. In traditional herbal medicine, eucalyptus tea or volatile oil is often used internally as well as externally over the chest; both uses are approved for people with bronchitis by the German Commission E.32

1 Star
Horehound
Refer to label instructions
Horehound is an expectorant herb, meaning it helps loosen bronchial secretions and eliminate mucus.

Expectorant herbs help loosen bronchial secretions and make elimination of mucus easier. Numerous herbs are traditionally considered expectorants, though most of these have not been proven to have this effect in clinical trials. Horehound has expectorant properties, possibly due to the presence of a diterpene lactone in the plant, which is known as marrubiin.33

1 Star
Horseradish
Refer to label instructions
Horseradish contains antibacterial substances and has mucus-clearing properties that are beneficial for people with bronchitis.
Horseradish contains substances similar to mustard, such as glucosinolates and allyl isothiocynate.34 In addition to providing possible antibacterial actions, these substances may also have expectorant (mucus-expelling) properties that are supportive for people with bronchitis.
1 Star
Lobelia
Refer to label instructions
Very small amounts of this herb are considered helpful in suppressing or easing coughs. The herb has also shown anti-inflammatory properties.

Lobelia contains many active alkaloids, of which lobeline is considered the most active. Very small amounts of this herb are considered helpful as an antispasmodic and antitussive agent (a substance that helps suppress or ease coughs). Anti-inflammatory properties of the herb have been demonstrated, which may be useful, since bronchitis is associated with inflammation in the bronchi.35 Lobelia should be used cautiously, as it may cause nausea and vomiting.

1 Star
Mullein
Refer to label instructions
Mullein has been used traditionally as a remedy for the respiratory tract, including bronchitis. It works as an expectorant, meaning it helps expel mucus.

Expectorant herbs help loosen bronchial secretions and make elimination of mucus easier. Numerous herbs are traditionally considered expectorants, though most of these have not been proven to have this effect in clinical trials. Mullein has been used traditionally as a remedy for the respiratory tract, including bronchitis. The saponins in mullein may be responsible for its expectorant actions.36

Anti-inflammatory herbs may help people with bronchitis. Often these herbs contain complex polysaccharides and have a soothing effect; they are also known as demulcents. Plantain is a demulcent that has been documented in two preliminary trials conducted in Bulgaria to help people with chronic bronchitis.37 , 38 Other demulcents traditionally used for people with bronchitis include mullein, marshmallow , and slippery elm . Because demulcents can provoke production of more mucus in the lungs, they tend to be used more often in people with dry coughs.39

1 Star
Pleurisy Root
Refer to label instructions
Pleurisy root is traditionally used to loosen bronchial secretions and is thought to be helpful against all types of respiratory infections.

Expectorant herbs help loosen bronchial secretions and make elimination of mucus easier. Numerous herbs are traditionally considered expectorants, though most of these have not been proven to have this effect in clinical trials. Pleurisy root is an expectorant and is thought to be helpful against all types of respiratory infections. It is traditionally employed as an expectorant for bronchitis. However, owing to the cardiac glycosides it contains, pleurisy root may not be safe to use if one is taking heart medications.40 This herb should not be used by pregnant women.

1 Star
Thyme
Refer to label instructions
Thyme has antispasmodic, mucus-clearing, and antibacterial actions.

Thyme contains an essential oil (thymol) and certain flavonoids . This plant has antispasmodic, expectorant (mucus-expelling), and antibacterial actions, and it is considered helpful in cases of bronchitis.41 One preliminary trial found that a mixture containing volatile oils of thyme, mint, clove, cinnamon , and lavender diluted in alcohol, in the amount of 20 drops three times daily, reduced the number of recurrent infections in people with chronic bronchitis.42

1 Star
Vitamin E
Refer to label instructions
Vitamin E appears to help keep the lungs healthy and prevent damage from environmental pollution and cigarette smoke exposure.

Vitamin C and vitamin E may prevent oxidative damage to the lung lipids by environmental pollution and cigarette smoke exposure. It has been suggested that amounts in excess of the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) are necessary to protect against the air pollution levels currently present in North America,43 although it is not known how much vitamin E is needed to produce that protective effect.

References

1. Pisacane A, Graziano L, Zona G, et al. Breast feeding and acute lower respiratory infection. Acta Paediatr 1994;83:714-8.

2. Kerr AA. Lower respiratory tract illness in Polynesian infants. New Zealand Med J 1981;93:333-5.

3. Jin C, Rossignol AM. Effects of passive smoking on respiratory illness from birth to age eighteen months, in Shanghai, People's Republic of China. J Pediatr 1993;123:553-8.

4. La Vecchia C, Decarli A, Pagano R. Vegetable consumption and risk of chronic disease. Epidemiology 1998;9:208-10.

5. Rautalahti M, Virtamo J, Haukka J, et al. The effect of alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene supplementation on COPD symptoms. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1997;156:1447-52.

6. Rowe AH, Rowe A. Food Allergy: its role in emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Dis Chest 1965;48:609-12.

7. Hill DJ, Duke AM, Hosking CS, Hudson IL. Clinical manifestations of cows' milk allergy in childhood. II. The diagnostic value of skin tests and RAST. Clin Allergy 1988;18:481-90.

8. Cohen GA, Hartman G, Hamburger RN, O'Connor RD. Severe anemia and chronic bronchitis associated with a markedly elevated specific IgG to cow's milk protein. Ann Allergy 1985;55:38-40.

9. Hide DW, Guyer BM. Clinical manifestations of allergy related to breast and cows' milk feeding. Arch Dis Child 1981;56:172-5.

10. Sanchez A, Reeser JL, Lau HS, et al. Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis. Am J Clin Nutr 1973;26:1180-4.

11. Stey C, Steurer J, Bachmann S, et al. The effect of oral N-acetylcysteine in chronic bronchitis: a quantitative systematic review. Eur Respir J 2000;16:253-62 [review].

12. Boman G, Backer U, Larsson S, et al. Oral acetylcysteine reduces exacerbation rate in chronic bronchitis: report of a trial organized by the Swedish Society for Pulmonary Diseases. Eur J Respir Dis 1983;64:405-15.

13. Riise GC, Larsson S, Larsson P, et al. The intrabronchial microbial flora in chronic bronchitis patients: a target for N-acetylcysteine therapy? Eur Respir J 1994;7:94-101.

14. Jackson IM, Barnes J, Cooksey P. Efficacy and tolerability of oral acetylcysteine (Fabrol) in chronic bronchitis: a double-blind placebo controlled study. J Int Med Res 1984;12:198-206.

15. Tattersall AB, Bridgman KM, Huitson A. Acetylcysteine (Fabrol) in chronic bronchitis—a study in general practice. J Int Med Res 1983;11:279-84.

16. Fiocchi A, Borella E, Riva E, et al. Double-blind clinical trial for the evaluation of the therapeutical effectiveness of a calf thymus derivative (Thymomodulin) in children with recurrent respiratory infections. Thymus 1986;8:331-9.

17. Hunt C, Chakravorty NK, Annan G, et al. The clinical effects of vitamin C supplementation in elderly hospitalised patients with acute respiratory infections. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 1994;64:212-9.

18. Hemilä H. Does vitamin C alleviate the symptoms of the common cold?—a review of current evidence. Scand J Infect Dis 1994;26:1-6.

19. Menzel DB. Antioxidant vitamins and prevention of lung disease.Ann N Y Acad Sci 1992;669:141-55.

20. Matthys H, Eisebitt R, Seith B, Heger M. Efficacy and safety of an extract of Pelargonium sidoides (EPs 7630) in adults with acute bronchitis. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Phytomedicine 2003;10 Suppl 4:7-17.

21. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 153.

22. Meyer-Wegner J. Ivy versus ambroxol in chronic bronchitis. Zeits Allegemeinmed 1993;69:61-6 [in German].

23. Koichev A. Complex evaluation of the therapeutic effect of a preparation from Plantago major in chronic bronchitis. Probl Vatr Med 1983;11:61-9 [in Bulgarian].

24. Matev M, Angelova I, Koichev A, et al. Clinical trial of Plantago major preparation in the treatment of chronic bronchitis. Vutr Boles 1982;21:133-7 [in Bulgarian].

25. Mills S, Bone K. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2000, 209.

26. Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physicians' Guide to Herbal Medicine. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1998, 159-60.

27. Bone K, Morgan M. Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs: Monographs for the Western Herbal Practitioner. Warwick, Australia: 1996.

28. See DM, Broumand N, Sahl L, Tilles JG. In vitro effects of echinacea and ginseng on natural killer and antibody-dependent cell cytotoxicity in healthy subjects and chronic fatigue syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome patients. Immunopharmacology 1997;35:229-35.

29. Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1994, 254-6.

30. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 328-9.

31. Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton, FL: CRC press, 1994,192-4.

32. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 126-8.

33. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, 2d ed. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1996, 303.

34. Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinkman J, eds. Herbal Medicine: The Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 2000, 205-7.

35. Philipov S, Istatkova R, Ivanovska N, et al. Phytochemical study and antiinflammatory properties of Lobelia laxiflora L. Z Naturforsch (C) 1998;53:311-7.

36. Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler's Honest Herbal. New York: Haworth Press, 1999, 2265-6.

37. Koichev A. Complex evaluation of the therapeutic effect of a preparation from Plantago major in chronic bronchitis. Probl Vatr Med 1983;11:61-9 [in Bulgarian].

38. Matev M, Angelova I, Koichev A, et al. Clinical trial of Plantago major preparation in the treatment of chronic bronchitis. Vutr Boles 1982;21:133-7 [in Bulgarian].

39. Mills S, Bone K. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2000, 209.

40. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 1996, 213-4.

41. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 219-20.

42. Ferley JP, et al. Prophylactic aromatherapy for supervening infections in patients with chronic bronchitis. Phytother Res 1989;3:97-9.

43. Menzel DB. Antioxidant vitamins and prevention of lung disease.Ann N Y Acad Sci 1992;669:141-55.

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