bronchitis refers to inflammation of the major air passageways in the lungs,
the bronchi. There are two principal types of bronchitis: acute bronchitis and
chronic bronchitis. The latter is closely related to emphysema and is
discussed in the article
Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
. Acute bronchitis, the subject of this
article, is a condition that frequently develops during the course of a common
cold. Symptoms may include cough (dry or productive), sensation of heaviness in
the chest, and difficulty breathing.
In recent years, it has
become clear that, in many cases, symptoms of bronchitis represent temporary
asthma brought on by a respiratory infection. For this reason, anti-asthma
drugs are now commonly a major component of treatment. Antibiotics may be used
Essential Oil Monoterpenes
, such as eucalyptus oil and
, have a long history of use as inhalation treatments
for respiratory infections. Because the supporting evidence for such treatments
is quite weak, they are discussed below in
. Considerably better evidence supports the use of certain
essential oils when taken by mouth.
One combination of essential
oils has been extensively evaluated as a treatment for respiratory problems.
This mixture, called essential oil monoterpenes, consists of cineole from
eucalyptus, d-limonene from citrus fruit, and alpha-pinene from pine. Numerous
, many of substantial size, indicate
that essential oil monoterpenes can aid recovery from sinusitis, bronchitis,
and other respiratory conditions.
One large study evaluated the effectiveness of essential oil monoterpenes
for acute bronchitis. In this 2-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of
676 people with acute bronchitis, participants received either placebo,
essential oil monoterpenes, or one of two antibiotics.
The results indicate that the essential oil mixture
was significantly more effective than placebo and at least as effective as
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full
Essential Oil Monoterpene
An alcohol extract made from the herb
has become popular in Germany as a treatment for various respiratory problems. In one
, placebo-controlled study, 468 adults with recent onset of acute bronchitis were given either placebo or a standard alcohol extract of
3 times daily for a week.
The results showed a significantly greater improvement in symptoms in the treatment group as compared to the placebo group. On average, participants who received the real treatment were able to return to work 2 days earlier than those given placebo. Benefits were also seen in two other studies enrolling a total of about 350 people.
When researchers pooled the results of 4 well-designed, placebo-controlled trials, they found that a standardized extract of
performed significantly better than placebo at reducing the symptoms of bronchitis by the seventh day of treatment.
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full
A large (361-participant) double-blind, placebo-controlled study found evidence that use of a standardized combination of thyme and primrose root extract enhanced recovery from acute bronchitis.
Symptoms improved rapidly in both groups, but improvement was faster and the response rates were higher for the thyme-primrose combination compared to placebo.
One double-blind, placebo-controlled study
found that use of 200 mg per day of
enhanced recovery among 57 elderly patients hospitalized for respiratory
Researchers have also studied the possible role of
in preventing and treating respiratory tract infections. A review of 10 trials involving over 33,000 children under age 7 years found that, in the majority of cases, vitamin A did not reduce the incidence of infection or symptoms in young children.
In two of the studies, vitamin A was beneficial for undernourished children. However, children with adequate nutrition actually faired worse.
As mentioned above,
have a long, traditional use for respiratory infections.
However, while there is some preliminary scientific support for such
it is still far too weak to
One study provides weak evidence that a standardized combination of
and nasturtium might be helpful for the treatment of bronchitis in children.
Numerous herbs have a reputation for helping
bronchitis. These include:
It is widely believed by many proponents of
alternative medicine that cow’s milk and related dairy products increase mucus
in the lungs and sinuses, and should therefore be avoided by people with
bronchitis problems. However, there has not been sufficient scientific
investigation into this belief to either confirm or deny it.
Because acute bronchitis tends to develop during the course of a common
cold, all of the natural treatments used to prevent or treat colds are worth
considering. See the
article for detailed information on these options. In
addition, because bronchitis is often a form of temporary asthma, the
treatments discussed in the
worth considering, as well.
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Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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