Pantry Profile: Basil {Ocimum basilicum}

Bright green, tall, and aromatic, basil is a beauty. An ancient plant with a long history and strange folklore, its sweet, peppery flavor has been used for centuries in cuisine and medicine.

Basil is native to Africa and Southeast Asia and was eventually cultivated in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Roman scholar Pliny the Elder described basil’s {now well-known} benefits as a carminative and digestive, explaining its effectiveness in relieving flatulence, colic, and nausea. It also has a long history of use for coughs associated with colds, and the leaves were routinely used topically as an insect repellent and poultice to relieve bug bites and stings.

Much myth and legend surrounded this plant we now consider a simple culinary herb. The ancient Egyptians believed basil would entice the god Osiris to open the gates of the afterlife. In his book the English Physician Enlarged, 17th-century botanist Nicholas Culpeper speaks of the many strange superstitions connecting the plant to scorpions. He writes that a French physician by the name of Hilarius {not kidding} affirmed that smelling too much basil would breed scorpions in the brain! English folk magic invoked basil to ward off harmful spells, while witches were said to imbibe basil juice before flying on their brooms. In the Caribbean and parts of Mexico, the heartbroken turned to basil to return a lover’s roving eye, while those looking for wealth used it to attract money. In Sicily, women put a sprig of basil in their brassieres as an aphrodisiac fragrance.

For the Body

Of course, today, basil grows throughout the world in mild, temperate climates. While it may have lost its magical mystery, it is a backyard herb that offers a wealth of benefits for health. To start, it contains beneficial amounts of vitamins A, B, C, and K, as well as iron, manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

But basil’s real healing comes from the powerful chemical constituents found in its leaves and blossoms. Both basil leaves and blossoms are antispasmodic, antiseptic, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory, making this herb a fantastic cold remedy. {A common remedy for hacking coughs, loosening phlegm, and soothing sore throats and mucous membranes combines one tablespoon of freshly chopped leaves in a cup of boiling water to sip as a tea.}

Basil also serves as a nervine, thanks to its calming and mildly antidepressant qualities. An uncommon adaptogen, basil helps the body defend itself against the harmful effects of stress, decreasing symptoms of anxiety and sleep difficulties. Both ingesting the leaves and atomizing the essential oil soothes nerves and uplifts the spirits, relieving intellectual fatigues and improving mental clarity.

Because of its content of eugenol and linalool, the same chemicals that give the herb its clove-like scent, basil’s essential oil contains potent antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial elements. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research found that these properties had impressive anti-plaque and anticariogenic {prevents tooth decay} bacterial effects, leading to further investigations as to its use as a possible supplement to promote oral health.

Basil plant

Grow It

Sweet basil is an annual in the Lamiaceae family {mint} that grows well in USDA Zones 10 and up. Sow seeds indoors six weeks before the last hard frost. Wait until the temperature outside is fairly warm; basil won’t grow in cold temperatures. Plant seedlings in well-drained soil about 12 inches apart in full sun. Plants grow about 12 to 24 inches high in a season and do well in containers. Basil enjoys moisture – if you live in a dry climate, mulch around the roots to boost water retention.

Deep purple to magenta flowers blooms from June to the first frost, depending on hardiness zone. To keep basil growing, remove the blossoms, but don’t discard them, as these are also fragrant and edible. Begin harvesting basil leaves when the plant is about six to eight inches tall. Keep harvesting to encourage growth and fullness. As cold weather approaches, take leaf cuttings to start indoor plants.

basil-pesto

Keep It Fresh

Basil is best served fresh, as dehydrating it causes it to lose some of its flavors. If you need to store it, freeze it {simply refrigerating it will turn the leaves brown} to keep basil’s robust taste. Put leaves in freezer bags, eliminating as much air as possible, and store until ready to use. You can also chop basil and store the minced leaves in ice cube trays and cover with olive oil. You will be glad to have basil cubes on hand in the middle of winter.

Of course, you can dry basil. Cut longer stalks with leaves attached and hang upside-down in a warm, arid place. Once dried, remove the leaves, crush them, and store in an airtight glass bottle.

In a pinch, if you just want to store the herb for a few days, place the stems in a glass with a tiny bit of water. Wrap the leaves in a wet paper towel, cover that in plastic wrap, and store on the counter.

Eat It

Basil’s flavor is essential in classic Italian dishes such as Caprese salad, pesto, and pizza, and is robust flavor combines well with other herbs like oregano, rosemary, and chives. One of my favorite ways to preserve the taste of basil is to make an herbal oil.

basil infused oil

Basil-Infused Olive Oil

Fresh basil leaves and blossoms are perfect for an infused oil to liven up any summer dish – from grilled veggies to warm, crusty bread.

1/4 cup cut fresh basil leaves and blossoms

1 cup olive oil

Wash and pat dry basil leaves and blossoms and let wilt for 12 hours or overnight. Next, cut into ribbons with kitchen shears, removing tough stems. Place leaves, blossoms, and oil in a double boiler and heat together on low, stirring occasionally for about an hour. Remove from heat and let infuse for another hour or until desired taste is achieved. Strain through cheesecloth and bottle. Stored in the refrigerator, it should keep for about six months, but discard at the first sign of spoilage.

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Our ‘Go To’ Herb: Basil

Ocimum basilicum

Also, Known As:

  • Arjaka
  • Basil
  • Common Basil
  • French Basil
  • Garden Basil
  • Luole
  • Royal Herb
  • St. Josephwort
  • Sweet Basil
  • Tulsi

The plant known as the basil is an annual herb, which is cultivated worldwide as a flavoring herb in many cuisines. The basil comes in many different varieties, each with its own unique chemical composition and characteristic flavor – the main use of the herb is culinary. The flavor and character of any particular variety of basil are affected to a great extent by many external environmental factors, including factors such as temperature, the type of soil, the geographic location, and even the amount of rainfall received by the individual plant. Morphologically the plant possesses thin branching root which grows out into bushy stems that can reach 1-2 feet in height when fully grown, the stem of the plant bears many leaves which have a characteristic purple hue or coloration, and the flowers are peculiar in having two lips. Floral colors can vary from in fully white to fully red – at times, a slight purple tinge can be detected in the flowers.

Basil is used to preparing many effective and highly beneficial herbal remedies, a steaming basil tea can be used in the treatment of patients with fever, and the person inhales the vapors by having his head covered with a blanket over the bowl containing the herbal tea. The herbal tea made from the basil is also utilized in the internal as well as external treatment of eye problems, it is used as an eyewash and the cooled basil tea is also drank to treat all types of eye disorders. When making the herbal basil tea, it is best to use fresh basil leaves along with some of the seeds – which must not be ground and must be used whole. It may not always be possible to get fresh leaves of the basil everywhere, in such cases, the tea can be made by using basil seeds along, prepare this tea by using fifteen basil seeds in two pints of water, bring this to a boil. Once the water begins to boil, the lid of the pot must be covered and the heat can be reduced, the water must be kept simmering in this way for about forty-five minutes at a stretch on low flame. Once this time has passed, the pot can be removed from the source of heat and to the water, another one to one and a half handfuls of the fresh – if available – or half -dried basil can be mixed. Let the herb steep in the boiling water for about twenty-five minutes more, the tea is now ready; it can be strained and used when necessary. A daily dose of this tea can be about two cups, and you can drink it or gargle using it as and when necessary to treat a variety of problems. Once the tea has cooled down and turned lukewarm, it can be strained carefully using a mesh and utilized as the eyewash to bathe the eyes during eye infections. Another form of the herbal basil tea can be made, if only the ground form of the basil is available, this herbal tea can be used for the treatment of all the problems mentioned before except for one, it is not considered suitable as a herbal eyewash to treat eye problems. To prepare this form of the herbal basil tea, use about three to three and a half cups of water to bring the herbal ground basil to boiling point. Once the tea is boiling, carefully remove the pot from the source of the heat and then add about one to one-fourth of a leveled teaspoon containing the ground basil. Following this addition of the ground basil, the pot can then be covered and must be allowed to steep for a further thirty minutes. The prepared herbal tea can then be sweetened using a little pure maple syrup, the dosage of the tea can be on average a cup of the tea taken two times every day during the treatment period.

It is normal for many people to experience a headache, it is, however, not always possible to get a simple remedy for the relief of a headache. Such a simple herbal headache remedy can be easily prepared from the basil. Use a cup of hot water and add a level teaspoon of the dried and ground basil, the herb must be allowed to infuse into the water for ten minutes at a stretch; it can then be strained to remove solids. Once the strained herbal tea has cooled down, two full tablespoons of a herbal tincture made from the witch hazel can be mixed in, and the whole tea can then be kept in the freezer for a period of time. The solution can be used as and when needed, the herbal liquid can be used in the form of a compress which can be applied directly to the forehead and temples of the person, the effectiveness of this remedy is such that it amazes most patients.

Various types of basil herb on white background
Various types of basil herb

Plant Parts Used:

Leaves, flowering tops, essential oil.

Herbal Remedy Use:

As a herbal remedy, the beneficial effects of the sweet basil are used mainly for the treatment of different disorders of the digestive and the nervous systems, the remedy also helps in reducing the incidence of flatulence in affected individuals, it is used in the treatment of all kinds of cramps in the stomach, it is also used for the treatment of colic, and to treat cases of indigestion affecting people. Disorders like nausea and vomiting can also be treated using the herbal remedy made from the sweet basil, the remedies derived from the sweet basil is also used to treat intestinal worms in people affected by such parasites. As a herbal remedy the mildly sedative action of the sweet basil is made use of in a variety of ways, it is very helpful and proven in the effective treatment of long-term nervous irritability in different people, it is also used in the treatment of physical tiredness, it is also used to ward off the symptoms of depression, it is used in the treatment of long term and short term anxiety and the sedative action finds great use to treat insomnia in different individuals. The herbal remedies made from the sweet basil have also been used in the treatment of disorders such as epilepsy; they have been used in the treatment of a migraine, and to treat cases of whooping cough in children. Traditionally, breast-milk production has been sought to be increased by making women consume the sweet basil during the nursing period. The sweet basil herb is also used as a topical remedy for external application in the treatment of various skin disorders, in this role the leaves of the basil leaves have been used as a herbal insect repellent in houses and as a cream on the skin. Topical relief from insect bites can also be achieved by applying the sweet basil as an external herbal ointment. The well known bactericidal action of the sweet basil is another useful property much lauded by different herbal practitioners.

Other Medical Use

  • Altitude sickness
  • Ovulation pain

Culinary Use

basil-leaves-1The basil finds extensive uses in the cuisine of many cultures. In many culinary preparations, the basil is used fresh, in the frozen form, or as the dried basil powder in soups, it is used to flavor all kinds of fish dishes, to flavor omelets, it is used in salads and dressings, it is used as a stuffing, it is used in many kinds of pasta dishes, it is used on pizza, and it is also often mixed with many common vegetables such as the artichoke, it is used a flavoring with broccoli, it is used with carrots and eggplant, it is used alongside cabbage, it is also used with squash, and with vegetables such as the zucchini. As a herbal flavoring and seasoning herb, the basil goes best with tomatoes, with which it is often served as the accompaniment, the basil is also a tasty and essential flavor in the making of tomato paste and to flavor all types of tomato-based sauces. It is also used in the making of pesto, this very delectable Italian sauce has exotic ingredients including the crushed leaves of the basil, accompanied by garlic and olive oil, some Parmesan cheese and pine nuts are also typically added to the mix.
The fresh leaves of the basil can be added to salads as a herbal taste enhancer. The smaller leaves of the basil are typically used whole. The best way to preserve to preserve the flavor of large leaves it is better to tear them into pieces than to cut them up. For the best aroma and flavor using fresh basil, the leaves are better added towards the end of the recipe’s cooking time. As a flavor, the fresh leaves of the basil can also be added to ordinary vinegar and virgin olive oil; these fluids can then be used to flavor different recipes.

Craft Use

Fresh floral arrangements can be buttressed by adding sprigs of fragrant basil among the different flowers.

Habitat of Basil:

banner-category-herbsThe plant called basil is known commonly in culinary circles as the sweet basil may have originally been a plant from the Indian sub-continent; it is now grown extensively in many other parts of the world and must have been one of the earliest exports from India. At this time, at least one hundred fifty different varieties of the basil are cultivated around the world, each of these varieties has its own type of essential oil and is characterized by its own distinctive flavor – these are used in different processes and culinary recipes. Harvesting of the plant occurs when the flowers come to bloom, at this time the flowering tops and leaves are plucked and sorted. Soil that is light and slightly acidic is preferred by the basil, and the plant also grows best if the soil is well-drained and nutrient-rich having lots of humus and minerals. The basil can tolerate pH ranges starting from 4.3 all the way to pH 8.4 and grows well between these optimum ranges. The basil when growing must be well watered and exposed directly to the sunlight, it is important to avoid water logging in the soil as the plant may die in such conditions. The normal process involved in the cultivation of the basil is to first plant the seeds in pots indoors, this is usually done approximately six weeks before the last spring frost date. Seeds of the basil are sown to a depth of six mm or about one-fourth of an inch into the soil. Soil containing the seeds is kept moistened at all times seeds germinate and this watering is carried out for a period lasting about eight to fourteen days at a stretch, water logging is a danger and the soil has to be carefully watered till the seedling break out. The seedling comes out and at this time, it is normal to trim the tops of the growing seedlings when they reach about fifteen cm or six inches in height, this trimming is necessary to keep the height of the herb manageable and to encourage the growth and lateral branching in the plant. When the danger of frost is passed, the seedling can be transplanted to the well watered and well-lit soil out of doors. When transplanting the seedlings, these must be kept spaced apart by 30 to 45 cm or 12 to 18 inches per plant. The basil is not very good at tolerating temperatures below 5°C or 41°F and if the temperatures are too low, the plant may die, for this reason it is important to keep the plants covered with a plastic row cover or using cloches whenever the temperature drops, especially during the night and early morning. To make the plants to continuously give off new leaves, it is necessary to pinch off the flower stalks from time to time – in this way the plant will always be growing. The basil is also quite vulnerable to some plant disease, such as leaf spot disease particularly if the ambient humidity is high such as, during rains, the same susceptibility can also affect the plants grown in very poorly drained soils. In addition, one must guard against aphids and thrips which can easily infest the plant. Seeds must be sown shallowly and the plant must be cultivated in small and well-drained pots if the cultivation of basil is being done indoors as a winter kitchen plant. These pots must be kept in a well lit and warm location within the kitchen. As soon as the seedling of the basil gives out the second pair of true leaves, you must immediately transfer clumps of three to five plants and place them into ten cm or 4 inch wide pots to enable the plant to grow at an optimal rate. The pots must be kept in a place which is well exposed to full sunlight within the house. For optimal growth, potted basil plants require a minimum of five hours exposure to direct sunlight every day or twelve hours of artificial light per day. Some varieties of the basil are much more suited for growing on the sunlit windowsills, and for this purpose, the small sized dwarf varieties of the plant such as the ‘Spicy Globe, the’ ‘Minimum,’ and the ‘Green Bouquet’ are ideal varieties which are used by many people around the world.

basilGrowing Basil in Containers:

The small size and ease of growing conditions make the basil a very good herb plant for growing on the sunny deck or patio using pots and plant containers. For individual use of the family, the basil can be easily grown in sufficient numbers during the summer months, using a large basket, which can have about six to eight plants. To grow these plants, line a medium sized wooden crate or wicker laundry basket using a large plastic garbage bag which has been cut and spread out, let the excess plastic hang down from the sides, make sure to poke several drainage holes in the bottom layer of the plastic bag before putting soil over it. The crate or pot can now be filled with a soil mixture fully all the way up to an inch – or 2.5 cm – to the rim of the crate or large pot, the plants can now be set into the set loosened soil, for aesthetic appearances, cut off the excess plastic if any that is hung over the rim of the crate or pot. Use a transplant fertilizer to water the plants in the soil, and from then on, the plants must be provided with a fertilizer feeding at least once in about every three weeks in a month. The sowing of the basil seeds can even be started about three weeks earlier than the growing season, and the seeds must be directly sown into the container and watered. The best growth indoors will be obtained from the dwarf basil varieties; these bear sufficient leaves for use in the kitchen from day to day. A good sunlit spot must be chosen for the location of the plants, this place must also be warm and with very bright light, on the other hand, the plants can also be placed under artificial plant lights away from the windows, every third week of the month the plants must be given some fertilizer for optimal growth.

Constituents:

Sweet basil contains a volatile oil (about 1%), which consists principally of linalool and methyl chavicol, along with small quantities of methyl cinnamate, cineole, and other terpenes.

Applications:

Leaves:
FRESH – The leaves of the basil can be plucked fresh and used as a herbal rub and as a topical treatment for various insect bites and to minimize the inflammation and itching due to insect bites.
INFUSION – Freshly plucked basil leaves can be used to make a combination herbal infusion when mixed along with some motherwort herb and this infusion can be drunk in the period immediately following the birth of a child, this herbal remedy can help in the prevention of a placental retention in the mother’s body.
TINCTURE – a herbal tincture can also be prepared from the leaves of the basil, this can be used for the treatment of nervous conditions, the basil leaves can be used in combinations with herbs such as the wood betony and the skullcap to make the tincture, the herb can also be combined with the elecampane and the hyssop herbs for the treatment of coughs and bronchitis in different patients.
WASH – Basil leaf juice can be mixed with honey in equal amounts and this herbal combination formula can be used to gain relief from itchiness in the skin and from the symptoms of ringworm infection.
JUICE – The leaves of the basil can be made into a herbal juice mixture by adding a decoction of flavorful cinnamon and cloves, this juice can be drunk to treat chills affecting a person.
SYRUP – For the treatment of coughs, the juice of the basil can be combined with an equal amount of honey and drank by the affected person.
INHALATION – For the treatment of head colds, inhale the steam coming off the basil leaves which have been soaked in boiling water.
Essential oil:
OIL – The basil is also valued for its essential herbal oils, problems such as nervous exhaustion, persistent mental fatigue, cases of melancholy, or physical and emotional uneasiness can be treated by adding five to ten drops of the oil of basil in bath water.
CHEST RUB – The essential oil of the basil can also be used in the topical treatment of many conditions, by diluting five drops of the herbal basil oil in 10 ml almond or sunflower oil, a topical preparation can be made for rubbing the chest of asthma and bronchitis patients. This rub will greatly ease the symptoms associated with the conditions.
MASSAGE OIL – The essential herbal oils of the basil can also be used in the preparation of massage oils, some diluted basil oil can be used for the topical treatment of patients suffering from nervous weakness, this oil can also be used as a topical application to repel insects, as a form of herbal insect repellent which is environmentally safe and harmless to the body.

basil pinching Harvesting Basil:

Basil leaves can be harvested individually at any given time, throughout the growing season of the plant. Leaves of the basil tend to be the tastiest in the younger plant. Harvesting can be carried out by using scissors or a sharp knife if only a few leaves are to be plucked, this is advisable because clean cuts bring minimal damage to the plant compared to just tearing off the leaf manually. To avoid the death of the plant, a minimum of four sets of the leaves each about 13 cm or 5 inches in length must be left on the plant, though it is possible to harvest all the leaves and the stem in the upper part of the plant. Use a jug of water to stock the cut stems and leaves to ensure freshness before use, the stems can be re-cut before storage, place the jug in a cool place inside the house. Discoloration and decay of the leaves must be avoided by not getting the leaves wet with water – discolored leaves lose all their freshness and flavor. For long-term use, the leaves can be blanched and then kept frozen in ice cubes. The flavor of the basil is best preserved when the leaves of the herb are frozen in ice. Another method of storage is to dry the basil, in this case, leaves can be stripped from the stems and then allowed to dry in a dark but airy indoors, the drying plant must be placed well away from all sources of moisture. An airtight container can be used to store the dried leaves whole once drying process is complete.

basil-pestoPasta al Pesto

  • 2 cups firmly packed fresh sweet basil leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbs. pine nuts or walnut meats
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Sardo cheese
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Hot buttered spaghetti for 4

Put all ingredients, except the cheese, into the blender. At high speed, blend, pushing basil leaves down from time to time. Add more olive oil if the contents stick. When the sauce has the consistency of whipped butter, add the cheese.
Mix thoroughly into hot, buttered spaghetti. (Freeze leftovers and use later for flavoring soups.)
Makes: 4 portions.

Home Remedies for Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an inflammation or swelling of the lining of the bronchial tubes, otherwise known as the bronchi.

The bronchi are the passages that connect the lungs to the mouth and nose. But what home remedies are best to treat bronchitis?

People with bronchitis experience breathing difficulties caused by a reduced capacity to carry air through the bronchi into the lungs. They also tend to have mucus or phlegm in their airways.

Several treatments, including many home remedies, are available to treat bronchitis and its symptoms. This article looks at how effective these treatments may be so that people with bronchitis can make an informed decision about how to treat it.

Drinking warm liquids

Warm water, tea, and other hot drinks help to thin mucus, making coughing easier.

A 2008 study suggests that hot beverages can provide “immediate and sustained relief from symptoms of a runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chilliness, and tiredness”.

Ginger tea may also help bronchitis symptoms, as ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory.

Using a humidifier

Keeping the air in the home or workplace moist helps to loosen mucus in the airways and reduce coughing. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend a cool-mist humidifier or steam vaporizer to do this.

A 2014 study indicates that long-term humidification therapy is a cost-effective treatment for people with the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchiectasis. However, researchers cautioned that more investigation was necessary.

COPD is an umbrella term for a number of lung conditions including bronchitis and bronchiectasis, which is a condition where the airways become abnormally wide.

If a person with one of these conditions uses a humidifier, it should be regularly cleaned, according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, to kill bacteria and other pathogens that make symptoms worse.

Wearing a face mask in cold weather

Being hit by sudden cold air can increase a cough. Covering up the mouth and nose before going outside in cold weather can help to reduce coughing and shortness of breath. Cold-air face masks are available, or the mouth can be covered with a scarf or other item of clothing.

Honey

Honey is often used as a natural remedy for a cough, and it is said to have both antiviral and antibacterial properties.

Research into the effectiveness of honey for respiratory tract infections indicates it may be an effective home treatment.

A 2007 study looked at how well dark honey worked for children with bronchitis. While the children who took the honey experienced greater symptom relief than those taking the placebo, the clinical benefit was small. Honey should not be given to children under 1 year.

Pursed-lip breathing techniques

A breathing technique known as pursed-lip breathing may benefit people with bronchitis, as well as those with COPD.

The COPD Foundation advise that this technique helps people breathe easier by:

  • keeping airways open longer
  • slowing down breathing
  • helping the lungs eliminate stale, trapped air
  • improving the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide
  • increasing the time that can be spent on certain activities

Pursed-lip breathing involves inhaling through the nose for 2 seconds, before puckering the lips and exhaling slowly through the mouth for 4 to 6 seconds.

Essential oils

Eucalyptus oil
Essential oils such as eucalyptus may help to reduce airway inflammation.

Many people with bronchitis or COPD use essential oils to ease symptoms, particularly inflammation and breathing difficulties.

Some research suggests airway inflammation can be reduced by using myrtol, eucalyptus oil, or orange oil, with myrtol oil showing additional benefits against inflammation.

An animal study also found that oil from the flower Zataria multiflora reduced inflammation in guinea pigs with COPD.

Other essential oils which may help ease the breathing difficulties associated with bronchitis include:

  • basil
  • eucalyptus
  • peppermint
  • rosemary
  • tea tree
  • thyme
  • oregano

Essential oils can be inhaled directly or used in a diffuser. Never take essential oils internally or apply them directly to the skin. To use on the skin, mix them with a carrier oil, such as mineral oil or sweet almond oil. Usually, it is 3-5 drops per 1 ounce of carrier oil.

Ginseng extract

Ginseng is a popular herbal remedy extracted from the fleshy roots of various slow-growing perennial plants.

In some research, ginseng extract was found to reduce the number of bacteria in the lungs of people with chronic bronchitis, who were having an attack of acute bronchitis.

Ginseng also has anti-inflammatory qualities, which may help it quell inflammation in the bronchial tubes.

N-acetylcysteine (NAC)

This supplement is a modified version of the amino acid cysteine. It may help to reduce both the frequency and severity of coughing. NAC may also thin the mucus in the bronchi, allowing it to be eliminated from the body more easily.

An analysis of 13 studies on NAC for chronic bronchitis or COPD suggests that people with chronic bronchitis and an airway obstruction benefit from 1,200 milligrams (mg) per day. Those with bronchitis without an airway obstruction see benefits from a regular dose of 600 mg daily.

Vitamin D

According to the Vitamin D Council, many studies indicate that people who have low levels of the vitamin are more prone to respiratory infections, including COPD.

Other research suggests that those who have high vitamin D levels experience shorter bouts of respiratory infections or milder symptoms.

However, the evidence is mixed when it comes to taking vitamin D to treat respiratory infections. Nonetheless, vitamin D is important for overall health and supplementation is a low-risk approach to bronchitis treatment.

If you choose to use supplements, essential oils, or herbs, be aware that these are not monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety, quality, purity, or packaging. Choose to buy from a company you trust.

Types of bronchitis

There are two types of bronchitis known as acute and chronic.

Acute bronchitis, or a chest cold, is a common condition which can develop from a cold or respiratory infection. People tend to recover from acute bronchitis within 10 to 14 days.

Chronic bronchitis is characterized by a constant irritation of the bronchi that lasts 3 months or more, or recurrent episodes of bronchitis for at least 2 years. In 2015, 9 million Americans were diagnosed with chronic bronchitis.

Symptoms of chronic bronchitis may worsen periodically, which indicates acute bronchitis in conjunction with the chronic condition.

Causes of bronchitis

The causes of bronchitis vary depending on the type.

Acute bronchitis is most commonly caused by a virus, particularly those that cause cold and flu. Viruses do not respond to antibiotic treatment, and so antibiotics should not be prescribed to someone who has acute bronchitis caused by a virus.

Smoking is the most common cause of chronic bronchitis, although air pollution or dust can be a factor in some cases.

Risk factors

A very large percentage of people who develop bronchitis have a history of smoking.

Several risk factors are linked with the onset of bronchitis, including:

  • Poor immunity: People with lowered immunity are more vulnerable to bronchitis. Factors which reduce immunity include illness, viral infection, and age. Older adults and young children are at greater risk.
  • Smoking: Cigarette smoke can irritate the lining of the bronchial tubes, which can result in bronchitis. More than 90 percent of people diagnosed with chronic bronchitis have a history of smoking. However, even passive smoke can be a risk factor. A 2012 study found that exposure to passive smoking at work almost doubled the risk of chronic bronchitis, while passive smoking at home increased the risk by 2.5 times.
  • Other irritants: Continued exposure to grains, chemicals, dust, and fabric is known to cause irritation to the delicate lining of the bronchi.
  • Heartburn: The acid that rises due to heartburn causes inflammation in the bronchial tubes.

Symptoms of bronchitis

The most common symptoms of bronchitis are:

  • cough
  • difficulty breathing
  • mucus exhaustion
  • generalized discomfort in the chest
  • low-grade fever
  • chills

People with acute bronchitis may also have had other symptoms consistent with cold or flu that contributed to the development of bronchitis. Examples of such symptoms include:

  • headache
  • runny nose
  • sore throat

Complications

Approximately 1 in 20 cases of bronchitis result in pneumonia. In addition, repeated episodes of bronchitis can indicate COPD.

Preventing Bronchitis

There are several steps to take to reduce the risk of developing acute or chronic bronchitis:

  • Avoid irritants: If contact with lung irritants is unavoidable, take steps to reduce exposure. For example, increase ventilation or wear a mask.
  • Quit smoking: Cutting out tobacco and avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke will help.
  • Improve immunity: Addressing underlying health conditions, eating a balanced diet, working out, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep all help.
  • Limit exposure to bacteria and viruses where possible: Do this by washing hands frequently.
  • Discuss vaccinations with a doctor: These may reduce the risk of bronchitis.

When to see a doctor

It is important to consult a doctor if symptoms of bronchitis endure beyond 3 weeks, are accompanied by a fever, or interfere with sleep.

Seek immediate medical attention if breathing difficulties become severe, or coughing produces blood.

Can Essential Oils Treat Depression?

Essential oils are used for many purposes, from serving as a natural mosquito repellent to reducing back and neck pain. However, can essential oils help treat depression?

Essential oils do not cure depression and should not be used as an alternative to the treatment prescribed by a doctor. Essential oils can, however, be used as a complementary therapy alongside conventional treatments, such as behavioral therapy and antidepressants.

Certain essential oils may relieve some of the psychological and physical symptoms linked with depression. Some research has shown that using essential oils may improve sleep, enhance mood, and improve a person’s quality of life.

Essential oils may also help lessen symptoms of anxiety, which are common in people with depression. It is estimated that around 43 percent of people with anxiety and stress use some form of alternative therapy to help reduce symptoms

As with all forms of alternative therapy, essential oils should be used with caution. Always discuss the use of essential oils with a doctor or an aromatherapist.

Essential oils that may help treat depression

It is claimed that the following essential oils may help with some symptoms of depression:

lavender
Lavender oil may be used to enhance sleep and relieve anxiety.
  • Bergamot may reduce anxiety and stress
  • Bergamot, lavender, and frankincense had a positive effect on pain and depression in people with terminal cancer
  • Lavadin reduced anxiety in patients before surgery
  • Lavender may reduce anxiety-like behavior and inhibit depression, found in dental patients and lower stress and anxiety scores in nursing students
  • Lavender, frankincense, and rose may help relieve anxiety and fear during labor
  • Lavender, Roman chamomile, and neroli reduced anxiety levels in patients before nonsurgical heart procedures
  • Lavender can also enhance sleep
  • Rose may be helpful for anxiety, depression, and stress
  • Rosemary may provide antidepressant-like effects
  • Sweet orange may reduce or prevent anxiety
  • Wild ginger may inhibit depression-like behavior responses
  • Ylang ylang may reduce heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate

Other oils that are reported to relieve symptoms of depression are:

  • Basil may reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Chamomile may calm emotions and reduce nervous tension
  • Clary Sage may reduce anxiety, stress, panic attacks, and depression
  • Geranium may relieve anxiety, stress, and nervous fatigue
  • Grapefruit may have a calming effect and decrease anxiety and stress levels

Quality of evidence on essential oils

Essential oils
More research on the benefits of essential oils may be needed before they can be recommended for treating depression.

Many of the alleged benefits of essential oils are based on personal accounts, rather than backed up with scientific evidence. An essential oil that may have “worked” for one person may have no effect on another.

Due to the scent of essential oils, it is hard to conduct studies where the participants and researchers do not know which essential oils are being used. For this reason, many studies that explore the effect of essential oils on anxiety and stress are inconclusive.

One research article summarizing systematic reviews of the use of aromatherapy for hypertension, depression, anxiety, pain relief, and dementia concluded that aromatherapy is an ineffective therapy for any condition.

More research is required before doctors will be able to recommend essential oils as a first-line treatment for depression. However, as a complementary therapy, essential oils might improve or reduce individual symptoms and improve the effectiveness of other treatments.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are the compounds that are extracted from the bark, flowers, leaves, stems, roots, and other parts of plants.

The compounds are extracted from the plant through a process of distillation – usually by steam or water, or mechanical methods such as cold pressing. What is left of the plant after this process is referred to as essential oil.

Most studies that explore essential oils and depression look at essential oils used in aromatherapy. Here, oils are most commonly either inhaled through the nose or mouth or rubbed on the skin.

Applying essential oils to the skin may cause an allergic reaction, skin irritation, and sun sensitivity in some people, so the oils must first be mixed with a carrier oil, such as olive, almond avocado, or coconut oil. It is also recommended that people carry out an allergy test before using essential oils, as they can cause irritation.

Although the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved several oils for use as food additives and classified them as “generally recognized as safe,” digesting essential oils is not recommended.

The FDA do not regulate essential oils used in aromatherapy.

How do essential oils work?

The chemicals in essential oils can interact with the body through being absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream or stimulating areas of the brain through inhalation.

When specialized nerve cells in the upper part of the nose detect smells, they send an impulse to the brain along the olfactory nerve to an area called the olfactory bulb.

The olfactory bulb processes the impulse and delivers the information about the smell to other neighboring areas of the brain. These other areas are known as the limbic system.

The limbic system is a set of brain structures that are thought to play an essential role in controlling behavior, emotions, memory, and mood.

Importance of smell

Smelling essential oils at a market
Essential oils can interact with the body through the skin or via inhalation.

Using essential oils to help ease symptoms of depression might work because of their smell.

A sense of smell is one way that people connect with the world around them. People are very sensitive to smell and it is believed that an individual can recognize 1 trillion different aromas.

Aromas are very important and highly emotive. Everyone reacts to smells differently – how they respond to a smell depends on what they associate with that smell. For example, a certain smell may spark a memory that has been long forgotten.

Because smells are so suggestive, it makes sense that aromas from essential oils might promote improved emotion and mood; and this, in turn, may provide some relief in mood disorders such as depression.