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.

Comparison of Peppermint Oil and Mefenamic Acid for Relief of Dysmenorrhea Symptoms

Dysmenorrhea is associated with painful uterine contractions, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Pain is thought to be caused by the release of prostaglandin F2α in the menstrual fluid. The main treatments are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), prostaglandin inhibitors, and contraceptive pills. NSAIDs can be effective in relieving dysmenorrhea but commonly cause adverse side effects and are contraindicated in some people. Mefenamic acid is a mild analgesic and fever-reducing NSAID used for relief of moderate short-term menstrual pain. Peppermint (Mentha × Piperita, Lamiaceae) exerts its effect on the myometrium contractile activity by inhibiting prostaglandin F2α and oxytocin and has also been shown to have an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect.1,2 In addition, menthol, a primary constituent in mint, reduces vomiting and diarrhea.3,4 The goal of this study was to compare the effects of peppermint oil and the NSAID mefenamic acid for relief of dysmenorrhea symptoms.

A prospective, randomized, crossover study was conducted for 2 months with 122 single, female Iranian university students aged 18-25 years who already had primary dysmenorrhea. Group 1 received 3 peppermint oil capsules (Colpermin™; Tillotts Pharma AG; Rheinfelden, Switzerland) once a day for 3 days after menstruation started, followed by a washout period during the next menstrual cycle. The actual dosage of peppermint oil was not disclosed. [Note: The Colpermin website states that each gastro-resistant hard-gelatin capsule contains 187 mg of peppermint oil.5] Then, in the third menstrual cycle, patients were given 1 capsule containing 250 mg mefenamic acid (Ponstan®; Razak Laboratories Co.; Tehran, Iran) every 8 hours for 3 days. Group 2 received the same treatments in reverse order.

There was no significant difference in age, the number of days of menstruation, age at first menstruation, or dysmenorrhea interval between groups. Patients were given questionnaires after taking each treatment. Pain intensity was assessed through visual analog scale (VAS) and dysmenorrhea timing through the Cox menstrual symptom scale. Bleeding amount was measured using a pictorial blood assessment chart (PBAC). The VAS and Cox scale were answered at the beginning and end of each menstruation. PBAC was completed on menstruation days. Patients were allowed to take sedatives 1 hour after treatment, but they had to record the intensity and duration of their pain first.

Consumption of both mefenamic acid and peppermint oil significantly reduced the severity of pain (P<0.05), and there was no significant difference between the 2 treatments. Mefenamic acid and peppermint oil both significantly reduced duration of pain (P<0.05); however, duration of pain was more greatly reduced by mefenamic acid than peppermint oil (P<0.05). Mefenamic acid significantly reduced bleeding (P<0.05), while there was a slight (nonsignificant) increase in bleeding after peppermint oil treatment (P>0.05). There was no significant difference in nausea and vomiting with the use of mefenamic acid (P>0.05), but both were significantly decreased by peppermint oil (P<0.05). Peppermint oil also showed a significantly greater reduction in diarrhea compared to mefenamic acid (13.5% and 3.8% decrease, respectively; P<0.05). Both groups had similar significant decreases in analgesic use during treatment periods (P<0.05).

The findings of this study show that peppermint oil can reduce the duration and severity of menstrual cramps. Mefenamic acid has been studied as a drug treatment for dysmenorrhea; yet, the results of this study show that peppermint oil has similar effects to mefenamic acid while achieving the additional benefits of significantly reducing nausea and vomiting. Due to the complications of mefenamic acid (some of which include gastrointestinal bleeding, ulcers, flatulence, indigestion, and stomach pain), peppermint oil may be a preferred treatment. Researchers urge future studies on peppermint oil for treatment of dysmenorrhea symptoms and suggest the use of higher dosages or treatment during the luteal phase of the fertility cycle.

References

1Jalilzadeh-Amin G, Maham M. Evaluation of pulegone on transit time and castor oil induced diarrhea in rat. Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2013;19(3):77-82.

2Taher YA. Antinociceptive activity of Mentha piperita leaf aqueous extract in mice. Libyan J Med. 2012;7(1). doi: 10.3402/ljm.v7i0.16205.

3Hiki N, Kaminishi M, Hasunuma T, et al. A phase I study evaluating tolerability, pharmacokinetics, and preliminary efficacy of L-menthol in upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2011;90(2):221-228.

4Alves JGB, de Brito Rde CCM, Cavalcanti TS. Effectiveness of Mentha piperita in the treatment of infantile colic: A crossover study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:981352. doi: 10.1155/2012/981352.

5What does Colpermin™ contain? Colpermin website. Available at: http://www.colpermin.eu/about-colpermin-sup-tm-sup-/what-does-colpermin-sup-tm-sup-contain-. Updated October 2015. Accessed April 16, 2017.

Can Essential Oils be Used for Treating Asthma?

Asthma is a long-term lung disease. The airways in the lungs become inflamed and swollen, causing the airways to tighten. This makes it difficult for air to pass through and for the person to breath.

According to The American Lung Association, nearly 26 million Americans have asthma, including more than 7 million children. It is the third leading cause of hospitalization among children.

There is no cure for asthma at present, but there are many treatment plans that can help people lead normal lives. Although there is a variety of asthma medicines on the market, some people prefer more natural treatment options.

Many people looking for a natural and more cost-effective treatment option have turned to essential oils. This article will look at the use of essential oils to treat asthma, along with other treatments for the condition.

What is asthma?

Asthma makes breathing difficult, which can lead to symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. This sequence of events is referred to as an asthma flare-up or an asthma attack.

It is not known what causes asthma, but some people are more at risk of developing the disease than others. It is not uncommon for asthma to run in families and for environmental factors to play a role.

Exposure to dust, chemicals, or irritants in the workplace can increase the risk for asthma. Damage from respiratory infections during infancy or early childhood as well as bad allergies can lead to asthma.

An asthma attack can happen at any time and anywhere. There are certain situations where people are more likely to have an asthma attack, however. These cause the following types of asthma:

  • Exercise-induced asthma
  • Occupational asthma
  • Allergy-induced asthma

Exposure to any type of irritant can cause allergies to flare up or simply irritate the respiratory system, triggering an asthma attack.

Natural essential oils for asthma

The therapeutic capabilities of essential oils are nothing new and may be helpful for some people with asthma. The following oils have some evidence to suggest a health benefit for people with asthma:

  • Peppermint: One of the common causes of asthma attacks is exposure to allergens that trigger the release of a compound called histamine. Peppermint can help to stop the release of histamine in the body. A substance called methanol is present in peppermint and can relieve stuffy or blocked noses, which can help people with asthma to breathe better.
  • Lavender: This essential oil is used for a variety of things. It has natural sedative and anti-inflammatory characteristics that may help people with asthma fight inflammation.
  • Eucalyptus: Research suggests that eucalyptus oil may have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Tea tree oil: This essential oil helps by reducing inflammation. In doing so, tea tree oil can help reduce the body’s allergic response.
  • Roman chamomile: Another essential oil with anti-inflammatory properties. It can also help part of the lungs called the bronchus to relax as well as relieve coughing.

Using essential oils

There are three common ways that people with asthma can use essential oils.

  • Aromatically: Some essential oils such as lavender and eucalyptus can bring relief through inhalation. Diffusing essential oils into the air could also help to purify the air and get rid of potential allergens.
  • Topically: Essential oils can be absorbed through the skin. People should be sure to research the oils properly as some must be mixed together to avoid skin irritation.
  • Internally: Some essential oils are available as supplements and can be taken internally. Not only are essential oils a natural way for people to treat asthma symptoms but they can also help patients avoid side effects from allergy shots or other medications.

Risks and considerations

People should always be careful when using essential oils. They may not be a good fit for every person with asthma. Some oils can give off a strong odor that can trigger asthma symptoms and attacks.

A bottle of eucalyptus oil with some leaves.
Essential oils can cause an asthma attack in people who are easily triggered by strong smells or chemicals.

Essential oils are not recommended for people with asthma who are very sensitive to smells and whose symptoms are easily triggered by them.

People should make sure that the fragrance does not cause a problem before using any essential oil. Some essential oils can also irritate the skin, so people should test a few drops on the skin first.

Oils should always be diluted because they can cause skin rashes when pure. Essential oils should not be given to children without a consulting a doctor. They can cause skin irritation, and some of them contain some strong ingredients that are not child-friendly.

Though some people with asthma have had success with essential oils, they are not a replacement for medical care. Research studies are being carried out, but there is no firm evidence that proves essential oils are a reliable treatment option.

Asthma patients should take any medicine prescribed by their doctor and go for regular checkups. If anyone experiences any asthma symptoms that do not seem to go away or get worse, they should see a doctor. There is no cure for asthma and, left untreated, it can be very dangerous.

Other treatments for asthma

To diagnose asthma, a medical doctor will perform a series of tests. They will carry out a complete physical exam and obtain the patient’s medical history. Other possible tests to diagnose asthma include:

  • Lung function tests
  • Allergy testing
  • Imaging tests

After a doctor diagnoses asthma, they will prescribe medication to help control the problem. There are several medicines commonly prescribed including:

  • Bronchodilators: These relax the muscles around the airways
  • Anti-inflammatories: Commonly referred to as corticosteroids or steroids, these reduce the swelling and mucus inside the airways
  • Antibiotics: These can treat attacks caused by bacterial infections

Some people have well-controlled asthma that does not cause many problems. Others may experience attacks that can be severe and even life-threatening. Asthma medicines do not cure asthma but they do help to improve symptoms. As a result, it is important to follow a doctor’s orders.

Though effective, some of these medicines can cause some unpleasant side effects and can be expensive.

Preventing asthma from getting worse

People cannot always prevent asthma but there are things they can do to keep it from getting worse. It is vital to follow a doctor’s prescribed treatment plan.

Essentials oils may be a helpful treatment but people should always consult a doctor before using them. They are not recommended for some patients such as pregnant women.

People should also stay up to date with influenza and pneumonia vaccinations. These illnesses can trigger attacks. Identifying and avoiding things that can possibly trigger asthma attacks is also important. These can include certain foods, pets, and chemicals.

Those with asthma who have been approved to use essential oils can use them to supplement their current treatment. They can be helpful in relieving some asthma symptoms but should be used with caution and extreme care.

People with asthma should always pay attention to their breathing to learn to recognize their asthma attack warning signs. If an attack comes on, they should be sure to treat it immediately. Asthma is dangerous and quick response and treatment could be the difference between life and death.