Natural Treatments for Bronchitis
By Dr. Mao Shing Ni
THE AIRWAY PASSAGES IN THE LUNGS, called bronchi, are susceptible to viral and bacterial infections. Following a common cold or flu, the pathogen often settles in the bronchi, causing an acute infection called bronchitis. Severe cough, mild fever, and chest tightness and pain accompanied by fatigue and exhaustion are common symptoms. Over 90 percent of acute bronchitis is caused by viral infections that do not respond to antibiotics. Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is often associated with smokers, people with asthma, immune-compromised individuals, and the elderly. About 1 in 20 Americans suffer from bronchitis as a result of common colds and flu, and over 12 million develop chronic bronchitis over their lifetime.
In Chinese medicine, respiratory infections are classified as heat in the lungs due to exterior pathogens. Weakened immunity as a result of lung-large intestine network deficiency is considered in chronic cases. Bronchitis is often remedied first with cupping, a practice using suction cups on the upper back, and acupuncture to relax the bronchial constriction and relieve the cough. These treatments are followed by fast-acting herbal therapy to remove the pathogen, clear the lungs, and further subdue the cough. For chronic bronchitis, it is also essential to support the healthy functioning of the lung, stomach, and kidney networks, and to provide dietary and lifestyle advice. Stopping smoking is a must.
Many cases of chronic bronchitis are caused by stomach imbalance. For example, a woman came to me after suffering from chronic bronchitis for more than two years. She took various medications and used inhalers but still had a constant cough. I discovered that she also suffered from indigestion and postnasal drip. I decided to tackle the postnasal drip and the acid reflux first, in other words, I wanted to support the spleen-pancreas stomach network to stop mucus production and to re-balance acid production. As soon as her indigestion and postnasal drip cleared up, her two-year-old bronchitis went away.
Chronic bronchitis is a serious condition that requires a collaborative effort. In these cases I work with pulmonary specialists to develop and administer comprehensive treatment plans integrating Western and Eastern medicine.
Related Conditions: Cold, Cough, Asthma
Here are my recommendations.
DIET FOR BRONCHITIS
For specific dietary advice for bronchitis following the common cold, refer to the section on colds.
- Follow a balanced diet rich in complex carbohydrates, low in fat, and with organic sources of lean protein such as egg whites, skinless chicken, ostrich, and turkey.
- Favor green vegetables and include green and red cabbage, kale, asparagus, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, celery, daikon radish, garlic, green beans, carrots, papaya, lotus root, seaweed, button mushrooms, reishi mushrooms, mustard greens, onions, leeks, parsnips, seaweed, turnips, water chestnuts, watercress, apples, bananas, apricots, figs, grapefruits, mulberries, oranges, Asian pears (also known as pear apples), persimmons, almonds, ginkgo nuts (available in Asian markets), chestnuts, walnuts, olives, and honey.
- During an infection, increase fluid intake to So ounces of room temperature or lukewarm beverages a day.
- Eliminate foods that promote mucus, including dairy products, but especially ice cream, cold and raw foods, sweet foods containing simple processed sugars or processed flour, and soft drinks.
HOME REMEDIES FOR BRONCHITIS
- Daikon radish juice for bronchitis: juice 3 large daikon radishes, strain, and add 1 teaspoon fresh ginger juice and 1 tablespoon honey. Drink it lukewarm, 1 cup 3 times daily until the condition improves.
- Honeysuckle tea for bronchitis: add 1/2 cup crushed water chestnuts and 1/2 cup honeysuckle (available in health food stores) to 20 ounces of water and boil for 20 minutes. Strain, and drink 1 cup of this tea twice daily until the condition improves.
- Asian pear for bronchitis: core 1 Asian pear, spoon 1 tablespoon honey in the center, and steam or bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Eating 3 daily will nourish the lungs and soothe a cough.
- Eucalyptus and camphor oil for bronchitis: to open the passageways and relieve joint pain, boil a stockpot of water and tum off the heat. Add 10 drops of my Tonic Oil which consists of oils of camphor, peppermint, eucalyptus, fennel, and wintergreen. Inhale the fumes deeply for 10 minutes with a towel covering your head and the pot.
- Honey and onion syrup for bronchitis: finely chop 1 onion and mix with 2 tablespoons of honey. Store in sealed container for 8 hours. Take 1 tablespoon straight or dissolve it in 1 cup hot water and drink 4 to 5 times a day until the condition improves.
DAILY VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS FOR BRONCHITIS
- Vitamins A (200 IU), C (1,000 milligrams), E (800 IU), and bromelain (450 milligrams), garlic (goo milligrams), and zinc (50 milligrams) are beneficial for treating bronchitis.
- Methylsulfanylmethane or MSM (1,000 milligrams) and pycnogenol (450 milligrams), a bioflavonoid found in grape seeds, can protect the lungs and prevent infections.
- Quercetin (500 milligrams) is useful for its antihistamine properties in allergic bronchitis.
HERBAL THERAPY FOR BRONCHITIS
Herbs can be found in health food or vitamin stores, online, and at the offices of Chinese medicine practitioners. Herbs should be used according to individual needs; consult with a licensed practitioner for a customized formulation. To learn more, go to askdrmao.com.
- Traditional Chinese herbs to help ease chronic bronchitis, Ginkgo seed, Coltsfoot flower, White Mulberry root bark, Pinellia rhizome, Perilla fruit, Apricot seed, Chinese Skullcap root
- Linden, marshmallow, and peppermint are traditionally used to suppress cough.
- Lily bulb, apricot kernel, stemona root, fritillaria, mulberry, Chinese basil, mustard seed, daikon seed, ginger, and schizandra berry are among the many herbs used in Chinese medicine to calm cough and ventilate the lungs.
- For chronic bronchitis accompanied by kidney weakness, tonic herbs such as ginkgo seed, goji berry, cornus berry, astragalus, and ginseng are recommended.
QI GONG EXERCISE FOR BRONCHITIS
Don’t exercise strenuously while suffering from acute bronchitis, as exercising can worsen the condition. Calm and restful walks in fresh air can help. During remission, moderate physical exercise can be integrated. I recommend daily qi gong exercises to strengthen the body, open and strengthen the lungs, and redirect the flow of qi downward.
The Eight Treasures Qi Gong exercises can be of great benefit to the mind and body, when performed daily for 30 minutes. In particular, the fifth movement of the practice, called Water and Fire Meet, is targeted to bring the cooling energy of the kidneys to the chest, redirect the qi downward, and calm a cough.
- Perform this exercise twice daily. The time corresponding to the lung energy is around 5 A.11., so between 5 and 7 A.M. is the best time to practice tai chi or qi gong exercises targeted to the lungs. In a quiet, comfortable environment, preferably outdoors, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, spine erect, tailbone tucked in, and head tilted slightly forward.
- Place your arms palms down on your lower abdomen just below the navel, one hand overlapping the other. Begin with rhythmic, slow, and relaxed breathing. Inhale deeply but softly, and imagine the breath extending all the way down to your lower abdomen, about two finger-widths below the navel. Exhale gently and softly.
- Stay in this position for 7 breath cycles, relaxing and calming your mind. Then begin the exercise: Exhale, bending down from your waist. Begin a gentle massage of your inner legs, starting at the inner ankles by rubbing rhythmically in a circular motion.
- Inhale as you continue the massage, slowly coming up the inner legs to your inner thighs. Raise your arms slowly to your chest with the backs of your palms touching each other and your elbows bent.
- When you reach your chest, make small circles by moving your hands from the middle to the outside of the chest with palms facing down, expanding your chest.
- Then move from the outer to the middle of your chest with your palms facing up. Inhale, and in alternating fashion make circles with the bent elbows, moving from front to back and bending at the hips to exaggerate the motion slightly.
- Alternate between your left and right arms 3 times.
- Repeat the circles now in the reverse direction from the back to the front, inhaling and exhaling with each circle. Repeat with each arm 3 times.
- Bring the arms back to the center of the chest, with the backs of the palms facing each other, elbows bent. Inhale and open the chest with both arms stretching back and to the sides, again with elbows bent and palms relaxed.
- Exhale and stretch both arms out to the sides, palms facing out, pushing out to the left and right. As you exhale, push your hands out 3 times.
- To complete the exercise, return to the initial standing posture. Place your hands on the lower abdomen, palms down, one hand overlapping the other.
- Rub your lower abdomen 7 times in small clockwise circles just below the navel.
SELF-ACUPRESSURE FOR BRONCHITIS
- Find the acupoint Cubit Marsh (LU-5) by bending your right arm at the elbow- the point is located in the elbow crease, on the outer side of the large tendon in the middle of the crease. Apply moderate pressure with your left thumb until you feel soreness. Hold for 2 minutes. Repeat on the left arm.
- Locate the acupoint Upward Thrust (REN-22) on the chest - it’s level with the clavicle and shoulders, in the depression at the center of the sternum just below the ‘V of the neck. Apply steady pressure with your index fingers until you feel soreness. Hold for 3 minutes
Both of these points are traditionally used to soothe breathing, redirect lung energy downward, and stop cough
BRONCHITIS: WHAT TO AVOID
Exposure to airborne irritants, which can aggravate the condition.
Alcohol, smoking, and caffeine, stimulants that can worsen the condition.
Exposure to cold weather, which can trigger bronchial constriction and worsen cough.
Stress, anxiety, and emotional turmoil, which can aggravate the symptoms.
Balch, P. A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 4th ed. New York: Avery, 2006.
Benskey, D., and R. Barolet. Chinese Herbal Medicine Formulas and Strategies. Seattle:
Ni, M. The Eight Treasures: Energy Enhancement Exercises. Los Angeles: Seven Star, 1996.
Ni, M., and C. McNease. The Tao of Nutrition. Los Angeles: Seven Star, 1987.
Essential Oils for Bronchitis
©2015 Dr. Mao Shing Ni
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