Bronchitis occurs when the air passages in your lungs become inflamed. Bronchitis can be acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis is usually due to a viral infection — such as a cold — that starts in your nose or sinuses and spreads to the airways. Acute bronchitis usually lasts a few days, although you may have a cough for weeks afterward.

Signs and Symptoms:


Acute bronchitis:

  • Cough that produces yellow or green mucus
  • Burning sensation in the chest
  • Wheezing
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Fatigue


Chronic bronchitis:

  • Chronic cough that produces mucus
  • Wheezing, shortness of breath
  • Blue tinged lips
  • Ankle, feet, and leg swelling



Acute bronchitis is usually caused by the same viruses that cause colds. But exposure to cigarette smoke or pollution, a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and bacterial infections can also cause bronchitis.

The main causes of chronic bronchitis are cigarette smoking and prolonged exposure to air pollution, dust, and environmental tobacco smoke. During their lifteimes, 40% of smokers develop chronic bronchitis. One study shows that snoring is also associated with chronic bronchitis.

Preventive Care:

The best way to prevent chronic bronchitis is to avoid smoking and to stay away from air pollutants. For acute bronchitis, take steps to avoid colds and respiratory infections, such as washing your hands frequently, taking supplements, essential oils and using a Boomerang.

For acute bronchitis:

Studies show that antibiotics are not an effective treatment for acute bronchitis and may contribute to antibiotic resistance.

For chronic bronchitis:

N-acetyl-cysteine (1-4 tablets per day) — NAC is a modified form of a dietary amino acid that works as an antioxidant in the body. Several studies indicate that it may help relieve symptoms of COPD by acting as an antioxidant to reduce oxidative stress on the lungs (damage caused by free radicals, particles that harm cells and DNA). N-A-C is also a mucolytic, meaning it breaks up mucous.

For acute bronchitis:

Because bronchitis often follows a cold, some of the same supplements used to prevent or treat a cold may be helpful.

  •  Probiotics (Probiotic Eleven) — So called “good” bacteria or probiotics help prevent infections in the intestines, and there is preliminary evidence that they might help prevent respiratory infections, too.


For acute and chronic bronchitis/Expectorants for cough:

  • Lobelia (Lobelia inflata) — Also called Indian tobacco, lobelia has a long history of use as an herbal remedy for respiratory problems including bronchitis. It is an effective expectorant, meaning that it helps clear mucus from your lungs.
  • Bronchial Formula (ayurvedic) — Traditionally, it has been used for respiratory illnesses and coughs with lung congestion.
  • PLS II – A healing formula to help heal any type of wounded tissue. Great for the lungs in time of inflammation.



Running a cool humidifier with an essential oil combination such as eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), bergamot oil, myrrh, lavender, Tea Tree, Marjoram and pine needle, has been suggested for several respiratory illnesses, including both acute and chronic bronchitis, to loosen phlegm, thin mucus and ease cough. Peppermint (Mentha piperita) — Peppermint is widely used for cold symptoms. Its main active agent, menthol, is a good decongestant. Menthol also thins mucus and works as an expectorant, helping loosen and break up phlegm. Depending on your health, an aggressive attack with oils may be necessary. One study found that people with acute bronchitis treated with essential oils containing monoterpenes did better than people who took placebo. Talk to an experienced aroma-therapist to learn which oil, alone or in combination, is best for you.

Supporting Research

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Ferri: Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2010, 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier Inc. 2009.

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Hasani A, Pavia D, Toms N, Dilworth P, Agnew JE. Effect of aromatics on lung mucociliary clearance in patients with chronic airways obstruction. J Altern Complement Med. 2003 Apr;9(2):243-9.

Jackson IM, et al. Efficacy and tolerability of oral acetylcysteine (Fabrol) in chronic bronchitis: a double-blind placebo controlled study. J Int Med Res. 1984; 12(3): 198-206.

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Mandell: Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Churchill Livingstone. 2009; Ch. 61

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