What is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is caused by an inflammation to the lining of the bronchial tubes that transport air into and away from the lungs. When you contract bronchitis, you often develop a hacking type of cough and produce thick discolored mucus.
The condition can be either acute or chronic and acute forms of bronchitis often develop from another respiratory complaint such as the common cold. The chronic form of bronchitis is far more serious and is characterized by constant inflammation and irritation to the bronchial lining. Smoking is a major cause of chronic bronchitis so this is yet another good reason to quit.
By and large acute bronchitis will improve inside a couple of days with few lingering effects although you may continue coughing for a few weeks. If the condition comes back on a regular basis, you are likely to have chronic bronchitis which will necessitate treatment and should not be ignored.
The symptoms of bronchitis whether chronic or acute include the following:
- Mucus production which can vary in color from clear to green and may be tinged with blood
- Difficulty breathing
- A discomfort in the chest
- Fever and mild chills are also possible symptoms
There might be times when those with chronic bronchitis experience a worsening of their symptoms. It is possible that during these periods you have contracted acute bronchitis to go along with your underlying chronic bronchitis.
The causes of bronchitis differ depending on whether you have chronic or acute bronchitis.
The main causes of acute bronchitis are viruses of the same kind which cause influenza and the common cold. Because it is caused by a virus, antibiotics are ineffective.
As regards chronic bronchitis, smoking is the biggest culprit but environmental factors like air pollution and dust can also contribute.
- Passive smoking when you live with a partner who smokes can increase your chances of developing bronchitis.
- Depleted resistance caused by an underlying illness such as the common cold or any other condition that hampers the immune system can leave you prone to bronchitis.
- Age is a factor with young children and the elderly being more vulnerable.
- Heartburn or gastric reflux can irritate the throat making you more vulnerable.
- Exposure to work place irritants such as chemical fumes or textiles may be a factor.
How to treat bronchitis with essential oils
Before going any further it is important to point out that if your bronchitis is caused by smoking, then no essential oil is going to help you and the first thing you need to do is quit as fast as possible. I know from first-hand experience that this is easier said than done but the gains are well worth the effort. Most acute forms of bronchitis on the other had are caused by viruses which can be treated very effectively with essential oils
1. Tea tree essential oil
There is ample evidence that tea tree essential oil can help treat bronchitis by significantly inhibiting the flu virus which leads to bronchitis. Tea tree essential oil has extremely powerful antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties and one study published in 2009 discovered that tea tree essential oil was capable of inhibiting the influenza virus. (1)
Another large scale study published originally in 1999 examined the antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal activities of 45 essential oils and found that tea tree oil as well as cinnamon bark were especially effective. (2)
Tea tree oil is also an excellent natural antioxidant with anti-inflammatory abilities to relieve inflammation in the bronchial tubes and protect the bronchial cells against damage. (3)
If your bronchitis is caused by bacteria as opposed to the more common viral infections, then these are the oils you should be using.
I have grouped these three wonderful oils together because of a study published in 2001 which analyzed the effectiveness of 14 different essential oils to destroy two of the bacterial strains that can cause bronchitis-namely streptococcus pneumonia and heamophilus influenza bacteria. The study concluded that these oils had the most destructive effect on the bacteria. Thyme oil is also known to be one of the best essential oils to treat the common cold.
3. Eucalyptus essential oil
Eucalyptus essential oil is especially effective in treating the symptoms of cold, flu and bronchitis because of its very high content of 1,8-cineole. Eucalyptus oil also has excellent anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that make it an excellent weapon against bronchitis.
4. Rosemary essential oil
Like eucalyptus oil, rosemary also contains a high level of 1,8-cineole which can help treat breathing complaints and bronchial issues as well as colds and the flu. Rosemary essential oil also has excellent anti-inflammatory properties.
5. Lavender essential oil
This is probably the most popular of all the essential oils and for good reason. It is cheap, effective and incredibly diverse boasting an endless amount of therapeutic benefits. It is also known to be one of the most gentle oils and perhaps the only oil that can be applied topically without the need for dilution.
It is an excellent remedy for bronchitis because of its strong analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties and should be safe for your children though it is best to consult your doctor before applying any essential oils to your little ones.
6. Clove essential oil
Clove oil is often one of the go to essential oils for colds, sinus infections and bronchitis. It has outstanding antiviral and antibacterial properties and can also dull any pain you are experiencing because of its natural analgesic effects.
7. Other essential oils for bronchitis
Most oils have antiviral and antibacterial properties to some level or another and the list above is far from exhaustive. Other oils known to be effective in treating bronchitis include helichrysum, ginger, myrrh and marjoram essential oils.
Be careful NOT to mix essential oils and antibiotics!
There are a number of studies concerning different antibiotics and essential oils showing complimentary and antagonistic behavior. Put simply:
• Some oils work well with some antibiotics—increasing their effectiveness.
• Other oils can make some antibiotics less effective!
So always talk to your doctor if you are on antibiotics for bronchitis. The safe advice would be to not use any essential oils while on antibiotics—since the risks are not worth it.
So now that you know which oils to use, we will tell you about the best ways to utilize them to treat your bronchitis.
This is a very effective method of treating bronchitis as well as sinus congestion. All you need to do is fill your sink or a bowl with hot water and then add 5 or 6 drops of your chosen oil or combination of essential oils.
Next, take a towel and cover your entire shoulder, head and neck region. Lean over the sink or bowl and inhale the fumes deeply for as long as you can manage but aim for at least 5 minutes. Repeat this process twice daily for as long as you need.
Alternatively, you can add 10 or so drops of your essential oils to your bathwater and breathe in the vapors while relaxing in your tub.
A soothing chest or back rub before bed is an excellent tonic for your bronchitis symptoms. It should keep your coughing in check and relieve any build-up of mucus and also help you get a proper night of relaxed sleep.
Before applying your oils topically, make sure that you dilute them properly with a carrier oil like avocado, coconut or jojoba.
An alternative to topical to a rub is to make your own warm compress that you can apply to the chest area.
- Fill a container with hot water
- add some 10 drops of essential oil and a tablespoon or so of base oil
- Dip a towel into the mixture, ring out the excess fluid and wrap it around the chest and your back
If you have a diffuser machine, then you can simply diffuse your oil next to your bed throughout the night.