In its acute form, bronchitis is characterized by a moderate fever (rarely above 38°C), accompanied by a dry cough which can become fatty. Of viral origin in the majority of cases, it is generally preceded by a cold, nasopharyngitis or the flu. In healthy children and adults, acute bronchitis heals in around ten days. However, a consultation is necessary if the signs worsen, when the cough lasts more than three weeks, particularly in people at risk of complications (newborns, elderly or immunocompromised people, diabetics, asthmatics, in cases of heart failure). Bronchitis is considered chronic when the wet cough persists for at least 3 months per year. Its aggravated form corresponds to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a disease common among smokers (smoker's cough), which has become the 3rd cause of death worldwide. In a global approach to health, several natural solutions can be considered to prevent infectious episodes, alleviate certain symptoms, support immunity... while taking care of your lifestyle to limit the risks of complications or recurrences, and better to recover.

This article was updated on 18/04/2024

Top 5 natural treatments

1. To act at the first signs and avoid contagion: ravintsara essential oil.
2. When the cough becomes wet: Eucalyptus Globulus essential oil to be reserved for adults or Eucalyptus Radiata essential oil to be preferred in children.
3. As a herbal tea against dry cough: flowers of Marshmallow or Mauve.
4. To protect the most fragile: Thyme hydrosol with linalool.
5. As a basic treatment before winter: the macerate of young rosehip shoots, specialist in the ENT and immunity sphere

See a doctor quickly if the cough is associated with cold sweats, difficulty breathing (wheezing, pain), blood in the mucus; if the fever rises or persists for more than 48 hours. Medical advice is also necessary for babies, the elderly, immunocompromised people, diabetics, asthmatics, in cases of heart failure, etc., when the cough lasts more than three weeks.

In case of acute bronchitis, it is also recommended to drink enough, preferably hot drinks

Essential oils before, during and after bronchitis

Why use essential oils?

Whether it is acute bronchitis or chronic bronchitis, essential oils will be essential both for prevention and to limit certain symptoms or certain complications. By the richness of their compositions, they will in fact be particularly useful thanks to their numerous complementary properties:

  • Broad-spectrum anti-infectives : both antiviral against the majority of respiratory viruses responsible for infections which can develop into bronchitis (influenza and parainfluenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), adenovirus, rhinovirus....) and antibacterial against the germs involved in certain bronchitis and responsible for complications in pneumonia as with Streptococcus pneumoniae (even in cases of antibiotic resistance).
  • Cough Suppressants, with interest in cases of dry cough which can be persistent for several days after acute bronchitis and which can disrupt sleep.
  • Expectorant and thinning mucus when the cough becomes wet, to facilitate the elimination of bronchial secretions.
  • Anti-inflammatories, balsamics and analgesics in case of associated sore throat, pharyngitis (irritated throat and painful when swallowing), or laryngitis (voice which becomes hoarse with possibility of voice extinction).
  • Revulsive effect, traditionally used in the form of heating poultices but less common today.

Certain precautions will have to be respected depending on the users : contraindications during pregnancy and breastfeeding, preferred methods of use in children, etc. Concerning very young children, a specific page is dedicated to them to find out which essential oils to use to relieve bronchiolitis.

As a prevention to purify the air and avoid contagion

Several essential oils are known for their cleansing properties which will allow fight against the presence in the air of germs responsible for colds, nasopharyngitis, flu which can then develop into bronchitis. During times of epidemic, the diffusion of essential oils will also limit contagion while improving the breathing of sick people. Among the most commonly used and flexible of use, we will cite: lemon essential oil and all the citrus zest, ravintsara essential oil and Eucalyptus Radiata essential oil.

In broadcast, these essential oils can be used alone or in mixtures, respecting the number of drops of essential oils indicated on the diffuser instructions and the diffusion times which vary depending on the users: in adults (15 minutes per hour) , in children from 6 years old (5 minutes per hour) or at from 3 months (5 minutes per hour in the absence of the child).

To act at the first signs

When the infection is only at the cold or nasopharyngitis stage, and only the ENT sphere is affected (upper airways), it is time to act to prevent it from going down into the bronchi. Eucalyptus Radiata essential oil east to be preferred as first intention, otherwise we can use ravintsara essential oil, especially if it is the flu:

  • In adults. Orally, 1 to 2 drops of the chosen essential oil on a neutral support (preferably a teaspoon of honey) to let melt in the mouth. Up to 3 times a day, for 5 days.
  • From 6 years old. When inhaled, 1 deep breath directly above the opened bottle, 4 to 6 times a day.
  • From 3 years old, for women more than 3 months pregnant. Through the skin, dilute the chosen essential oil to 10% in a vegetable oil (1 part of essential oil for 9 parts of vegetable oil). Apply 4-5 drops of the mixture to the back and soles of the feet, up to 3 times a day.

When bronchitis sets in

If the bronchi are affected and a productive cough appears, Eucalyptus Radiata can be replaced with Eucalyptus Globulus essential oil. She is in fact very versatile while acting even more specifically on the bronchopulmonary sphere (expectorant, mucolytic, bronchial antispasmodic, phlegm drying, etc.) while being broad-spectrum antiviral and antibacterial. However, it is contraindicated for children under 6 years old, pregnant and breastfeeding women...

There are also other essential oils complementary to Eucalyptus Globulus or Eucalyptus Radiata which can be chosen to reinforce their anti-infectious properties (Tea Tree essential oil, Thyme to Thymol or Thyme to Linalool essential oil, etc.) and expectorant (Green Myrtle essential oil, Scots Pine essential oil or Inula Odorante essential oil) or to calm inflammation of the bronchi with balsamic properties (Balsam Fir essential oil).

The presence of a wet cough is not necessarily a sign of a worsening of the disease, but if the difficulty breathing or the fever becomes too severe, medical advice is necessary.

From 6 years old :

  • Dermal : dilute Eucalyptus Globulus essential oil to 10% in a vegetable oil (1 dose of essential oil for 9 doses of vegetable oil). Apply to the thorax and upper back to benefit from its revulsive effect. It is also possible to use several essential oils in synergy against wet cough
  • In wet inhalation : place 5 drops of Eucalyptus Radiata essential oil in a bowl of hot water. Breathe the vapors for 10 minutes while protecting your eyes, 2 to 3 times a day. Contraindicated in cases of asthma.
  • In the bath : it is possible to prepare a bath salt against respiratory infections with several essential oils to benefit from their synergistic benefits.

From 3 years old, in pregnant women over 3 months or breastfeeding: 

  • Dermal : dilute Eucalyptus Radiata essential oil to 10% in a vegetable oil (1 dose of essential oil for 9 doses of vegetable oil). Apply 4-5 drops of the mixture to the back and soles of the feet, up to 3 times a day for up to 10 days. It is also possible to use several essential oils in synergy against wet coughs.
  • In dry inhalation : place 4 to 5 drops of Eucalyptus Radiata essential oil on a tissue or on an inhaler stick. Breathe deeply 3 to 4 times a day.

For all sensitive people, it will always be possible to use hydrosols as alternatives to essential oils or in addition for gentler care (see below).

At the end of bronchitis (dry cough and loss of voice)

The onset of bronchitis is first marked by the appearance of a dry cough. At this point, it is best to address the viral (or bacterial) cause as noted above. The use of antitussive medications is also restricted to dry coughs. if it becomes bothersome, or when it disrupts sleep too much, and only a few days without medical advice.

It is therefore rather when the infectious episode is over and a non-productive irritating cough sets in that certain essential oils will take over. The quick reflex to have will then be Cypress de Provence (reserved for adults and adolescents), also effective if the cough is accompanied by laryngitis with loss of voice. For children and pregnant women, we will opt for Roman Chamomile, which is more flexible in use. And, when this dry cough disrupts sleep too much, there are still other natural solutions for insomnia.

  • In adults. Orally : 1 to 2 drops of Cypress de Provence essential oil on a neutral support (preferably a teaspoon of honey) to let melt in the mouth. Up to 3 times a day, for 5 days.
  • From 3 years old, for women more than 3 months pregnant. Dermal : dilute roman Chamomile essential oil at 10% in a vegetable oil (1 dose of essential oil for 9 doses of vegetable oil). Apply 4-5 drops of the mixture to the back and chest, up to 3 times a day for a maximum of 10 days.

Propolis for prevention or support

Why use it?

Propolis is this resin that bees collect from the buds of certain trees and which they use to protect the hive from microbial diseases. True barrier against pathogens, Propolis has very good anti-infectious and immunostimulating properties. It will be particularly interesting:

  • in support of the ENT and pulmonary sphere, in the form of a preventative cure;
  • during an infectious episode, in addition to other natural approaches.
How to use it ?
  • Adults and adolescents : 15 drops of hydroalcoholic extract of Propolis diluted in a glass of water, in a teaspoon of honey or lukewarm herbal tea, morning and evening, for 3 weeks. Take away from meals, and repeat after a week's break if necessary. Shake well before use.
  • In the form of a hydroalcoholic extract, Propolis is not recommended for children under 6 years old, pregnant women, and in cases of allergy to bee products.

Pectoral plants in herbal teas

In which cases should you choose herbal teas?

For people who like to take the time for herbal tea or those who cannot use essential oils, plant infusions are very interesting natural alternatives. They are certainly less concentrated than essential oils but their effects on the respiratory sphere are widely recognized. It is even one of their favorite areas with many plants with anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory and expectorant, antitussive and even immunity stimulating properties.

In case of bronchitis, it is also recommended to drink large quantities, preferably hot drinks. Herbal teas are therefore doubly indicated! In addition to their medicinal properties, they also contribute to good hydration which will promote the production of mucus that is more fluid and easier to evacuate.

Which plants to choose?

Traditionally called "pectorals", 7 flowers (White Bouillon, Poppy, Marshmallow, Mallow, Cat's Foot, Coltsfoot and Violet) and 2 other parts of plants (Pine buds and Eucalyptus leaves) are still found today in mixtures cagainst bronchial and pulmonary infections, to relieve coughs, soothe the throat and reduce respiratory inflammation.

To prepare a pectoral herbal tea, we suggest that you favor the following plants, to use alone or in a mixture:

  • Eucalyptus and the Thyme : renowned for their expectorant, antitussive and anti-infectious properties, essential in winter ;
  • One or more “mucilage” plants for their softening and emollient properties, useful against dry coughs but also to promote the elimination of secretions in cases of productive bronchitis: White Broth, Marshmallow or Mauve
  • For flavor and appearance, it is possible to add certain plants while reinforcing the properties of the mixture: some fennel seeds (anti-inflammatory and expectorant), some Hibiscus flowers (source of mucilage, vitamin C and antioxidant polyphenols) and, in moderation, of Licorice (anti-inflammatory and very versatile).
How to use them?
  • In infusion : for one cup, pour simmering water (ideally at a temperature of 80-90°C) over a tablespoon of dry plants or a mixture. Cover and let it infuse for 10 to 15 minutes then filter the preparation. Drink 2-3 cups per day.
  • Inhaled : prepare an infusion of Eucalyptus with a tablespoon of cut dry leaves. Inhale the vapors for around ten minutes.

Hydrosols for fragile people

In which cases should hydrosols be preferred?

Much less concentrated than essential oils, hydrosols are more flexible to use. They nevertheless contain active molecules perceptible by their aromatic odor. In the bath or orally, they will allow take care of young children, pregnant women, older people who may suffer from chronic bronchitis… and everyone during convalescence.

Quick and easy to use, hydrosols will also please those who are in a hurry and don't have time to prepare herbal tea.

Which hydrosols to choose?
  • LEucalyptus Globulus hydrosol is, like its essential oil, a must-have in the respiratory sphere. Particularly versatile, it can be used alone or in combination.
  • LThyme hydrosol with Linalool will be interesting in several ways, both to protect the respiratory tract, to stimulate the immune system and as a tonic in cases of fatigue. It is particularly suitable for children prone to repeated ENT infections as well as adults recovering from illness or suffering from chronic infectious diseases.
  • By its mucolytic and expectorant properties, Rosemary hydrosol with Verbenone rather suitable in case of chronic bronchitis.
How to use them?

Hydrosols can be used, alone or in a mixture, occasionally or in courses of around twenty days for a more profound action:

  • From 3 months. Cutaneously: add 1 teaspoon to bath water.
  • From 6 months. Orally: add 1 teaspoon of hydrosol to the water in the bottle, to drink twice a day for 15 days.
  • For adults. Orally: add 1 tablespoon of hydrosol in 1 L of water to drink throughout the day for a maximum of 3 weeks.

The hydrosols will also be used to rplace the water used in a mister to be diffused, with or without essential oils. As bronchitis is favored by the drying of the air with winter heating, this form of diffusion will also help to humidify the air.

Bud macerates to support the respiratory system and immunity

In which cases is gemmotherapy relevant?

Gemmotherapy will especially be interesting:

  • prevention in case of repeated ENT infections or chronic bronchitis,
  • as an accompaniment other treatments in the acute phase of bronchitis,
  • during the period of convalescence.

Several bud macerates are in fact known to have effects on the respiratory sphere and the immune system. They are enough flexible to use, but given the presence of alcohol in their composition, bud macerates are not recommended for children under 3 years old and pregnant women.

Which macerates to choose?

Certain macerates are essential, such as blackcurrant and rosehip. Others will have more targeted action. Here is a selection of macerates to use alone or in a mixture in case of problems affecting the respiratory tract. To choose according to the type of bronchitis and the stage of their development:

  • At the first signs of an initial ENT infection (cold, flu), in the acute phase of bronchitis, but also in case of fatigue during the convalescence period: Blackcurrant bud macerate for its versatility and cortisone-like action. Given its stimulating effect, it is recommended to take it preferably in the morning.
  • As a complement to Blackcurrant, in the acute phase of respiratory illnesses and to prevent winter illnesses: the macerate of young rosehip shoots, specialist in the ENT sphere and immunity. It is a very pediatric macerate, but it will also be suitable for adults.
  • When bronchitis becomes productive with the appearance of phlegm and a wet cough : Glutinous Alder macerate, bronchial specialist, for its drying power with the support of Poplar macerate with “propolis-like” anti-infectious and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • In case of chronic bronchitisBramble macerate is more indicated in adults, particularly as an accompaniment to the treatment of respiratory insufficiency such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • After bronchitis, during convalescence, other macerates than Cassis could take over as Oak bud macerate in case of fatigue, loss of appetite or Walnut bud macerate to restore immunity, especially if there has been antibiotic treatment.
How to use them?

Concerning bronchitis, the macerates can also be used:

  • in one-off treatment 3 weeks during the acute episode or the convalescence period,
  • in long or preventive treatment of several months in the event of repeated ENT infections or chronic bronchitis. With a rate of 3 weeks of intake per month and 1 week of break.
  • in maintenance treatment, rather in adults, to support the respiratory sphere over time, with several options to choose from: 10 days per month or 3 weeks per quarter or 3 days per week.

In all cases, the usual doses are as follows:

  • Adults and adolescents : 5 to 15 drops per day in a glass of water (or pure), 15 minutes before a meal, for 3 weeks. Start with 5 drops and increase gradually (for example: 5 drops the first week, 10 the second and 15 the last).
  • Children over 3 years old : 1 drop per day for 10 kilos, starting with one drop and gradually increasing the dose (for example: a 9 year old child weighing 40 kilos can ingest up to 4 drops).

Adaptogenic and tonic plants to support convalescence

It is often difficult to recover after an episode of bronchitis. Several plants will then help support this period of convalescence. Recommended to fight fatigue and support immunity, these are plants:

  • adaptogens : the roots of Eleutherococcus, Ginseng or Rhodiola which should rather be used in the form of extracts to guarantee their quality and their content of active ingredients. However, they are not recommended for children before 12 or 18 years old and for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Medical advice is also recommended for people suffering from autoimmune diseases or taking long-term treatment.
  • tonics : cinnamon powder or sticks (to be taken as an infusion), sources of vitamin C (support of the immune system, reduction of fatigue, antioxidant effect) such as cinnamon powderAcerola or Camu Camu and the goji berries.

Trace elements to correct the terrain

The notion of field is very widely used in the field of natural health where the patient and the illness are approached in their entirety. Oligotherapy is an approach that uses minerals in very small quantities (trace elements) to rebalance an organism by taking into account the terrain, or “diathesis”, of each person. These are medications used in treatment such as “terrain modifiers” :

  • Manganese-Copper : in chronic infectious or allergic conditions affecting the nose, throat and ears, characteristic of “hypostenic” diathesis (fatiguable person with difficulty concentrating).
  • Copper-Gold-Silver : in convalescence from infectious diseases and states of fatigue, characteristics of “anergic” diathesis (lack of general physical and intellectual vitality, sleep disorders).

Like other field approaches such as gemmotherapy, oligotherapy helps organisms fight diseases, but their action alone is generally not sufficient for pathologies such as bronchitis which may require specific treatment.

Additional advice and lifestyle

The importance of air quality

Several factors linked to the environment and lifestyle are known to promote and maintain bronchitis. Taking this into account will make it possible to act on the 3 levels of prevention: primary (avoid their appearance), secondary (limit their progression) and tertiary (reduce complications and the risk of recurrence). Ensuring air quality, meeting nutritional needs and taking into account the effects of stress will be the pillars of this preventive approach to bronchitis, whether acute or chronic...

Exposure to cigarette smoke, toxic gases (indoor, urban or industrial pollution), dust, mold, too dry air, etc. are all irritating factors for the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract, favorable to the development and maintenance of inflammatory and infectious pathologies such as asthma or bronchitis. Hence the importance of:

  • Ventilate your home and workplace regularly, even in winter.
  • Use humidifiers throughout the heating period in winter, if air humidity is insufficient.
  • If possible, avoid places where the air is polluted.
  • Avoid smoky places and take steps to stop smoking, particularly in cases of chronic bronchitis.

In the absence of treatment to cure COPD, these measures are the only ones likely to interrupt its progression and delay the onset of irreversible respiratory failure.

Taking care of your immunity through diet

Nutrition plays a important, but too often underestimated, role in strengthening immune defenses. Taking care of your diet will therefore allow all ages of life to be less vulnerable to respiratory infections and to recover more quickly in the event of bronchitis. Certain contributions will be particularly important to cover:

  • Vitamin D : well known for its role in the constitution of bones, this vitamin is also and above all very important for immunity. Without necessarily being deficient, many of us are deficient, especially in winter... It is therefore strongly recommended to consider preventive or curative supplementation depending on the case, to be validated with a health professional.
  • Iron : it is also involved in the functioning of the immune system and its deficiency in the general population is also very common, particularly in pre-menopausal women, children subject to repeated infections, people following a vegan diet, etc. Supplementation will be done based on biological assays and medical advice. There Spirulina can also be interesting as a maintenance treatment.
  • Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium : all these minerals are involved in immune function. Depending on lifestyle (e.g. impact of stress on magnesium needs) and eating habits, supplementation may be useful.
  • Vitamin C and other antioxidants : whether for their direct role in immunity or the management of oxidative stress in the event of infection, all sources will be welcome, starting by giving pride of place to fresh, seasonal and varied fruits and vegetables, without forgetting spices and aromatic plants. Some superfoods can also be taken as a cure.
  • Essential fatty acids : the balance between omega 3 and omega 6 in our diet is fundamental for the regulation of our defense mechanisms (inflammation and immunity). Our modern diet being strongly unbalanced in favor of omega 6, we will take care to limit the consumption of vegetable oils too rich in omega 6 (e.g. sunflower and peanut oil) and to provide all the omega 3 (ALA, EPA and DHA). ) through plant food sources (e.g. rapeseed, walnut, flax, hemp oils, etc.) AND animal (e.g. small oily fish) food sources… before, if necessary, considering the use of food supplements.
  • Proteins : we often forget that amino acids, which constitute proteins, are essential for the synthesis of antibodies. Hence the importance of properly covering needs with varied sources of vegetable proteins (legumes, almonds and nuts, unrefined cereals) and not just animal ones.
  • Pre and probiotics to contribute to the good health of the intestinal flora which hosts 60 to 70% of our immune system! The modern diet having become depleted in prebiotics, it is also advisable to limit overly refined foods and to increase fiber intake while respecting as much as possible the balance between soluble and insoluble fiber. Certain strains of probiotics may even specifically reduce the frequency of respiratory infections.

In all cases, it is recommended to avoid as much as possible fast foods, industrial dishes and pastries, fried foods, overly refined or processed products, etc. They are known to promote allergies, immune imbalance, oxidative stress and inflammation... conducive to the development and maintenance of numerous pathologies including respiratory diseases.

Concerning avoiding dairy products, the subject is more controversial. No scientific study has yet established a significant link between the overproduction of respiratory mucus and the consumption of milk, whether in relation to casein (milk protein) or lactose intolerance.

Stress management, sleep and physical activity

A poor diet, but also repeated stressful situations, lack of sleep or a sedentary lifestyle have numerous repercussions on the body in general and on the immune system in particular. Hence the importance of taking care of your lifestyle to be less vulnerable to respiratory infections.

  • For stress management, everyone will be able to choose the method that suits them best according to their tastes and their lifestyle: meditation, deep breathing, yoga... all these anti-stress techniques have been the subject of studies to validate their effectiveness. Those in a hurry will choose the olfaction of essential oils or cardiac coherence which, in a few minutes, can significantly reduce stress levels.
  • Sleep quality being essential for the proper functioning of the immune system, all the approaches to sleep better will be useful to put in place in the event of a lack of immunity.
  • Less sedentary lifestyle and more physical activity. The practice of moderate and regular physical activity is, whatever the age, essential for immunity, maintaining respiratory capacity... and health in general. In its recommendations, ANSES recalls that it does not need to be intensive to be effective. It is above all regularity that matters. According to the High Authority of Health, it can even be prescribed in cases of COPD given its “beneficial effects on dyspnea, the feeling of fatigue, exercise tolerance and quality of life” .

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