Acute bronchitis is one of the more common medical conditions seen in a doctor’s office. Everyone has experienced it at some point in their life. And most have become accustomed to having to endure the long, restless nights of malaise and coughing until it clears up. But can herbs help clear it up quicker, and can they be taken safely with cough suppressants, expectorants, analgesics, antibiotics, or bronchodialators?

First it is important to understand bronchitis is an inflammation of the medium sized airways in the lungs called bronchi. It usually is due to a viral or bacterial infection, or as a result from breathing in toxic irritating fumes, dust, or allergens. When it lasts for a brief period of time it is known as acute bronchitis.

In traditional Asian medicine, acute bronchitis is due to a weakened immune system that becomes susceptible to exterior pathogenic influences. When the immune system is weak, pathogenic microorganisms are able to easily injure the superficial layers of the body, namely the lungs via the mouth, nose or skin. This impairs the ascending and descending nature of lung qi, leading to coughing, or ke sou. In acute bronchitis, ke sou is ultimately the result of an exterior pathogen attacking a weakened immune system, it is considered a type of defense mechanism to clear the airways of the lungs, and prevent the pathogen from entering further into the body.

Keeping this in mind, in traditional Asian medicine acute bronchitis can be thought of as an alarm system. On the surface, it is the body's way of responding to keep the pathogen from getting buried deeper into the lungs, one of the most important yet delicate organs. However on a deeper level, it is a sign that the immune system is not working the way it should be.

Therefore treatment of acute bronchitis with an herbal formula focuses not only on eliminating the pathogenic factor, but also supporting immune system function. By taking this approach, often times patients are able to respond a lot quicker to the infection or irritant, and reduce the coughing significantly. Specific herbs can also be included in the formula to help with the other signs and symptoms occurring simultaneously, such as the insomnia, upper back ache, and headache being caused by the relentless coughing. And because most herbs in the traditional Asian medicine pharmacopeia tend to have a synergistic effect, they may actually improve the effect, or lessen the side effects of any over the counter drugs, prescription medications, or antibiotics.

Make an appointment with your acupuncturist today to find out more how herbs can help alleviate bronchitis.


Rene Rodriguez, L.Ac.

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