10 Best Essential Oils to Treat Bronchitis
Even though there are medical interventions for bronchitis, they aren’t always effective. In the few cases where they work, you find that your body develops resistance to that medication too soon leaving you wondering “what next?”
It is worse when your respiratory system isn’t as strong or if you suffer from a condition like asthma – any slight coughing almost always leads to bronchitis. Before we get deep into the treatment options, what works and what doesn’t, let’s learn a little more about bronchitis.
Bronchitis is a condition resulting from the inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes. Bronchioles are the tubes that transport air into and out of the lungs. The inflammation of the bronchial lining results from irritation or infection and the effects aren’t pretty.
Because of the infection or the irritation, you end up with a persistent cough that makes it difficult to breathe. Chest pains often accompany coughing, and you may even experience wheezing. You may also experience dyspnea and production of lots of phlegm (discolored).
The diagnosis is usually either acute or chronic bronchitis.
- Acute bronchitis
This results from an infection. Being self-limiting, acute bronchitis clears in between 7-10 days. Though rare in adults, acute bronchitis is common in infants, small kids and in the elderly because their immune system is underdeveloped. Sadly, acute bronchitis may be life threatening if not caught, managed or treated in good time. In most cases, acute bronchitis develops after a common cold or a viral infection.
- Chronic bronchitis
The defining characteristic of chronic bronchitis is a chronic productive cough that can last up to three months. In some cases, the cough persists for over two years and results in irreversibly obstructed airways. Chronic bronchitis is common in smokers and persons suffering from allergies. In most cases, management of chronic bronchitis is via a change of environment or lifestyle habits.
Treatment of bronchitis
- Some of the main natural treatment options for bronchitis include:
- Bed rest
- Use of cough suppressants
- Humidifying rooms
- Avoiding irritants
- Intake of foods rich in vitamin C
- And, use of essential oils
- Use of essential oils to treat bronchitis
Avoiding the cause of bronchitis is the primary course of action to take even before you start your regimen on essential oils.
Why essential oils?
If you have heard about all the relaxing benefits of essential oils, then, it means that you’ve probably come across information highlighting the importance of essential oils in treatment and management of other diseases. Essential oils are organic and effective in the management of respiratory conditions. The oils are extracted from specific plants through careful steam distillation as well as cold pressing.
Different parts of plants are sources of essential oils. These include – the roots, barks, fruits, flowers, or the seeds and, you may only need one drop of the oils for healing. This is because they are highly concentrated meaning that they hold powerful healing effects.
Essential oils for Bronchitis
The most important essential oils for bronchitis include:
Tea tree oil
It has powerful antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Tee tree oil is also a natural antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects. Therefore, it is effective in management and treatment of bronchitis. It also protects bronchiole cells from any damage
Eucalyptus essential oil
Over the years, eucalyptus essential oil has been effective in treatment and management of colds and flu as well as bronchitis. The effectiveness of eucalyptus oil comes from its high concentration of 1,8-Cineole, a compound with analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
The resultant cooling sensation and the calming effects of peppermint oil, as well as its antimicrobial effects make, is ideal for clearing the respiratory tract. Since anyone suffering from bronchitis has a significant amount of mucus and phlegm accumulated, peppermint oil helps in reducing that and congestion of the airways.
Oregano oil is a natural antibacterial agent. It enhances bronchial health by working as a natural antibiotic, reducing inflammation and relieving the symptoms of bronchitis.
Lavender essential oils
Besides helping you to sleep, lavender oil has strong analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects and works well in the treatment of bronchitis. Lavender oil is safe for use with children too.
Rosemary essential oil
Rosemary oil is also rich in 1,8-cineole, a chemical compound with excellent anti-inflammatory effects meaning that it is an ideal treatment solution for anyone with respiratory issues such as bronchitis.
Clove Essential Oil
For decades, cloves essential oil has been used in the treatment of colds, bronchitis, and sinusitis. Clove oil works because it has antibacterial and antiviral properties. It also has analgesic effects meaning that it dulls any pain coming from the inflamed and narrowed airways or from coughing.
What are the symptoms of bronchitis?
Whether you suffer from acute or chronic bronchitis, you’ll have the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Production of mucus/ sputum – the sputum can be clear, white, yellowish-gray or green. In rare cases, sputum will have streaks of blood.
- Chest discomfort
- You may also have a mild headache or body aches.
Fortunately, most of these symptoms abate after a few days. Coughing may linger though – from a few weeks to several months.
In case you are suffering from chronic bronchitis, then you’ll have periods where the coughing is worse than other times.
Though there are many remedies for bronchitis, it is advisable to see a doctor if or when the following things happen:
- The cough prevents you from sleeping
- Coughing lasts more than a few weeks (three weeks)
- If coughing is accompanied by high fevers above 38 degrees Celsius
- If you cough out blood and discolored mucus
- If you run out of breath and are wheezing
What causes bronchitis?
The causes of bronchitis differ depending on whether you have acute or chronic bronchitis.
The main cause of acute bronchitis is a viral infection. Virus infections that cause colds and flu (influenza) are the main causative agents. Since antibiotics have no effect on viral infections, treatment with antibiotics, the most common line of treatment for respiratory infections will not work.
Viruses associated with bronchitis include parainfluenza, influenza A, and B, adenovirus, and rhinovirus. In cases where bronchitis is the result of a bacterial infection, there will be an underlying health condition that exacerbates it.
In some rare cases, the bacteria Mycoplasma pneumoniae may infect the bronchiole tubes causing symptoms of bronchitis. This is often referred to as walking pneumonia and should be treated early.
Whichever the case, the body fights to get rid of that bacteria or the virus. In doing so, the bronchiole tubes swell and produce mucus reducing the size of the air openings. With the restriction in airflow, there will be difficulties in breathing. This
On the other hand, chronic bronchitis results from environmental causes with cigarette smoking being the main cause. Toxic gases, dust, and general air pollution is another lead contributor of chronic bronchitis.
What are the risk factors of bronchitis?
Like many other respiratory diseases, not everyone gets bronchitis. Why? Some specific elements make one person predisposed to the condition more than others. Some of the factors include:
- Low immunity
When your body’s defense system is unable to counteract the cause of an infection, the bacteria or the virus multiply and grow aggressive. At above normal levels, and with your body’s ability to fight the infection compromised, you get sick. Compromised immunity is common with the elderly, young children and infants because their systems lack the capacity to ward off the cause of the infection in time.Note that infections lower immunity further.
- Cigarette smoke
Active and passive smokers are at a high risk of getting bronchitis. Smoke has chemicals which weaken the body leaving you with a high predisposition to infections. Studies show that people who smoke or people who live around smokers are at greater risk of contracting acute or chronic bronchitis. The reasons for this are that smoking leads to the production of more mucus in response to the allergens in the cigarettes. The mucus harbors infections. The other reason is that cigarette smoke weakens the immune system. [Source]
- Exposure to irritants on the job
If your workplace exposes you to gases or smoke with lung irritants, then you have a higher risk of getting the disease. Some of these industries include the ones dealing in chemical fumes, textiles or grains.
- Gastric reflux
You didn’t anticipate this, did you? Gastric reflux, also known as Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a medical condition in which the esophagus gets inflamed/ irritated as a result of acid backing up from the stomach. The inner linings of the stomach have the capacity to resist corrosion from the acids – the stomach lining responds to acidity by producing large amounts of mucus. Sadly, the esophageal walls lack this adaptation and cannot resist the effects of the acids. The gastric acid can, therefore, damage the esophageal walls.
The damage to the esophageal walls causes irritation which manifests as a recurrent cough, lung inflammation, or chest congestion. This may lead to bronchitis or asthma.
What about the lower esophageal sphincter, isn’t it meant to prevent gastric acid from backing up? Well, yes. But, with GERD, the sphincter muscle relaxes between swallowing and the acid regurgitates. [Source]
Persons suffering from severe allergies report more incidences of respiratory infections one of which is bronchitis. Even though the allergic reactions do not directly cause bronchitis, the repetitive allergies compromise the immune system and increase mucus production. Mucus promotes infections. Therefore, bronchitis may develop as a secondary effect of allergies.
Treatment of Bronchitis with essential oils
- Eucalyptus oil
Eucalyptus essential oil is obtained from the fresh leaves of the tall, evergreen eucalyptus tree – Eucalyptus Globulus. In some parts of the world, eucalyptus tree goes by the name blue gum tree, fever tree, or stringy bark tree. Though native to Australia, it has spread to almost all parts of the world including South Africa, India, and Europe.
Eucalyptus oil is an extract that has enormous medicinal effects and treatment of bronchitis is one of its uses. The medicinal use of eucalyptus oil results from a chemical compound, eucalyptol. Eucalyptol is a colorless extract which also goes by the name 1,8-Cineole. The main attributes of eucalyptol include the fresh and the strong spicy camphor-like aroma. The cooling taste is from this constituent as well.
Besides 1,8-Cineole, there are other chemical constituents which make up eucalyptus oil including limonene (fragrance and flavor), alpha-Pinene (camphoraceous aroma), and Para-Cymene (aroma). These constituents also contribute to the distinctive smell of eucalyptus oil. [Source]
How does it work?
The use of eucalyptus oil in the treatment of bronchitis is because of the effectiveness of eucalyptol. It is antiseptic and also has antioxidants and tannins that reduce inflammation. Eucalyptol is mucolytic, and it relaxes the flow of mucous and also leads to the excretion of mucus from the surface of the lung.
Eucalyptol also relaxes airways and membranes cleaning nasal passages and expanding blood vessels resulting in more intake of oxygen by the lungs and easy breathing.
Eucalyptus oil is, therefore, an excellent decongestant, expectorant, anti-inflammatory agent, and an antimicrobial compound that relaxes phlegm and decongests airways. [Source]
The other benefit of eucalyptus oil is that it strengthens the immune system in case you have the flu or a common cold.
- Peppermint oil
It treats and helps in the management of colds and congestion or bronchitis thanks to its anti-inflammatory and relaxing properties. Peppermint is hybrid of watermint and spearmint. It is rich in menthol, menthone, 1,8-cineole, d-Caryophyllene and limonene. Peppermint works as an expectorant with lung-cleansing benefits. [Source]
Though it is also rich in vitamins A and C, menthol makes up for most of its ability to treat and help manage upper respiratory tract conditions. As an expectorant and an antispasmodic, its vapors go up to the lungs breaking up congestion. Its antimicrobial effects also mean that your case of bronchitis will lift fast enough.
Directions of use: you can add a few drops of peppermint oil in the diffuser/ the humidifier to help in decongesting airways. Peppermint essential oil steam is another way of getting the benefits of peppermint oil. You may add rosemary and eucalyptus essential oils to the hot water with peppermint oil.
- Lavender oil
Did you know that lavender is lavare in Latin – meaning ‘to wash’?
Lavender essential oil comes from Lavender, Lavandulaangustifolia, an evergreen, easy to grow shrub known for its clumps of colorful and scented flowers. It is native to North America, but you can find it in almost all parts of the world. [Source]
Lavender oil is known for its anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antibacterial, antimicrobial and analgesic properties. Inhaling lavender essential oil relaxes airways and the antimicrobial effects help in the treatment of diseases like bronchitis and other respiratory disorders. These effects result from the fact that lavender oil has camphor, terpinen-4-ol, linalyl acetate, linalool, geraniol, limonene, and 1,8-cineole.
Besides treating disorders of the respiratory system, lavender oil also boosts immunity.
How to use
- Apply topically on the skin around the neck, your back and the chest. You can also add lavender oil to vaporizers or humidifiers because it loosens phlegm leading to decongestion.
- For your little kids, consult a doctor before administering lavender essential oils.
- Oregano oil
Did you know that besides helping you come up with delightful meals in the kitchen, oregano oil, an extract from oregano leaves and flowers is effective in treatment and management of respiratory diseases like bronchitis? [Source]
Oregano oil has essential components like:
- Thymol which has antiseptic properties and boosts immune function
- Terpenes with powerful antibacterial properties
- Rosmarinic acid – an antioxidant that prevents oxidative damage and has natural antihistamines preventing allergies that could cause bronchitis
- Carvacrol is also another important component of oregano oil with antibacterial effects protecting the immune system.
Oregano oil works as a natural antibiotic too.
- Tea Tree Essential Oil
Research and studies show that tea tree essential oil helps treat bronchitis by inhibiting flu virus which is often the main cause of bronchitis. This is possible because tea tree oil has powerful antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. Studies show that tea tree oil can inhibit the influenza virus.
Tea tree oil also boasts of excellent natural antioxidant as well as anti-inflammatory effects meaning that it can relieve the inflammation of bronchial tubes. It also protects damage to the cells in the bronchioles. [Source]
- Rosemary essential oil
This is also an important Ayurvedic oils used as a standard for treatment of respiratory disorders. It helps treat bronchitis because it has 1,8-Cineole an active constituent that works as a bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory agent. Camphene and Alpha-Pinene also in rosemary essential oil have anti-inflammatory effects which make this an effective natural remedy for bronchitis and other respiratory diseases. [Source]
- Cedarwood essential oil
This oil is effective in easing breathing problems especially when coughing. Coughs are annoying and disruptive and cedarwood essential oil is an effective solution. The Himalayan Cedarwood is a 5-LOX inhibitor. 5-LOX’s overproduction causes inflammation, and the cedarwood oil prevents the inflammation. [Source]
- Clove Essential Oil
This is the most common go-to essential oil for colds and upper respiratory tract conditions like sinusitis and bronchitis. It has significant antibacterial and antiviral properties helping get rid of the cause of the infection. It also has analgesic effects meaning that it dulls any pain you may feel when breathing. [Source]
- Ginger Essential Oil
This root plant is rich in gingerol as well as sesquiterpenes, Alpha-pinene, Beta-myrcene, sabinene, terpinen4-ol, beta-pinene, and limonene. These components have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, expectorant and antioxidant properties.
Its strong expectorant properties make ginger oil useful in lubricating airways making breathing easier. The anti-inflammatory effect of ginger essential oil helps to reduce swelling of the airways and the lungs opening up airways. [Source]
- Balsam Fir Essential Oil
Balsam fir oil works as an antimicrobial oil that dries up mucus calming down that spastic cough. It stimulates the brain and soothes tense muscles while supporting respiratory function and good health. [Source]
Ways of Using Essential Oils to Treat Bronchitis
Just as there are several essential oils to help treat bronchitis, so are the methods of using these oils. With the knowledge bestowed on you about the essential oils you require, here is a guide for using the oils:
- Chest rub
Getting a soothing back or chest rub before bed is an effective way of alleviating the symptoms of bronchitis. Chest and back rubs prevent or reduce coughing and also prevents the buildup of mucus. This way, you will sleep better. You should also remember that the essential oils are excellent aromatherapy and relaxation treatments which will help you get a good night’s sleep.
Before topically applying the oils, dilute the oil with the suitable carrier oil. Some carrier oils include coconut, avocado and jojoba oils.
Some of the best night rubs include balsam fir, lavender oil, and eucalyptus oil. The carrier oil can be jojoba oil, sweet almond oil or grapeseed oil.
- Steam Inhalation
This is an effective way for the essential oils to get to your airways opening them up and helping in the excretion of phlegm. Steam inhalation works well for treatment of sinus congestion and bronchitis. Just fill a bowl or the sink with hot water then add a few drops of essential oils. A combination of essential oils works too.
Once you have the bowl of hot water and essential oils, take a towel and cover your entire head, neck and shoulder region. Inhale the fumes deeply for as long as you can. Five minutes is good enough time. You may want to repeat this at least twice daily. Adding about ten drops of essential oils to bathing water in the tub works too.
You may opt for a warm compress to your chest. To do this, fill hot water in a container then add about ten drops of essential oils to the water. Don’t forget to add the base oil. Dip the towel in the mixture, wring out the excess water and compress the towel around your chest. Repeat the compressions on your back too.
This is another effective way of getting essential oils to your system. With a diffuser machine, you may add a few drops of the essential oils in the water then let the diffuser run throughout the night.
The essential oils are potent oils extracted from plant stems, leaves, needles, or petals. As a result of their powerful effects (some oils can burn the skin if applied topically), diluting them is important. Carrier oils make the essential oils safe for use. When looking for carriers, look for the ones rich in fat-soluble minerals and vitamins.
Examples of carrier oils are:
- Sweet Almond oil
- Apricot kernel oil
- Arnica oil
- Borage seed oil
- Avocado oil
- Canola oil
- Calendula oil
- Evening primrose oils
- Fractioned coconut oil
- Hazelnut oil
- Jojoba oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Macadamia nut oil
- Safflower oil
- Vitamin E oil
- Walnut oil
- Rosehip seed oil
- Pecan oil
- Olive oil
- Sesame seed oil
- Wheatgerm oil
Lifestyle changes may help you manage bronchitis better than medications from your doctor. Therefore, you should eat right and even use supplements when necessary.
Essential oils for bronchitis help relieve symptoms of bronchitis such as excess mucus production, coughing, and difficulties in breathing. The oils also treat the disease. The best essential oils are effective mucolytics which help dissolve mucous and also act as expectorants expelling mucus from the airways. Consequently, these oils lead to decongestion, less formation of mucus and decreased coughing.