What therapies does Dr. Weil recommend for bronchitis?
*Inhalation of steam containing sage or eucalyptus. Warm steam soothes the irritated lining of the bronchial tubes, loosens secretions, promotes healing and, with aromatic herbs, discourages secondary bacterial growth. Use steam as often as possible during waking hours.
*Treat unproductive bronchial coughs (those that do not cause you to bring up much phlegm) with a cough suppressant. Start with tincture of mullein (Verbascum thapsus). Take a teaspoon in a little warm water every four hours. If that doesn't help, take an over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine containing dextromethorphan, a safe and effective drug. If this doesn't work either, ask your doctor to prescribe a narcotic-based cough suppressant such as codeine or Hycodan. Narcotics are very effective for this purpose and quite safe if used as directed for a week or 10 days. They may cause drowsiness and constipation.
*Don't suppress productive coughs, because they are helping to expel products of inflammation from the bronchial system. Treat them with steam, tincture of mullein and OTC expectorant cough medications containing guaifenesin. Prescription expectorants contain potassium iodide, which is even more effective (A good brand is Pima Syrup). Some individuals have allergic reactions to iodides, so use them cautiously the first time. Freshly prepared horseradish, hot mustard and wasabi (Japanese horseradish) all help liquefy bronchial secretions. Eat as much of these as you can tolerate.
*If you smoke, stop. Avoid secondhand smoke as well.
*With chronic bronchitis, eliminate milk and milk products. The milk protein, casein, can irritate the immune system and stimulate mucus production.
*Take astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous), a Chinese tonic herb that enhances immune function.It is available as a tincture, capsule and tablets and you can get whole dried slices of root that can be added to soups. Look for products standardized to 16 percent polysaccarides. The usual dose is two capsules or tablets twice a day, unless the label on the product directs otherwise.
Here are some suggestions to protect your lungs from further damage:
*Take antioxidant vitamins and minerals.
*Take a daily supplement of Coenzyme Q10 supplement (CoQ 10), which can improve the use of oxygen at the cellular level. Take 60 mg twice a day of the softgel form, which is best absorbed when taken with a meal containing some fat.
*Take the Chinese medicinal mushroom cordyceps, which may be useful in chronic lung disease. Look for capsules of cordyceps extract and follow the dosage directions on the product label.
*Increase your dietary sources of carotenes, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow squash and leafy green vegetables. Do not take straight beta-carotene supplements, however, as in smokers they may increase the chances of other lung problems. Your best bet is the mixed carotenoids found in these foods.
*Get regular exercise to build up your stamina. However, make sure your doctor approves before you begin an exercise program.
*Maintain normal weight. If you're overweight, your heart has to work harder, and you're more likely to experience shortness of breath. If you're underweight, you will have lower energy stores to draw from.
*Try to avoid exposure to air pollution, which can worsen emphysema symptoms. Stay indoors when ozone levels are unhealthy and pollution levels are high.
*See your doctor promptly if you develop a cold or the flu, both of which can worsen symptoms. Be sure to get flu shots annually and ask your physician about being vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia.
Andrew Weil, M.D.